Why Learning to Love Your Body Is Hard

I was at a loss for what to title this post so I just went with what felt right. I have a fitness blog that I write in dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle and being fit. That has nothing to do with weight, size, measurements – etc. It is about being fit, feeling good and loving yourself in your own skin. That’s what I’m all about. As someone who has faced and lived through struggles with weight and eating disorders, I’m not ashamed to say that I am very firm in my beliefs about bodies, health and perception. I tend to get my hackles in a rise of any kind of shaming culture or hate culture when it comes to bodies.

First, let me say that we all come in different sizes and shapes – and that’s ok. Not everyone can be what a society or profession deems “ideal” because “ideals” are based on a perfect case scenario that has nothing to do with health or safety, especially when we’re talking about beauty. In American culture our idea of what is beautiful has shifted through the years. We’ve idolized the curves of the screen sirens of the 50’s and we’ve loved the lanky limbs of Twiggy. We’ve prized fitness and tone while lauding praise on underweight models. In our culture today our vision of perfection and beauty is an airbrushed image that’s been so altered it doesn’t actually represent the original subject. And through all of it, we have a culture of shaming – almost always directed at the overweight.

Facebook started all this. Via Facebook I learned a couple things. First of which was the fact that a size 6 is a plus size now [in the modeling world] – excuse me – A SIX!? are you kidding me? Why?? There is nothing wrong with a size six – in fact it’s a nice size [depending on whose sizing chart you’re using] and all types of bodies wear a size six – but to say that a size six is plus sized makes me sick to my stomach. I know of people who have amazing bodies and are athletes with incredible muscle tone and they look stellar in a bikini and they wear a size 10 jeans – and there is no way you could look at these women and say “Oh, yeah – she’s big. We’ll label her plus sized”. In fact, you would probably look at her and go – wow! you look amazing!

Second thing I came across was a post by my girlfriend, who is a fitness nut [and looks amazing – might I say], pointing out a website called “Skinny Gossip”. I’m loathe to post it here because I don’t want to promote this girl’s site or her ideas. In her disclaimer section she states that she [and her site] are against pro-anorexia culture and strive to do no harm – wait a minute? what?! But then on her front page she has articles about why Kate Upton is a “cow” who has “Huge thighs, NO waist, big fat floppy boobs, terrible body definition – she looks like a squishy brick. Is this what American women are “striving” for now? The lazy, lardy look? Have we really gotten so fat in this country that Kate is the best we can aim for? Sorry, but: eww!” I’m sorry – but do you see Miss Upton to your right? WHAT?! First, she isn’t fat – not at all.

This woman has beautiful curves and a lovely body shape. She also has a stunning face. Now, to be fair, her “girls” need a little bit more coverage – but you can’t blame a body for ill fitting clothes. This is not a body to loathe or put down. You’re calling her lazy? I’m sorry, no. She’s probably naturally skinny and she does look like she works out some – she’s not a gymrat but why would she be? It burns me that this site rips apart a woman like this and then, in turn, goes on to state that models shouldn’t represent the average woman but rather be an aspiration.

Again – NO! A model is, in essence, a thing. A sculpture on which an artist/designer displays their art. Given that, each designer has a right to say “Ok, I want this type” but what the problem is that when they choose that “type” our society goes – “ok, that’s what I need to be” forgetting than less than 1% of the population of the world can/does/or will look like that in their lifetime.

The other article that I read before I could stomach this girl’s website no longer was regarding a ‘fat loving’ magazine and their articles about “Fat Pride”.  Under each photo taken from the editorial this website blogger states her absolute hatred of anyone “fat” or “plus sized” as well as how awful they must be to their bodies to look that way. To close her article she posts:
“The whole “fat pride” movement is irritating because plus-sizers want to tell us “big is beautiful” and it should be represented more in the modeling industry. I say it’s the opposite: if big really was beautiful, and most people wanted to be big, and wanted to see big people, don’t you think we’d see a lot more fat people modeling? I do. But we don’t – because it isn’t”

I have so many issues with this! First, the average size of a runway model has diminished in the past 20 years. This is fact and science. This has nothing to do with the size of the average American woman – which admittedly has increased. The pictures of the plus sized model in the editorial are lovely. She’s a beautiful woman with curves and yes, “rolls”. But why is that disgusting to us? The Romans prized a curvy woman as it spoke to her health and robust zest for life as well as her ability to bear children. Again – our idea [as humans] of what is beautiful changes and fluxuates but this young woman who runs this website is filled with a hatred for any body type not her “ideal” that it turns my stomach. That kind of hatred comes from inside and when it spills outside it infects like a disease. It is part of the reason our culture has such a distaste for the overweight.

I recently read a book “Fit2Fat2Fit” about a [male] physical trainer who put on almost 70 lbs in six months so he could understand the other side of that coin. He then put in the work to take it off. He did what he had to in order to understand the whole spectrum and it gave him perspective. He also learned to love himself and his life just a little more.

I don’t advocate anything lifestyle that would jeopardize one’s health – I can’t. That means I don’t advocate excess in either direction: too much or too little. I think all bodies can be beautiful and it is about how comfortable you are in your own skin. I’ve been all kinds of sizes [and you can read more about that struggle over at my fitness blog here] from a 0/2 up to a 14 and I find myself to be most comfortable in my own skin when I”m wearing a 6/8 and am working out. I like muscle. That’s my preference for my body – I like to keep some curves but be toned and strong – those are my goals; but I also recognize the beauty of different body types – tiny, toned, curvy, plus sized – all of it. How a woman wears her skin is more important to me than the size of the dress she’s putting on it.

This goes both ways, that needs to be said. We talk a lot about “fat shaming’ but we do leave out the shaming of skinny people. Anyone who has struggled with Anorexia or Bulimia knows that it is a compulsion and it hurts. Looking that person in the eye and going “God, you’re too skinny. Why don’t you eat something?” can do more damage than good. And I’m guilty of this too. I’m not sitting here as a saint with no transgressions. I have a girlfriend who has done a 180 in her life to take off some weight and she looks amazing. Tinier than I’ve ever seen her and sometimes I do worry and I may have pointed that out to her a time or two when it wasn’t ideal. The point I’m making is that telling someone their too skinny can be as bad as telling someone their too fat. Trying to forcibly alter someone else’s body or habits is not the way to go. We need to learn to love and support each other.

If you’re worried about someone’s weight, whether up or down on the scale, take them aside and kindly talk to them. Ask them what their goals are, their ideals. Be supportive as long as the answer doesn’t inflict harm or put them in danger. We need to learn to love not only ourselves but others. We need to be accepting and supportive of all physical journeys and less judgmental.

If you take nothing away from my rant today at least take this: love yourself and be healthy. Live a life of moderation so that you can live a long life. Love your own skin. Be kind to others because you never know what they might be struggling with – and this goes for skinny girls too. Sometimes when we talk about body shaming we forget that we shame the skinny girls too. When you judge a girl for being too skinny or too fat you don’t know if it’s genetics, purpose or circumstance that put them there and you also don’t know if that girl is healthy or not. If you’re worried – you talk to that person alone.

It’s times like this that all I can think of is this: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” ~ Ghandi