As a fitness blogger and trainer, I’m witness to more body hate than the average person.
People come to me with their ‘flaws’ on their sleeves asking for help for their ‘trouble’ zones, weight loss tips, to get rid of muffin tops & cellulite etc. Initially I prescribed exercise and diet regimens, assuming that once their ‘flaws’ were fixed, they’d be happier (as did they). But there was always something else not to like. Something else that wasn’t perfect. Because of course, none of us are perfect. No matter how much weight they lost or how toned they got, they never seemed to measure up to the image of perfection in their heads.
And that’s when it hit me. What people wanted was not really flat abs, slim thighs or weight loss. They simply wanted to be rid of the insecurity they felt. And that wasn’t something they could fix by only changing their bodies.
Truthfully, vanity is the number one reason people want to lose weight. Not health. Vanity. Health-wise, it’s true that some people should change up their diets and eat better, something that may result in weight loss for many people. But the desire to LOOK a certain way is not based in health. It’s based in vanity. Vanity fueled by what we believe is desirable or what we believe others will find desirable. The problem is that we receive the majority of these ‘desirability’ measures from the media: which is saturated with imagery & messages that have reached mindblowingly unrealistic proportions.
Basically, we’re comparing ourselves to ‘perfected’ images. Not perfect. PERFECTED. And it’s so pervasive that it’s become normal. We’ve internalized it. Few people see anything wrong with the images, but rather with themselves for having flaws. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to images of models, celebrities and fitspo athletes that have been digitally altered to be as ‘perfect’ as possible. They also represent a VERY small percentage of people in general (with models, about 3%). And truthfully, even THEY don’t look like the final product… in real life.
I remember watching a documentary with friends about the state of sex and sexual desirability. In the documentary, 12 average women and men, all ages, were asked to strip down in front of a group of teenagers as part of a sex ed class.
The response wasn’t surprising.
With the sea of ‘normal’ bodies in front of them, many of the teens found that uneven breasts were ‘weird’. They commented on cellulite, pooches, bruises and scars. They remarked about the appearance of pubic hair (or lack of it) and criticized each body for not being perfect. For most of them, this was the first time they’d seen a naked human body that was, well, NORMAL. Not altered. Not in porn. Not made up. Not stuffed in spanx. Without awesome lighting and great angles to cover up the ‘flaws’. They were kind of shocked.
The thing is, we don’t tend to see many ‘real’ people in the buff. Or in magazines. Or on billboards. When faced with normal bodies, bodies MOST of us have, the teens were simply stunned. But the good news? Almost all of them left the class feeling slightly better about their own insecurities. Being exposed to real bodies suddenly eased the pressure off being perfect. Because perfect, quite frankly, doesn’t exist.
When it comes to body love, questioning where your concept of beauty comes from is one of the first steps to awareness. Knowing that images are photoshopped, knowing that the bodies we’ve come to admire represent a VERY small percentage of people and knowing that there’s no right way to have a body. It takes time, but the more you remind yourself of these things, the easier it gets.
I often get asked about what I think are the BEST sites for body love and inspiration. At this point, I have TONS of fabulous recommendations and I’ve put myself in a position to be exposed to new ones each day. I’ll be spotlighting them more often so that you can find new resources for daily doses of body love & critical thought.
Today I’ll start with Beauty Redefined! Read a little more about them below, and check out their awesome site. They’re doing a great job and sending out fabulous messages of love every day. :)
Beauty Redefined: Lindsay Kite and Lexie Kite, 26-year-old identical twin sisters finishing PhDs in Communication at the University of Utah They have a passion for helping girls and women recognize and reject harmful messages about their bodies and what “beauty” means and looks like. Beauty Redefined represents they’re work to take back beauty for girls and women everywhere through continuing the discussion about body image, women’s potential and media influence through the website, Facebook page and most prominently through regular speaking engagements in both secular and religious settings, from high schools and academic conferences to girls’ camps and church firesides for all ages.
Beauty Redefined is all about rethinking our ideas of “beautiful” and “healthy” that we’ve likely learned from for-profit media that thrives off female insecurity. Girls and women who feel OK about their bodies – meaning they aren’t “disgusted” with them like more than half of women today* - take better care of themselves. With obesity and eating disorders both at epidemic levels, this point is crucial!