Tuesday, May 30, 2017

We need to talk about... Body Image

Summer is almost upon us and if you didn’t already know that “summer bodies are made in the winter” fear not as you are about to be inundated with magic diet pills and skinny teas to get yo’self bikini body ready.  I don’t know about anyone else but I’m sick to death of finding something to be negative about everytime I look in the mirror. Wishing I had smaller hips, bigger boobs or a six pack; imagining how unreal a real life photoshop would be where you can tweak, erase and undo as you please. (undo the sugar binge that you’re trying to forget happened during your Netflix marathon session on Monday night or the Chinese you had last night even though you’re on a “diet”...) It definitely doesn't help that I have a bit of an obsession with following Instagram fitness accounts but it’s a bit of a love/hate kinda thing.  Some days I feel so motivated that I wouldn’t even look twice at a Double Decker or a Wispa Gold and on the other days? I’m overcome with guilt as I lie in a heap covered in chocolate wrappers, dying a little inside as I scroll further and further through my instagram feed.

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that as women we can’t escape being exposed to things that centre around “losing weight”, “diets” and being “thin” or “lean”, and they have become aspirations. Most magazines lure us into buying their latest issue with headlines such as “Lose a dress size in 10 days” and there is always a celebrity promoting their latest “Bikini Body” guide or somebody endorsing a new healthy eating plan or cookbook. I understand there are many layers to the Body Image issue; on one hand there is no better feeling than loving your body and feeling comfortable and confident with it but this idea that losing weight or having a fit and toned body equates to happiness is unhealthy and unrealistic. As women our bodies and our weight are constantly affected by hormone fluctuations; one day you could look in the mirror and think “ARE THOSE TINY LINES THE ONSET OF ABS? THANK.YOU.GOD!.. IF ANYONE NEEDS ANY ADVICE I CAN HELP 'CUZ I THINK I’VE FIGURED IT ALL OUT NOW” and another day the bloat could be so real you can’t bear to look at your own reflection. I know I’m guilty of this and I’m trying to be more mindful of it. Trying my hardest not to let my happiness depend on how flat my stomach looks on a particular day or let my self esteem go to shreds if a photo is taken at a bad angle and OMG WHAT IF PEOPLE THINK I’VE PUT ON WEIGHT!??? Isn’t this true though? We talk about someone being fat or putting on weight as if it’s an immortal sin, as if they’ve just killed a dozen puppies with their bare hands. God forbid someone is looking a bit bloated on a particular day or someone is going through something that means going to the gym is NOT a priority at the minute. You never really know what people are going through and we’re so guilty of judging people; body shaming someone if they’re too “fat”, too “thin”, too “muscular.” I can’t sit here and say I’ve never had any of these thoughts about people, but I’m consciously trying to be more body positive about myself and others. Constantly reminding myself that there are more fulfilling things  to focus on rather than obsessing over what your body or someone else's looks like.

There are so many amazing things we are capable of doing as women and it should not matter what our bodies look like. Whether someone is a size 8 or a size 20, what’s it to us? Their value as a woman is still the same and one is as capable as the other. Why am I even addressing this? Because we are constantly bombarded with products and books telling us they can help us lose weight. What is that really saying? Our bodies aren’t good enough as they are? The thinner we are the better we are? It's really difficult to place the blame on anyone and we can't because we’ve been conditioned to be this way. Weight loss and Fitness is a multi-billion dollar industry, it profits from telling us we need to change something about ourselves. It knows that as women, we love this idea that perfection exists and are always intrigued by products that will bring us closer to that. It’s the classic Adam and Eve situation, only in this case the forbidden fruit is a magic diet pill and not an apple. The weight loss and fitness industry is profiting from our insecurities, it is trying to lure us like the serpent in the Garden of Eden and sometimes we need to draw attention to this. If you want to lose weight or get fit then why are you doing it? Will it make you happy? Is it so you can upload some photos onto social media? Is it to feel confident in a bikini? Do you want people to notice you’ve lost weight? Sometimes we just need to reassess and make sure that what we are doing is for us and not because we feel like we have to change something. Ensuring our particular goal is a healthy and realistic one and we're not making ourselves miserable trying to attain it.
Images: @henn_kim on Instagram

FYI, I’m absolutely not bashing anyone who is on a weight-loss, health or fitness journey - whatever it may be. Personally, I’m trying new classes at the gym because I want to challenge myself and see what affect it will have on my body. I know that I feel better when I exercise and eat healthy but know that I shouldn’t feel guilty if I do nothing for a few days and if there hasn't been a salad consumed within those few days either. This is just a reality check that I think some people may need, including myself. I’m just trying to draw attention to the fact that it’s not really as common for us to see articles in magazines or a post on social media telling us we are perfect just as we are; that we don’t need to change our bodies. Happiness is something that is so personal and unique to each one of us. Don’t let anyone make you feel as though your happiness will grow as long as you shrink in size.

I know this might all sound a bit vain and pointless in contrast to other things happening in the world but we can’t deny that it can be a battle to perceive our bodies in a positive light EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. How many times have you looked in the mirror while sucking in your stomach and twisting yourself into an angle that a contortionist would be proud of and thought: “I’d be grand now if I looked like this” or “I’ll be happy when I lose x amount of lbs.” Weight and happiness cannot be measured on the same scale. I’ve been so thin that people have asked me what I was doing to look that way I did and I would laugh and say "the vodka and McDonald’s diet.” I was dancing six nights a week for four months on the West-end, eating what I wanted, having the freedom to go on a night out whenever I pleased and not obsessing over my weight and you know what? My happiness wasn’t a result of how my body looked at the time. It was to do with the once in a life time experience I was having and the new friendships I’d made. When it was over and I returned home for a few weeks, I naturally put some weight on. I had to remind myself again and AGAIN that my previous weight wasn’t maintainable and I’d rather be healthy and mentally sane than a few lbs lighter. I want to have a body that I feel comfortable with; that’s fit, strong, healthy and that I don’t have to kill myself to maintain it or count every calorie I consume. I’ll probably never have a six pack and that’s ok.

Images: @henn_kim on Instagram

I came across a quote recently that really resonates with me and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it: “don’t miss out on 95% of your life just to weigh 5% less.” Around the same time I read this I also came across a podcast by Leandra Medine (of Man Repeller) featuring Drew Barrymore wherein Drew talks about her cosmetics range, her vineyard and Barrymore Wines, past relationships and her turbulent upbringing as a child star in Hollywood. It is really worth a listen  and I especially loved Drew's comments regarding Body Image. I love how freely she admits things like: "So I have a little tyre around my waist? So What. I'm Happy!" and "I don't wanna be thin and miserable. I can't do it." The thing I love most is how she explains that she is conscious not to criticize or say anything negative about her own body in front of daughters Olive, 4 and Frankie, 2 and says "I will always be showing my daughters that they need to live and they cannot put life on reserve to look a certain way."

These are just a few of my thoughts on Body Image and the Weightloss and Fitness Industry. What do you make of it all? Do you feel pressured to look a certain way? Do you feel that too much emphasis is placed upon looking a certain way? Please let me know in the comments below, on Facebook or Instagram or email me @ rachaelomc.blogspot.ie@gmail.com.


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