The Skinny on Body Image
I saw a movie recently starring the dream girl of so many of my guy friends, Scarlett Johansson. It got me thinking about body types. Scarlett is a very beautiful woman. And she’s no waif. Then there’s Marilyn Monroe. She was the dream girl of an entire generation. She was no waif either.
We hear so much in our culture about how skinny is “better”. I’m not sure I am buying in. I have girlfriends who are utterly gorgeous (staggeringly so, in fact) though they might also be called “heavy” or “healthy” girls (a term which is often quite accurate). They don’t seem to have any trouble finding fabulous partners and certainly not any more trouble than our thinner sisters. Their husbands/boyfriends/partners seem to think they are goddesses.
So where does all this push for skinny come from? Is it from the fashion industry? The media? Consumerism? Perfectionism? Control? Our parents? Ourselves?
It would be fun to see Michael Moore direct an expose on this subject called “The Skinny on Body Image—An American Obsession”. In the meantime, I try to resist buying in. Sure, I like to look fit, but the key is to feel fit which is never fully reflected in our mirror image nor in a number on a scale. So I exercise to feel invigorated and healthy, not to feel skinny. Striving for skinny makes me struggle more and feel less powerful.
I eat what I want but try to remember to stop eating when I’m full, or when I recognize that I’m eating for reasons other than hunger. And I’m so not perfect. When I “fall off the bike”, I dust myself off and get back on. If I gain a few pounds in winter, like I usually do, so be it. It’s natural, after all, for our bodies to store up a little bit when it’s colder, and as we age.
When I see a movie or read a magazine, I am barraged with images of impossibly thin, fashionable women who I am pretty confident diet themselves into misery to maintain their size. But when I look around me at my friends and family, I see a lot of beautiful, healthy, realistically-shaped women. And thank goodness their aren’t on perpetual starvation diets because going out to eat with them is one of my true pleasures in life.
The funny thing is, for hundreds of years, rounder, more voluptuous women were the “in” body type. Check out any painting of a Raphaelite goddess for confirmation of this truth. Even up through the 50’s and 60’s, women with a little extra padding were considered the paradigm of beauty. The current TV show Mad Men hearkens back to a few decades ago when bigger, curvier women were considered more attractive. Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow were no size 2s.
When I catch myself “feeling fat” I try to remember to pause and grab a little perspective on the subject. It’s my body image ideal not to succumb to the unrealistic expectation that western culture tries to put on us to match up to some sort of notion of thin = beautiful. The more I look around, the more I realize that happy = beautiful. And much of the time that happiness has to do more with enjoyment of life than restriction of it.
Let’s revel in life’s pleasures, riches, and the truth that those things aren’t exclusively bestowed upon skinny magazine waifs anyway.
Love your hips,