“Thin” ≠ “Healthy”

Body image is a favorite topic of mine, and one that I feel strongly about, so please do excuse me if some of my posts seem to overlap with others 🙂

We looked at eating disorders in my abnormal psychology class the other day. I’m no stranger to the subject, in the sense that I went to a university where girls are swallowed by an unwritten pressure to uphold a certain appearance. Many succumb to the pressure, while others fight through it; that’s not to say the fight is easy. Spend one week at my alma mater and I won’t need to explain. Though I never fell prey, for a semester I scratched the tip of the iceberg, and got a small taste of how the spiraling begins.

The pressure leads to an obsession, one that it mixed with guilt, fear, and constant dissatisfaction. It’s an unfortunate cycle that, if not realized early on, can be detrimental. I think it’s safe to say that there are a lot of people who would be able to pick out ten physical “flaws” on themselves before they could find a combination of four physical and personal traits that they like on themselves.

This time last year was when I was in my rut. One of my electives I was taking for my degree was a typography class (typography is the manipulation of typeface to convey an idea or design). For our last project we had the pleasure of being introduced to the ways of letterpress. For the subject matter of this project we were allowed the freedom to choose our subject of interest and the way in which we each approached it. I did a series of three posters on body image. Each poster had the same pink silhouette of Barbie in the background. The type laid over the outline were a demotivational pieces of advice that were each inspired by what media tells society about how one “needs” to look. My absolute favorite that I came across said, “Nothing will ever taste as good as thin feels.” To me, that’s just wrong and twisted, and I know that unfortunate this is a belief that holds true with many people.

A study conducted by Brown University discovered that 3/4 of women and almost half of men surveyed, both groups of normal weight, were constantly pre-occupied by thoughts on their body image. Keep reading the article, and it actually backs up the second part of my typography project I mentioned earlier, where below the demotivational saying, I put an actual fact about body image and its distortions. One of the facts I found and put on one of my posters stated that if Barbie was life-size, she would have to crawl on her hands and knees due to her proportions. Brown adds to this with the fact that if Barbie was indeed life-size she would also have a weight “consistent with acute hospitalization.” The bit about G.I. is fun too. I do suggest that if you can spare 10-15 minutes that you read the whole article:

http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/nutrition_&_eating_concerns/body_image.php

“Thin” should never be a sole motivation for anyone who wishes to improve his or her health. Being healthy isn’t only physical, but largely psychological. However, when media and industries tell us that it’s the only way to happiness (by the way, from a marketing class I took a few years ago, I discovered that we are subjected to 3,000–3,500 ads and marketing messages on a daily basis), it’s no wonder how skewed the image of ourself has become. Not only have we come to have negative perceptions about ourselves, but an intolerance has developed toward people who may not possess that “ideal” image. Instead of encourage to live healthy lives, now we exude negativity and prejudice.

Undergrad wasn’t only a learning process; it was a maturing process. Perfection isn’t achievable (as goes with anything that is subjective), so why we spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year trying to attain something that is merely an idea…really kind of irks me, to put it as nicely as I can.

I love hearing when people say “I want to be healthier” as opposed to “I want to lose weight.” There is so much more to be gained from it. I have my personal trainer certification workshop in early March that I am preparing for; I am so excited to be able to promote (with a license!) what it actually means to be healthy. As a climber, and as much as I workout, I need to eat quite a bit. However, rather than try to be conscious of how much I’m putting into my body, I think in terms of what. I’m not saying that I don’t splurge sometimes. As always, moderation is a beautiful thing. My best friend and I were both flying solo for Valentine’s Day, so we decided, in addition to baking cookies, to do the least girlish thing we could think of (that was within our budget) and get BBQ and beer. If you don’t like personal examples, I’m becoming more and more of a Jennifer Lawrence fan every day. My favorite quote I’ve heard come from her is “I eat like a caveman some days.” It’s awful to have her say that by Hollywood’s standards, she is obese, but the way she doesn’t give a flying fart in space is the best thing ever.

Media, society and industry are not the judges for what is “ideal.” Thin doesn’t connote healthy. The sooner this is realized, the happier you will be in life and with yourself (and it will make those small indulgences of BBQ taste even better).

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