When I first read the survey in the UK that almost one in three women attending university would swap a year or more of their life for their ideal body shape, I had a lot of feelings. I was sad, frustrated, mad and had many other various emotions; yet the one feeling I did not have was shock.
I wasn’t shocked at all that women would trade time in their life for their ideal body shape. And I guess to me, that is the saddest realization. And I questioned myself “Am I de-sensitized by body image news?”
The trend of women having body image struggles is rampant. I think the article gets it wrong though, it says they would exchange a year for “their” ideal body shape, and yet we do not live in a vat, we live in a culture where the ideal body shape is promoted in advertising, media, music videos, magazines, tv, and every other place we look. So perhaps it would be wiser to say women would trade a year for the ideal body shape of a society or culture.
A majority of us advocates have read the Fiji study and the effects of TV on the main island, Viti Levu. In a culture where “You’ve gained weight” is a traditional compliment, eating disorders and body image concerns began to be a concern just a few years after TV came to the island. This shows that ideal body types can be influenced by cultural shifts.
This survey in the UK also noted that “Most (93 per cent) have also had negative thoughts about their body in the last week, with 31 per cent feeling critical of their figure several times a day.” This trend of over 90% of women having negative thoughts about their body is absolutely concerning. We are so much more than our bodies!
We get confusing, conflicting and negative messages about our bodies, our health, our worth, and this all leads to a negative body image. We are targeted in marketing campaigns, to fix this, erase that, stop aging, fight our bodies day in and out. The diet industry is a multi billion dollar industry that continues to increase its own revenues the more we hate our bodies. Even though diet failure rates can be up to 95%, people continue to see diets not as a problem, but as a solution. And diets only increase disordered eating, can potentially trigger eating disorders, and makes us unable to listen or trust our own bodies.
We then have this anti Obesity campaign that I feel is only worsening the messages to people, to children, that being fat is something morally wrong and something to be feared. Instead of focusing on health, nutrition, education, and exercise, we are being taught bad vs good foods, that BMI is a tool that can be relied on for health, and that we somehow need to fix this “problem.” We don’t hear about genetic research, metabolism research, nutrition research, eating disorder research, all showing the complexity of weight and health. People equate thin with being healthy. They judge fat people on what they eat, and think they have the right to be cruel, judgmental, and make this a moral issue. Even PSA’s are shaming children in campaigns as well as perpetrating stigmas that exist (this alone is too large of a topic to address in this post alone) I don’t know how many times I want to just scream at the top of my lungs, that you CANNOT tell the health of a person from weight alone!!!! You also cannot tell a persons worth from their weight. People of all sizes, shapes, races, genders, all should be treated like human beings, and with equal respect and treatment.
I believe this all SHOULD be shocking, and I am not shocked at anything I read anymore, and that is sad.
The norm is that women hate on themselves, it is socially acceptable to say self hate talk in front of a mirror or with friends, and diet talk can come from the home and into the office. Offices even have created Weight Watchers groups and meetings; it appears there is no place where we can focus on who we are, our skills, our talents, and have a break from how we look.
There are obviously many more contributing factors to a negative body image, and I think the change needs to start with us. We need to stop self hate and monitor our self talk, and the messages we are allowing to have free rent in our heads. It shouldn’t be normal to be so damn mean to ourselves! I believe we need to teach our children that they are more than what they look like, and can embrace their talents, skills and individuality. We need to teach media literacy. We need to empower people to question the media, the advertising, the subtleties they are trying to send and sell to us on a daily basis.
I have hope that Health at Every Size, intuitive eating, and positive messages of health can counter the messages from those just seeking to make millions on our insecurity.
I wanted to counter this with an exercise to write all of the reasons I would NEVER exchange a year of my life for a body shape, because there are SO many things that are worth more to me.
I would never trade a year of my life because of all the things a year is worth to me:
A years worth of puppy kisses, snuggling and unconditional love
A year of watching my nephew grow
A year of hugs, loves from my family
A year of reading
A year of writing
A year of moments, lessons, intentions and gratitudes
A year of new beginnings
A year of smiles and giggles
A year of feelings, all feelings
A year to see how far I have come
A year of finding what brings me joy
A year of reading inspiring blogs
A year of morning coffee!
A year of watching people discovery recovery, embrace recovery, and discover their true authentic selves
A year of meeting inspiring people, and having amazing dialogues about creativity, business, motivations, and sharing of stories.
What about you? What is a year worth to you??
How do you think we can work to change these statistics?