Earlier this week, a friend and I were discussing body image and the negative "fat talk" that girls are frequently using to bring themselves down. It saddens me greatly to see how many girls hate their bodies and put all their worth into how skinny they can get or want to be. Eating disorders have gone from the occasional case here and there to nearly an epidemic. Our culture has become so obsessed with weight that we may as well say the motto is "the smaller the better." I'd love to say that I haven't succumbed to this the pressure that so many women are under, but I can honestly say that I speak from experience on this topic. I have been struggling with an eating disorder for several years now, and have become increasingly frustrated with not only our society's acceptance of all all the bony women in the entertainment and fashion industry representing women everywhere, but the fact that it is actually encouraging this impossible standard. Eat Pray Love couldn't have come out at a better time for me. I had read the book months ago and have been eagerly awaiting the film ever since. In the Italy part of the film, Julia Roberts' Elizabeth Gilbert verbally proclaims to refuse to feel guilty anymore about what she eats in a day, and indulges in many mouth-watering Italian dishes. This is by far my favorite part of the story. The scene where makes this proclamation to her friend in a pizzeria and then advises her to do so also before proceeding to an entire personal pizza was liberating.
This post will not be the only one I dedicate to eating disorders and body image. The topic is extremely important to me and is something that desperately needs to be addressed and reversed.
Thin is In: Some Eye-Opening Examples
I just watched Mean Girls the other night and I realized that it is an example of how quickly the ideal body type has shrunk. The movie was released in 2004 and the hot popular girls known as the plastics, for those few of us who haven't seen the movie, are actually not ridiculously skinny. Now, if you look at recent pictures, at least two of these girls now have lost a significant amount of weight, those being Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Seyfried. This tells me if the movie were to be made now, I have a feeling the plastics would be a lot thinner and that instead of Regina (Rachel McAdams character and the queen of the plastics) wanting to lose only 3 pounds, she'd want to lose more like 15 and would probably be skipping meals to do so. I love how weight, though definitely addressed in this movie, isn't the main focus and there are no main characters that are thin to the point of distraction.
Take a look at these pictures of Kate Bosworth and Keira Knightley. In which pictures do you think they look their best? I'm guessing you answered with the first pictures. In those pictures they are glowing and beautiful and though thin, they look healthy even happier. Both of these actresses as you can see look dangerously thin now and each denies having any type of an eating disorder. Having struggled with anorexia myself, I find this extremely hard to believe. It is already hard for girls and women outside of Hollywood to deal with the pressure to be thin, so I can't imagine how it must be for these women. All I can say is that denying that you have stopped treating your body the way it needs to be treated in order to function and continue running is a dangerous thing. It is OK to admit you have succumbed to our society's unrealistic body type standards! The less it is brought to the surface the harder it will be to stop this problem. I only hope that one day both these actresses and the many others will realize that with their fame they have a voice and can take a stand against the pressure they are under.
Women Who are Making a Difference
Caitlin started Operation Beautiful in an effort to end "fat talk" and replace it with positive and encouraging anonymous notes on post-its. I remember briefly reading something about Operation Beautiful in the past, but it wasn't till it was brought to my attention the same day last week that my friend and I had the conversation about fat talk that I really looked into it. What perfect timing! This is exactly what I needed to read about that day and now I so badly want to be a part of it. All you need is a pen and a paper and to write down an encouraging note like the one above and post it anonymously on a mirror in a public restroom. If you take a picture of your note it can eventually be featured on their site. Just got to the site for more info.
I also fell in love with Caitlin's blog Healthy Tipping Point, in which she chronicles her active and healthy lifestyle , giving me food and workout inspiration. I highly recommend you check it out.
I just started reading Hungry by Crystal Renn and am already hooked. Hungry is her memoir of her early modeling years in which after being told to lose weight, developed an extreme case of anorexia and exercise bulimia. Still, her body refused to be a size zero and as her weight rebelled, her mania escalated. Things got so bad that she would faint between casting calls, develope frequent bruises, and experience frequent heart palpitations. "One day," she said, "I realized that I wanted to live. I had to get off the crazy-making treadmill. I had to nourish my body and feed my soul. So I ate. And ate. And I returned to my natural size 12--the size of the average American and the size I was when I really made it big." Now, Chrystal Renn is one of the most successful models in the industry today and flaunts her curves in magazine spreads, advertisements, and fashion shows. She proves that you don't have to starve yourself to the point of death to make it big in the fashion industry, and more importantly, that true beauty is ultimately health and happiness.
In her book, Renn refers to a book by anthropoligist Mimi Nichter called Fat Talk: What Girls and Their Parents Say About Dieting. She says, "In it, Nichter coins the term "fat talk"--the conversation in which one girl says, 'I'm so fat!' and another girl rushes to say, 'No! You're so skinny! I'm so fat!' It's almost a ritual. Nichter says it serves as a social purpose. When we engage in fat talk, we're actually soothing each other. We complain about weight as a way to build solidarity with other girls, to ask for reassurance without looking desperate, and to get compliments without having to beg. It's like a game like Tag or Duck, Duck, Goose--everyone knows the rules, but none of us remembers learning them."
Girls, it is time to end fat talk. By simply deciding not to verbally abuse our bodies, we are already taking a step in the right direction in our quest to make peace with our bodies. We need to achieve the balance Elizabeth Gilbert does in Eat Pray Love--loving life by enjoying food, praying and counting our blessings, and loving those around us. In the end, there are SO many more important things than fitting into those size 0 jeans. And remember, I am right there on this journey with you, trying to get healthy both physically and mentally.
I'd love your feedback so feel free to comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned for more body image posts in the future!