Sunday, May 4, 2014

a weighty conversation, part one

Lately, the topic that has most interested me is the War on Weight. Women (and some men) today are struggling with everything from fat shaming to thin shaming to thigh gaps to fitting into clothing and even more. Everyone has issues with their body, and don't let anyone ever tell you they don't, because it would be a lie. "My boobs aren't big enough," "I hate my arms," "I have so much cellulite on my thighs and butt," and "I wish I were more toned" are things even thin people say to themselves when they look in the mirror. We are all at war with our bodies.

Personally, I go from being fine with my body to hating it from day to day. Shopping is frustrating because my boobs and waist are too big to fit into some clothes, such as bralettes and dresses. I hate looking at pictures of myself after they're taken because I never know whether my arm or my face will look fat or fine. I feel like I can't wear a bikini because of my pancha. I'm having to buy new jeans because my favorite pair has holes in the thighs from mine rubbing together when I walk. My grandma said that my dad shouldn't be so hard on me about my weight because I have his frame and broad shoulders, and my dad actually apologized for my being "built just like him." I'm sure a lot of you are able to relate to some of the things I've said, which is why I don't mind sharing them with you.

My best guy friend (with whom I share just about everything) will attest to the fact that I complain about my body to him way too often. He's a good sport for listening and encouraging me, but I know he gets frustrated with it sometimes. Many times, we feel a pressure from our loved ones to lose weight or fix the things about ourselves we dislike, but they only do it because they know that deep down that is a concern of ours and they want to help us achieve our personal goals. If we're not happy, they want to encourage us to be happy. And if that happiness can be more closely achieved by losing weight, then that's what they want for us.

We also, of course, feel a pressure from clothing companies (which tend to feel more personal to us than celebrities in the media) to be a certain size, weight, or build. Companies like Target and Hollister have recently come under attack for too heavily promoting the thigh gap. Abercrombie's CEO has been blamed for being personally responsible for the company's decline in sales for saying that not everyone was meant to wear A&F clothing. Plus size models are starting at size 6 when plus size itself begins at size 14.

The Target faux-thigh gap

Meanwhile, other clothing companies are trying to combat this by showing that are more representative of everyday women. H&M has been using bigger models to promote their swimsuit line, and Aerie is using models of different bra sizes to model bras and not retouching them. They see there's a problem and they are trying to change the way girls think about themselves as well as society's pressures for all girls to be a certain size. But they certainly can't do it alone.

H&M model Jennie Runk

Un-retouched Aerie model for DD cup size

Even more so, we feel pressure to look like people we know. Our Facebook acquaintances are our biggest enemies when it comes to putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves to look a certain way. They are practically strangers, so we don't feel any emotional connection to them, and then when they post pictures of themselves at the beach, we see them and compare ourselves to them and the other people in the pictures with them. With friends, we feel a little different because they are people we care about and want to succeed, but jealously can still arise. It's just a lot easier to not judge someone when you're both eating pizza and drinking wine and watching Frozen together. But Facebook can be a poisonous place for insecurities to root and grow.

So how do we fight the War on Weight? The first and most important thing we need to do is to make peace with our bodies. Fall in love with your frame. Be at peace with your booty. Forgive your stretch marks. Cherish that little roll of fat between your boobs and stomach. Whatever it is, be ok with it. This doesn't mean that this is an excuse to let yourself go or to be satisfied with the body you're in, but to instead forgive your body for how it is. You should be able to look in the mirror and not hate yourself, because hating yourself is more unhealthy than eating junk food everyday.

Next, we should cut out the weeds of negativity about our appearances from our lives. Do you have that one Facebook friend that makes you see green because she is constantly posting bikini pics? Cut her out of her life - she's not good for you. How about a friend from high school who works out to the point of obsession? Delete him - he's not helping you. I'm not saying you should delete actual FRIENDS. But people who don't know you don't care about you, so they're just excess weight that will burden you.

We should be encouraging each other to be the best we can be in all aspects of life. If you and your friend both want to lose weight, work out together. Keep each other accountable. Cook together instead of going out to eat. Go shopping when y'all both lose x-number of inches. Share your victories and frustrations alike. THESE are the people you need to keep around because they will support you. They will be there for you through your successes and discouragements.

And finally, we need to stop comparing ourselves to models. They are photoshopped, we know, but more importantly, they have flaws that they camera can't see. They are insecure about something, too. They need support, too! Thin shaming is just as bad as fat shaming. We need to all be OK with how we were made and work to be healthy, not just necessarily thinner or fatter. That means loving ourselves and taking care of our bodies and minds because of it.

The War on Weight will be a long-fought battle, but every little thing helps. If we just stop comparing ourselves to others and start loving ourselves more, a big step will be taken towards ending it. And if clothing companies continue on the uphill trajectory they're currently on, before long, we may all learn to be less insecure and more satisfied with just being ourselves.

One final thought - my roommate and I were discussing this post, and she said she found a picture that showed me what she considered to be the "perfect body," the body she herself wanted. The picture was this one of an MMA fighter - strong, muscular, ripped. And then I described my "perfect body" to her - soft, hourglass figure, flat stomach. Our ideas of the perfect body are so different, because there is no such thing as the perfect body. We are all have different perceptions of what perfection and beauty are, but when it comes down to it, we are all beautiful creatures. And the sooner we realize that and embrace it, the happier we will be.

My roommate's "perfect body" - Rosanna Garcia

My "perfect body" - Beyonce Knowles 


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