Body, body, body.
What comes to mind when you read that word? Perhaps sports, perhaps health, doctors, or perhaps something far more likely: weight.
Weight is something girls will become aware of; boys too. Nobody is immune.
The best way I can describe diet culture is this : it seeps. Snapchat ads of bellies flattening, bottoms rounding, hips thinning, thighs narrowing. Instagram influencers promoting quick-fix meal replacement shakes, every advertisement ever – they are skinny. They’re skinny, perfect and happy, and the key is being thin. The terrifying part is that it’s deliberate – marketing teams thrive off of women’s insecurities, insecurity they themselves plant there to profit from.
Now, I have never struggled with an eating disorder. I have never even come close to it. This article is about how, despite never having a difficult weight history, convinced myself I needed a flat stomach to the point of eating a bagel and a carrot a day. It seeps into your skin, casting desired goals that creep over your vision as you look at your soft thighs in the mirror, pinching the flabs at the side of your hips. It’s something that tells you that it’s right not to be content with your body, which keeps you alive every moment. Something that a lot of people don’t have the privilege of.
I, despite not being a size 8, am lucky. I can move without pain. I can walk, run, jump, swim, do whatever I want. Our world was designed for able bodies, and if your body is different, it is so, so much more difficult to do anything, or perhaps impossible, depending on the circumstances. I am grateful for my able body every single day.
Diet culture tells you to forget that – you should want to be skinny. Skinny is healthy – lose weight, have abs, and you’ll have achieved the secret to eternal happiness. But you won’t, because those advertisements will never leave you alone.
You’ll have to be skinnier.
There is no finish line.
When you’re trying on clothes, and they’re too small, we think ‘I should be able to fit into this.’ But when they’re too big, it’s just a shame. Because we should be skinnier. We are told that we always should be skinnier. Here’s the truth: clothes either fit or they don’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s too big or too small, they both don’t fit you. Please don’t berate your body for not shrinking into a series of seams and material properly.
There is a movement out there fighting this. Body positivity. I urge you to fill your Instagram feed with beautiful women with full bodies, with different bodies, with prosthetics, in wheelchairs, all gorgeous and loving themselves. I urge you to unfollow anyone who promotes a thin lifestyle (thin, not healthy. Those are two completely differing concepts.)
May I introduce you to a new one?
It can be hard to make it transition from hating your body to loving it, strong feelings on the opposite ends. It can be difficult to stare at it in the mirror and love the exact things you previously hated, those rolls on your stomach, the softness of your curves. It’s a drastic change of mind, and anything like that is challenging. I offer an alternative, a midway point.
Try to stop viewing your body from the outside. Try to simply be in it.
It’s a chance to explore the world. You are given a body, the best gift of all, to climb, to run, to shout, to cry, to feel. To understand this and not to force it into society’s box – it is the greatest gift you can give it. You don’t have to love your body. You just need to understand that its purpose is not to please others’ eyes. Try to not spend time picking out your perceived flaws, or comparing yourself to others. Distract yourself, paint, draw, create something, and it does not have to be beautiful. Like your body, the joy in painting, or whatever you love to do, is not how it looks. It’s how it feels.
Your body is not an ornament. It does not need to be “pretty.” It needs to keep your blood flowing through your heart so you can love, through your lungs so you can laugh, through your fingers to pet dogs. Understand this, and let go of the need to appear aesthetic. Your body holds your story in it.