Thursday, January 12, 2012

Food for thought.

This is not okay. 

With the new year rolling in to town, I've seen more of these so-called "motivational" pictures than ever. And it honestly makes me feel sick to my stomach. How have we become so obsessed with the idea of becoming skeletally skinny? What has happened to our brains to lead people to think that THIS is the ideal? 

Let me start by saying that living a healthy lifestyle is something we should all strive for. When I eat right and exercise regularly, I feel happy, healthy, and full of life. When I overindulge and behave like a lazy bum, I feel sloppy and uncomfortable, and sometimes even sick. I enjoy running hard and pushing my body to do hard things. And truthfully, I feel much better about myself and have a much easier time maintaing a healthy level of self esteem when I am at a healthy shape for my body. 

That being said, there is so much more to life than the size of your waist.

For just about as long as I can remember, I've felt self-conscious about my body. I can remember smiling with my mouth closed in pictures, because I was embarrassed about my under-bite, and turning bright red when I had to order a bigger sized school t-shirt than the rest of my friends. I remember those painfully awkward years of feeling so bad about myself, and I just want to reach through time to hold that painfully insecure girl tight and tell her that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her. I was a normal little girl. I played outside, my mom packed me healthy lunches, and my little belly was not any sort of endangerment to my health. And yet, at 9 years old, I was already convinced that I was fat. How did that idea even get into my head? Who has the right to tell a little girl that she is not the right shape? As my shape has bobbed around over time, I've felt euphoric happiness as weight drops off, and complete devastation when a pound or two should find its way back on. What right does my weight have to control my happiness? And more importantly, why in the world would anyone strive to look like they are quite literally starving themselves?

In middle school, I remember learning about African women who wear spiral metal coils around their necks in order to elongate their neck. We were all so scandalized by this idea. Self-mutilation to preserve some bizarre ideal of beauty? Who in their right mind would put their body through such torture, to such pointless and bizarre looking ends? This fixation on becoming alarmingly thin is equally horrifying to me. Women on the runways today have body compositions suggestive of anorexia. As they drop to such unhealthy weights, their hair can fall out, their immune system weakens, and their reproductive organs completely shut down. This is not health. This is not even pretty.

I see the young girls around me and my heart breaks to think of them worrying about their size or their shape. It starts so young. Not only does it make my heart ache to think of these girls being robbed of their childhood, it makes me mad. It makes me furious to see young girls who are perfectly healthy feel fat and not pretty. They are selling string bikinis and halter tops on the rack for tiny girls. We are teaching them so young that their value is relfected in what they see in the mirror. According to popular culture, being heavy is not only unattractive, but it is a character flaw. Surely heavier people look the way that they do because they lack the self-mastery to curb their raging appetites. It's like having the will power to subsist on celery sticks and weight loss shakes puts you on a higher moral ground than those weakling plebeians that need food to survive. This is a lie! Food is not a sin. Food is meant to be enjoyed. Life is meant to be enjoyed. There is no victory to be found by starving yourself to reach some illusive ideal. We will never be skinny enough.

I feel so strongly about this issue, I can hardly organize my thoughts into anything coherent. I just want it to stop. I don't want to see these skeletal women on the cover of fashion magazines. I don't want to hear my friends complain about every part of their body that they think is flawed. I don't my future daughters to cry when they develop hips.

Our bodies are incredible. Whether they're a size 2 or a size 20. My sister had her first baby two months ago, and the first time I held my new baby niece, I was just in awe that her tiny heart was pumping away. Her brand new lungs were working perfectly. She is perfection. And she will always be perfection. I can't stand the thought of this new and perfect baby being thrown into a world that will tell her all of the reasons why she shouldn't think she is perfect.

You hear that Gandhi quote thrown around all of the time: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." So, it starts with me. However unorganized and poorly written this little rant is, it's a step forward in saying that I believe in something different. I believe in eating healthy food to make my body work better. I believe in eating cheesecake on my birthday. I believe in taking my dog on walks. I believe in running hard and appreciating my hard-working body with every step. I believe in wearing a swimsuit to play in the ocean, and not worrying about how I look. I believe in standing in front of a mirror every now and then and noticing everything that is beautiful about the way you look. I believe in spending some time without looking in a mirror, and noticing everything that is beautiful about who you are.

And mostly, I believe that most people truly believe these things too. They just need some help remembering.


  1. Nice post! I hate seeing those "motivational" posts on pinterest! I is not bad and exercise isn't something you need to spend 4 hours doing. as PW said...those who say nothing tastes as good as skinny feels never had butter, cream, etc... haha!

  2. I told Ty that my goal is to be able to run well. :) and to breathe properly when I run. And on the end of that, I said, "I've just come to terms with the fact that weighing 110-115 lbs is nearly impossible for my body." And I'm not willing to starve myself and work out for 4 hours a day to maintain that. I had a friend who, when she was working out more and maybe not eating as many calories got down to 127 lbs. She stopped having her period... so she concluded that this was not a healthy weight; she needed to be heavier than that. I imagine if I had gotten "down to 110-115 lbs" I might have the same problem. And being that skinny is not worth giving up my power to procreate. Thank you very much! (And really, I don't hate my body at all... but I still do kinda wish the fat in between my thighs made it up to my boobs :P).

  3. Very well said!

  4. I actually kind of agree with "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" - but I come from a different perspective. When I was younger, and actually was thin (or at least average), I still felt bad about myself, because the world always says be thinner. Now, though, I would kill to be that thin. Losing weight to fit the ideal (which is, at face value, quite disgusting, and completely lacking of boob or butt) is stupid, but there is definitely a line that divides the people who weigh what they way because that is how their body should be, and the people like me, who weigh what they weigh because they have absolutely no self control. For me, even though I don't want to be as thin as those pictures, they really are motivational. I am one of those no-self control people. I am an extremist - I don't just have one brownie - I eat the entire pan. But if I am being healthy, I am very healthy. When I say to myself, go ahead, indulge, it's okay... I end up on a slippery slope where I backslide into every bad habit. For instance, I lost weight and was happy about my body before our wedding. Then on our honeymoon, I decided it wouldn't be fair to deny myself all the junk food for this special occasion. Big surprise - one week of throwing caution to the wind, and my built up resolve to deny cravings was completely gone. (combine that to working in an ice cream shop, and presto, 25 pounds in 6 months). I am one who knows that when I weigh less, I feel better about myself, because I look the way I am supposed to, and I feel like I am in control. Eating junk that tastes like heaven may make me temporarily happy - but I end up with this sickly feeling like the yummy treat is controlling me. So for me, a temporary "yum" really doesn't measure up to the lasting feeling of liking my body, and knowing I am not ruled by cravings for everything bad. So, I agree with you on most points - but trying to lose weight isn't necessary wrong, and while food is not a sin, gluttony is, and unfortunately our society is ruled by it. And for some of us - the breed who hate exercise, dislike vegetables, and love white carbohydrates and sugar - it's not a bad thing to learn to master your weight, because if you don't the future probably include diabetes, and morbid obesity.

  5. Perhaps a better way to phrase that line is: "Nothing that's junk tastes as good as being FIT feels." Go Amy! I completely concur with your crusade. Having been at both ends of the scale (mostly the heavier end) my whole life, now that I am a mom and meandering through my late 30's, I just want to be fit and healthy. I want to keep doing all the things I love with all the energy and ease of movement that I have now.

    All of this should be about health, not thinness. Loving your body means taking care of it by eating foods that nourish and fuel it with high-quality energy and moving it in ways that keep you active and vibrant. Treat your body as the temple it is, and then appreciate it for everything it does for you.

    Yes, my thighs still believe I'm pregnant with my third child. But they power me up some pretty steep hills when I go out snowshoeing, and they let me fly like the wind when I go skiing. They give me a lap when my children need one, and how would I keep up with their energetic games if I didn't have strong, sturdy thighs to keep me hopping, running and dancing?

    Be kind to yourselves. Love your bodies for what they can do, and show your gratitude for the hard work they do every day by treating them kindly - they'll return the favor! :)