I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while but didn’t have the courage to share it and also didn’t know if I wanted to enter this argument that seems to take the Internet by storm daily and causes continuous outrage amongst those who work towards a more body-positive world. Let me get one thing straight, I’m all for loving your body no matter what. It makes no difference to me if you weigh 120lbs or 300. If you’re happy, I’m happy for you. But we live in a world where sometimes that’s not always the case and people have opinions that are none of their business and we’re constantly being exposed to people with perfectly, unrealistically slim bodies. So I wanted to share with you my thoughts and experiences with weight and body image, because no matter who you are, it can affect you too.
If you haven’t already, check out my friend Chelsea’s post on body image and being comfortable in your own skin. It’s a great post with a lot of honesty that I totally love.
For me, I was always pretty happy with my weight. I ran cross country in high school and I rode horses usually twice a week. I was in good shape and I had never experienced problems with my body at that age–which I’m now extremely grateful for. Because what child should worry about their weight of all things. Girls as young as five years old are having body image problems because they want to be like the models they see in magazines and on TV. Are you kidding me? FIVE?! This is one of the saddest facts I think I’ve ever seen. No little girl should worry about her body. She should be out playing with her friends, getting covered in mud, climbing trees or playing with dolls–whatever makes her happy. She should not be concerned with her appearance.
Studies have shown that 95% of people suffering from an eating disorder are between 12 and 25. 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies. 80% of children who are 10 years old are afraid that they’re fat. 13% of girls between 15 and 17 admit they have an eating disorder. 80% of girls at the age of 10 have dieted. This is ridiculous. With statistics like this, no one can argue that we have a problem on our hands.
The root of this issue? The portrayal of women in the media. When you’re surrounded by photos of unrealistic bodies in magazines, on TV and on social media, it’s hard to not feel completely inadequate by comparison. And I’m not more immune to it than those 10-year-old girls.
I’ve always been relatively happy with my body and yes I had my fair share of days where I thought man I need to lose some weight–and sometimes I was right. I gained weight my first year of college (the freshman 15 is a real thing) and I gained weight when I was living in Belgium (those waffles did me in). I hit a new low in my body image when I gained some weight towards the end of the time we were in Australia. I realized things were fitting a bit tighter, my midsection was a bit rounder and I was starting to feel pretty crappy about myself. I kept trying to push these thoughts out of my head because I’m still not someone who’s overweight.
When we were in Dubai a few weeks ago I took a pair of white jeans that I’ve owned for years. They were always a little tight, but I always could fit into them. I hadn’t worn them in over a year and when I couldn’t squeeze myself into them, you know what? I cried. I actually cried. And then I cried more because I felt ridiculous for crying. I wasn’t that person who cried about their weight, was I? Then I felt angry. Why should I feel fat and unsexy when I’m a perfectly healthy person?
This was a new low for me and really made me realize the impact this kind of portrayal of a woman’s body in the media has on people; all people. I thought the ones who were affected by this kind of stuff were those who already had body image struggles, people who were maybe already a little overweight. I’m a strong, independent woman and I didn’t think I was susceptible to it. Turns out I am. Everyone is.
The thing is, and what makes this so sad, is that what we see on billboards and commercials and magazines are almost always photoshopped bodies. They’re not real. And when plus size models are considered anything over a size six it’s hard to not look at yourself and question your confidence. And when you start putting that kind of material out there constantly, all the time, that becomes the new “normal.” And when that “normal” isn’t attainable, which it isn’t, that’s when you start getting girls as young as five caring about their appearance.
Weight and body image are going to be a hot topic for a while now. And I hope over time we’re able to stop photoshopping and real women will be in ads, not as plus sized women, but as women. Period.
There’s nothing wrong with being thin. Or heavier. Or curvier. Or straight. We’re all women and we’re all beautiful in our own way. There’s no right and there’s no wrong. I wanted to share my issues with body image with you because I want you to know that you’re not alone. Although it’s hard to block out the constant stream of perfectly-unattainable bodies thrown at you every day, know that you, and me, all of us are real women who are beautiful. Regardless of weight.