My mother’s long-term curse was ‘wait until you hit…” 20, 30 or even 40 years old, which was always followed by “you’ll start gaining weight.” I never bought into this, and considered it an old wives tale, but now that I’m 40ish, I’m seeing a little extra meat on my bones. I don’t necessarily attribute it to my physical age, but there is no denying it could be a potential factor, although, my metabolism remains at a steady and fast pace. Yet, I’m witnessing a change that I never expected.
In my 20’s and 30’s I never worried about my diet nor exercising because I’ve been fortunate that my metabolism took care of it. I was always slim and athletic, and aside from the genetic belly pooch, I maintained a healthy weight. Not that my recent weight gain has been astronomical by any means, but the extra 10 pounds I find clinging to my not-as-curvy waistline weighs heavily upon my psyche.
That got me thinking about body image, and how I’ve come to define it on a personal level. The National Eating Disorders Association defines body image as “how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind.” This encompasses personal memories, generalizations, and assumptions, and I think all people are affected by these three things when defining their body image.
You can probably guess that my own personal memories include my mother’s curse that she bestowed on me as a young teenager. It bred a deep-seated fear of gaining weight in me as a teen that I’ve carried over into adulthood. Not that I have an eating disorder, but I’m quite conscious of gaining weight. This, combined with my personal experiences throughout my life; as a child witnessing the bullying of fellow students who had weight issues, the constant barrage of unrealistic media pictures depicting what the “ideal” woman is, and the societal expectations of what a woman should strive to look like; all of it has affected my personal body image, and frankly, it causes a great deal of worry for me, just like it does for so many other women in this world.
I recently read an article called “Poor body image makes girls less assertive and risks health, study finds” written by Haroon Siddique that says most women/girls who are “dissatisfied with their figure will skip meals and avoid friends.” This extends into virtually all facets of a woman’s life, and negatively impacts the quality of life a woman experiences. Being thin is associated with beauty in all forms of media: movies, advertisements, television, magazines, and even social media. Shouldn’t we stop this madness at some point?
This ‘cultural norm” of being unrealistically thin begins to affect females at a young age. Even at the young age of 9 or 10, girls are starting to diet because their personal body images are anything but positive. This is crazy. When do we, as a society of women, say ‘Enough is enough’?
Knowing how I feel about my own body, which is not the most positive, I worry about how my 7-year-old granddaughter will fare as she grows into womanhood. Will she suffer the same negative body image that I experience? I certainly hope not, and while hope is a good thing, I don’t’ think that’s enough to ensure that the future generations of women in my family will embrace their bodies in a healthy way. Despite my own struggle, I try to focus on the accomplishments my granddaughter achieves, on her positive qualities outside the realm of her physical appearance, and try to assure her she is beautiful just as she is.
So, to women of all sizes and shapes, remember this…. You Are Beautiful the Way You Are!