While we have taken steps in the right direction when it comes to body image, the messages to women are still quite confusing. Things like the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty; the truth behind photoshopped pictures and the millions of blog posts, advertisements and campaigns promoting a healthy body image have communicated that every body is different and beautiful in its own way. But I feel that these campaigns and efforts have done little to repair the damage already done.
Women of all ages know that they should love their bodies and reject the idea that they are only beautiful if they look like the women in magazines. But “knowing” that doesn’t necessarily make it a reality. We send messages to women about healthy practices like eating right, working out and taking care of yourself, but we lace them in with phrases like “Look Good, Feel Good,” “Sweating for the Wedding” and achieving the body that “You’ve Always Wanted.” There is a need for more dialogue about how to actively love yourself and your body, not achieving a body different from your own. Eating right and working out are important to do for reasons well beyond having a tiny waist or toned booty; they are important for your health. And let me remind you that skinny does not equal healthy, nor does healthy mean skinny.
No “Perfect Body”
Being healthy takes a lot of hard work, time and dedication. In my experience, many women give up on eating right and working out because they are discouraged about the amount of effort they are exerting while failing to look like a stick-thin model with a Kim K. booty. In my honest opinion, my health (both mental and physical) is twenty million times more important to me than the size of my waist. Admittedly, I drove myself crazy for years battling with the idea of a “perfect body.” I shamed myself for eating ice cream and spent hours on the treadmill to work off the cookie I ate at lunch. Did I lose weight? Yes. Did I feel good? No. I felt like crap. I was punishing myself to be “healthy,” and that act in and of itself is unhealthy.
Approaching the Battle Differently
I would be lying if I told you I feel awesome in my skin all the time. But valuing my health and the idea of a long and happy life has given me the opportunity to approach the food and exercise battle differently. Instead of sweating on the treadmill to fit into a size 2, I sweat on the treadmill for the hope that one day I will be able to chase my children and grandchildren around. I want to be able to say that I valued my health enough to do everything I could to ensure a long and happy life. If that comes with a skinny waist then that’s awesome! But if not, living a life feeling guilty about every cookie and french fry you ever ate would be no life at all. I encourage you to join me in eating that cookie and valuing your health because of the importance of your future, not your daisy dukes.
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