What is considered to be beautiful is always changing, over the years and across cultures. I think the young woman in the above image may have a “wheat belly.” ( a reference to a popular book about gluten free diets). She is a little soft and pudgy according to current beauty standards. Her belly is bulging out a bit.
Opinions about diet are always changing as well. There are so many changes in just the past 20 years. Remember all the talk about low fat diets and heart health. I stayed away from butter and ate margarine for years to find that now we know margarine is actually very bad for you. And then no red meat. I followed that advice as well and did not eat red meat. Now I hear that the low fat diet caused many people to eat too much sugar, which is worse, and that some fats are good for us. And it was artificial sweeteners are good and then they were bad. Now sugar is bad again. Then coffee is good, coffee is bad, or wine is good, wine is bad. White wine is not as good as red. No white wine is ok. Now red is better as long as its organic. Confusing isn’t it.
It is amazing how there are so many books and posts telling us how to be better at everything. How to eat, have sex, be mindful, find purpose and exercise in just the right ways.
This got me thinking about body image in general and women’s body image in particular. I want to be comfortable with my body and it’s image even if it is not the ideal. Women spend a good part of their lives worried about their appearance and weight, scrutinizing their bodies in the mirror to see how they measure up to the latest popular image.
I have read many articles on this topic and this lead to a website called Beauty Redefined. I am sure there are others out there that are as good but I do like a lot of what this one has to say. It belongs to Lexie and Lindsay Kite, who have PhDs in media and body image. In there own words, We have a passion for helping girls and women recognize, reject and resist harmful messages about their bodies and what “beauty” means and looks like. I am learning there is a lot of resistance against all the dieting and the popular media images of beauty. This is a positive thing.
This a great little short film by Em Ford, a very courageous young woman, who demonstrates how women are judged by their appearance. And how some commenters on social media are sociopaths.
There is resistance to dieting as well. In her book Body of Truth, Harriet Brown talks about how she learned to become comfortable with her body at a weight that felt comfortable to her. She makes a convincing argument about the futility of dieting and how all the hype about obesity is overblown. She talks about her own daughter’s struggle with anorexia and how this experience helped her and her family change their attitudes toward food. She includes some of her own process that she developed through therapy to be able to relax about eating and not be obsessed about diet.
Another website I have discovered is Refinery 29 that has some good posts about positive body image and anti-dieting. There is great blog on there called The Anti-Diet Project by Kelsey Miller. She did a recent post about intuitive eating. This has been around for awhile. It is learning to make food neutral and get in touch with your natural appetite and get off the diet merry-go-round. Another post by Kate Harding as part of Refinery 29 Take Back the Beach exposes many of the myths about the virtues of dieting.
I find the posts about positive body image and anti-dieting encouraging. Maybe there is hope that people’s attitudes will change and we can learn self-acceptance.
In the meantime, it is good to keep a sense of humor. There is one health practice that I really believe in, laughter. When we laugh we lower our stress hormones, improve our circulation, increase our endorphins, exercise our lungs and even exercise our core muscles. I believe the part about the core muscles because my daughter pointed out to me, and I confirmed it by looking in the mirror, that my belly moves up and down when I laugh. Besides laughter makes us feel great don’t you think?