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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Real Women and Real Bodies in an Airbrushed World

I can tell you roughly how many calories are in practically anything I eat--oh not in a restaurant, but I'm good at estimating things in my refrigerator or pantry. When I was growing up a long time ago, nearly everone was "normal" weight. No one bothered with calories or went to a gym. But there were some major differences.
1. No computers. There was television, but people mainly watched a couple hours at night.
2. We walked, rode bikes, and played outside.
3. Food was mostly grown locally and we ate what was in season.
4. There were fewer "convenience" appliances. Washing dishes by hand burns more calories than tossing them in a dishwasher. Ditto for hanging clothes on a line versus chucking them in the dryer. You can see where I'm going with this line of thought.

Obviously, there's no way to roll the clock back half a century, but there's more emphasis on appearance today than ever before. There's also a "fix me, but don't make me change" mentality which has spawned an entire industry of weight loss products and bariatric surgery. Despite the fact that radical surgeries, which short circuit a person's digestive tract, carry a significant mortality risk, people sign up in droves. Obviously, they don't mind risking death, if they can only die thin.

We live in a, "I want it, and I want it now," society. The only sure cure to body image issues takes time and a committment to wanting something different. There's no easy way to lose weight. It took time to build up and it takes the same time to come off. The good news is while you're learning how to eat differently and get out and about with exercise, things change in your brain. It no longer feels good to veg out in front of a screen. You find you want more from life.

Women  come in all shapes and sizes. We're not all a size 0 or even a size 6. Furthermore (and this may surprise you), even size sixes can have body image issues. I'm always wanting to lose five pounds despite my clothes fitting fine.

Where does that come from? This always wanting something other than what we have. Partially from the media. Look at the plethora of magazines like Shape, Runner's World, Mountain Biking, and Men's Journal. Even Ladies Home Journal always has articles on getting (or staying) in shape.

Learning to love who you are is an art. You're just as valuable as you'd be if you were twenty pounds thinner--or even fifty pounds. Once you come to terms with that, it's easier to give yourself permission to make the changes you want in your life. When we come into something from a perceived "one down" position, we add an emotional component. When we're feeling emotional, we comfort ourselves--usually by eating. The trick is to see exercise as comfort (it actually is, since it pushes endorphin production). So next time something goes awry, a brisk walk is a much better panacea than a donut and a calorie-laden latte.

It's important to come to terms with the core human you are. We all age. None of us are young and beautiful forever. There's nothing sadder than an aging diva who only had her looks. Once they're gone, as far as she's concerned, there's nothing left. (There are men who fit this description, too, by the way.) Just remember, there's always someone younger and prettier waiting in the wings for their fifteen minutes of fame. What you want isn't fifteen minutes based on your looks, but a lifetime of feeling good about who you are.

Get in touch with what you love about yourself. Don't wait. Do it today. Once you have a good handle on that and are coming from a position of strength, pick one thing you'd like to change. Stick with it. It will happen. Even if it takes a year, you'll spend the same year doing something else. You may as well spend it helping your inner beauty shine through and learning to appreciate who you are.

Any stories you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them.

2 comments:

  1. I think another aspect is the striving to diet oneself into the mold of the beauty ideal. Studies (http://jes6ica.org/studies) show that dieting through calorie restriction leads to weight gain in the long term, so I think a good many people have been dieting themselves fatter. And all the stigma and body shaming doesn't help either. After all, does one tend to take good care of something one hates?

    Knowing that even a little exercise improves health quite a bit, it would be nice for everyone to stop the body shaming toward people of any size and shape, and embrace doing exercise-y activities that we enjoy, from dancing to aerobics to talking walks, etc.

    "The only sure cure to body image issues takes time and a committment to wanting something different."

    The converse of this is: "The cure for social stigma and bullying is not for the stigmatized and bullied to change themselves; the cure for social stigma and bullying is for those who are doing the stigmatizing and bullying to stop."

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jessica,
      I agree dieting doesn't work. The only thing which works are lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, the bullies and those who stigmatize will never quit what they do. The only "cure" is having a strong enough sense of self so their insensitivity doesn't bother you.
      Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment!

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