Tuesday, May 4, 2010

our bodies, our selves

I confess...I'm worried about saying this right.

It seems like one of many issues that cycles in and out of the media spotlight is body acceptance. This comes in several forms including a call for "real women" models, articles highlighting the role of retouching in photos, and advocacy groups embracing "fat acceptance." I always find myself feeling a wide-range of contradictory responses to these movements. I support them all. I support reality and love. But in practice...

The reality is, I'd probably rather the model in Glamour look just a step or two above average....and a step or two above me...especially in a piece about fitness. I want someone whose figure looks good but also attainable. And attainable without an army of trainers and cooks and dietitians and make-up artists. In a random article, I'd love to see a wider range of bodies. But many of my magazines have a health-bent and it just makes for them to show a healthy body.

And I think body love and body acceptance need to be balanced with a quest for health. I think the young woman from Precious is lovely and talented and I am glad she seems to love herself. But I also think that loving yourself should mean trying to keep yourself healthy. And, while fat and fit aren't the polar opposites that many presume them to be, obesity is rarely healthy. Thin isn't always healthy either....way too many women are "perfect" on the scale but have poor body composition either due to avoiding the weight room or to unhealthy dietary habits.

I'm not the role model here. I wasn't when I was heavier and paid no mind to downing fries everyday and multiple servings of dessert. I'm not now, when my mind sees things that aren't there and my relationships with my body and with food are fraught with difficulty. Health is more than just one's figure.

I want the world to embrace a range in our definition of beauty. I want women (and men) to love who they are regardless of the labels their bodies may carry...I want to be able to do that myself. But I also want us to be healthy. I don't want to hear about kids with "adult-onset" diabetes and heart disease. I don't want people to think fast food is daily food. I don't want to find that the shorts I bought in the "Girls" department (hey, they were for the gym and were $2 cheaper there!) are too big for me....yes, I got XL and I'm on the smaller side, but I'm an adult and have some hips and such that a kid shouldn't.

I worry about messages. If all we see is unhealthy bodies, it skews our normal. But it isn't any better for little girls to want to look like a runway model. How do we balance our messages?

More importantly: Can we love ourselves and still strive to be our healthiest selves? Is wanting to be healthier and to be our best selves in conflict with loving who we are?

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