What are you doing?
Are people trying to make me mad these days? Because I swear to god, I’m trying to recover from a cold, and yet I seem to be hearing more and more phrases like ‘I just can’t seem to get below 150lbs,’ ”I need to be a size 8 by Christmas,’ and ‘I really, really hate my thighs.’
These are actual quotes from real people I’ve encountered in the last week, and holy hell I just don’t know what they’re trying to do to me. I’m sick guys. Sick. I don’t think blind fury is going to help my immune system out right now.
But what on earth?
I thought I’d made my feelings pretty damn clear with this photo:
This is getting ridiculous. So I’d like to take a moment of your time to shout blindly at you, personally, just in case either you, or someone you know, isn’t aware of a few things.
Firstly: body image lies at the heart of a whole world of issues that are, quite frankly, making our lives worse. Every time you think you’re fat, or you hate your thighs, or you obsess over the scales, you are wasting valuable moments that would be better spent doing a whole bunch of fun things, like lip-syncing to Etta James, or breathing in the fresh Autumn air, or whatever tickles your pickle. To put it bluntly, you are wasting valuable, precious time you’re never going to get back worrying about this kind of thing – when you could be living instead.
Now, I’m not talking the odd minute, here or there. According to a study in 2006 – and let’s bear in mind that to me, at least, it seems there’s been a sharp increase in body issues over the last few years – girls’ self-esteem peaks at nine years old.
Nine years old.
In addition to that, seven in ten girls believe they don’t measure up in some way, either in terms of looks, school performance and relationships. Eighty per cent of ten-year-old girls have dieted. Ninety percent of high school and college girls diet regularly. And young girls are more afraid of getting fat than of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents [Dove Campaign for Real Beauty].
I’d like to think that as grown-ups, we get a sense of perspective on all this and get over it – but I’m just not sure, deep down, that that’s entirely true. Because it seems to me that the more people I speak to – and you’ll notice I’m saying people, not just women – the more it seems to me that poor body image is, quite frankly, messing us up.
Eating disorders are on the rise. Obesity is on the rise. And both of these things relate back to the way we see, and treat, our bodies. Frankly, this needs saying, loudly and by everyone.
Your body is better than the ones you see in magazines, because it’s real, and it is beautiful. It feels great, and it looks amazing – and chances are, the only person that doesn’t see it to be as perfect as it is is you.
Your weight is irrelevant to your worth as a person. You don’t have to feel guilty about food, because good food is one of the great pleasures of life, and you deserve to enjoy it. And you are awesome at being you. Nobody’s better than you are at that.
Now, it might be that I’ve been watching too much of The West Wing while I’ve been laid up recovering, but dammit if I don’t think there’s a revolution to be had here. But it’s one that absolutely has to start at home.
Not just at home, in fact, but between the walls of your skull.
I can’t even begin to stress the difference that choosing makes in improving your own body image. For instance, during that time of the month, I wake up in a bad mood, and I choose to see myself as fat, and saggy, and tired, and it ruins my day – because choosing to hate everything for some reason makes me feel better.
I don’t know why. Sue me.
But you don’t have to look at the world that way, and if you’re looking at yourself that way then frankly – you’re doing it wrong. You should never, ever look in the mirror and criticise. At worst, accept and make positive choices to change for the healthier – at best, look at yourself with a big ol’ ‘HELLO, GORGEOUS’ and start shoveling the ol’ self-love in your direction.
Either way, it’s a conscious mental decision to do right by yourself – because that’s where change begins.
You have the power – as a friend, as a mother, as a sister, as whatever you want to be – to make a difference to the lives of those around you by choosing not to engage in that whole size-and-scale self-worth debate. You don’t need it. And you absolutely should not be perpetuating it.
Because – to put it bluntly – when you’re buying into media ideals and diet packages, you’re perpetuating the anti-feminist, anti-people bullshit that got us to this point in the first place.
I don’t know how to start a revolution, really. If I did, then I’d be quitting my job, selling my worldly possessions, buying a cape and guillotine and cracking on with it. But I do know that we’re at a point where we really bloody need one – because I can’t take a week off and have three different people actively loathe themselves within earshot. I campaign for this shit, and I’m still hearing it – so elsewhere, it’s gotta be non-stop.
But all I can say is this: you can take control of this. You can tell other people they’re amazing, and beautiful, and that no amount of advertising and sales baloney cancels out their worth or awesomeness. You can be honest with them, and accept your flaws, and be honest about what you thought they were – because by living the positive-body mindset, you can show that it’s possible to escape the bullshit circus.
And if you’re not quite there yet, then hear this, without cynicism or that awkward British fear of honest love:
You (yes, you) are bloody amazing. And this revolution starts now.