One of my favorite shows is The Biggest Loser. What can I say? I’m a sucker for success stories and almost every person on the show is there to make a positive, healthy change to their lifestyle. For some of them, it’s a life or death matter. I like how the trainers on the show focus on being healthy and achieving goals before they focus on looking good. Though one of the goals is always to lose a bunch of weight, it’s still a slightly different tone than the normal American media. At the end of the show, the contestants always focus on how much better they feel and how much more they can do and then talk about how awesome they look. If I’d dropped 200 pounds, I’d point out how awesome I look all the time.
I am currently 150ish pounds (a healthy weight for a 5’6″ woman) and wear anywhere between a size 8 and a size 14, depending on the store and cut of the garment. While I am confident in my appearances and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I constantly critique my body. This is something all women do, whether they admit it or not. A child of divorced parents, I grew up with varying ideas of what beauty is. Beauty at my dad’s house is defined in a more traditional manner (thin, active, etc) than at my mom’s house (curvy, lively, etc). With the media sneaking its way into every space of my daily life, the constant influence of my upbringing, and the ideas and thoughts of my friends and those closest to me, my idea of beauty has become broad and accepting. Although, like any woman, I am often not as accepting of myself as I am of others. And like I said, I am confident in my appearances, but we all have our weaknesses.
What has really got me stuck on this subject lately is the following video one of y friends posted:
It is part of a documentary by Jean Kilbourne–a long-time warrior against the damaging effects of advertisements. Like I said, I always thought I was above these ads. I don’t wear much make-up, I haven’t been a size 2 ever, and I am often upset by how skinny these girls look. But I’m beginning to realize that I’m still affected by these images: Some of the clothes I want to wear fall better on a taller and slimmer figure. I often wish my unruly curls could be tamed and luscious, if just for a day. And when I buy my workout equipment, I want to be as toned as the people on the cover.
And still I know that I am not the worst off. When Kilbourne talks about the model who died of Anorexia, I think of my friends who have had or are currently battling eating and body image disorders. I have seen their daily struggles and it kills me to know that my words will not change how they see themselves or the value they place in a number on a scale. Kilbourne says that “our society’s obsession with thinness is a public health problem.” A public health problem indeed.
So the idea is more that we should focus on health than beauty, right? I exercise often and don’t eat too unhealthily (I was blessed to not have a sweet tooth), but when I think of getting healthy, three things come to mind: I want to look good, feel good, and be healthy. Should it not be the other way around? Shouldn’t I want to be healthy, feel good, and then look good? I know the answer to this epidemic isn’t easy and certainly isn’t a quick fix, but I think it can start with awareness. Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power and I think it’s time we educate ourselves. How do we get healthy, appreciate our bodies as they are, and look past the numbers and look more to the abilities? We start by questioning what is around us and not accepting what is given to us as fact.
And as for the media, if only they could be a little more appreciative of all sizes, shapes and colors.