In high school, someone asked me what my dream was. While my friends mentioned things such as finding cures, making change and traveling around the world – all great options – I said, “My dream is to be happy.” For me, this meant rising above society’s misinterpretations of what is healthy and beautiful.
A surprisingly underrated emotion, happiness is not the absence of sadness or depression. It means actively accepting yourself in entirety.
This is difficult to do when reminders of your imperfections constantly surround you. I feel I am constantly put down by society’s misconstrued expectations of beauty, thinness and health. We live in a culture that worships something that is impossible to achieve: perfection.
This idea of the “perfect woman” is how companies make money. Advertisements, commercials, magazines and designers showcase the woman who you will pay to be: the woman who only exists as a product of a team of hair and makeup experts and hours on Photoshop. She is invented to be skinnier, prettier and all-around better than you are.
So many women on this campus lose sight of what is real, or even possible, when it comes to their bodies. In futile attempts to be that woman on TV, they confuse moderation and restriction. We need to have a balance in our diets of things we need to eat to survive and things we want to eat to satisfy normal cravings. Disordered eating habits are as real as a diagnosed eating disorder.
I hear phrases such as muffin top, thunder thighs, saddlebags and love handles all the time – at the gym, in the dining hall, in passing. These are shameful ways to describe the realities of the human body. Women, myself included, are more than aware of their insecurities without these labels.
So, tell me, why does a skim latte need to be called skinny? Logically, size-0 clothing means there is nothing there. You can’t pay me to eat off of the SkinnyLicious menu at The Cheesecake Factory, even though it’s my favorite restaurant. Better yet, Trader Joe’s has an entire line of “Reduced Guilt” foods. Every piece of food in my kitchen is “reduced guilt,” not because I shop at Trader Joe’s, but because I never feel guilty about nourishing my body.
Most women do not understand that a healthy weight is not a universal number. Every body – the physical body – has varying needs. There are women who can fit healthily into those size-25 jeans at Forever 21. But when I was that size, I was on the fast track to some scary health issues. To my point – people are different, and not everyone should strive to be a petite size 00.
I know now that I cannot live my life according to labels and advertising. Eating off the SkinnyLicious menu will not make you skinny. One-hundred-calorie snack packs won’t make you love your body. The perfect size, perfect waist and perfect hair is as made up as the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.
Clothing and cosmetic lines are finally starting to feel the heat from people who are as fed up as I am – pun intended. Just last week, Victoria’s Secret changed the slogan for its Body by Victoria collection from “The Perfect Body” to “A Body for Every Body.” The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is another example of a company that changed its image to appeal to real women with real, imperfect bodies. Truth in advertising is trending.
Escaping the harmful words and doctored photos is not easy to do. It has become ingrained in our societal norms. However, it’s time we have our cake and eat it, too. You can be beautiful – you are beautiful – and also eat three meals a day. Be proud of your body, because you only get one.
Sometimes, that voice in the back of your head tells you that you are broken, not good enough, not pretty or smart enough. When I hear this voice, I say to myself, “You are whole, not broken. You are enough. You are the best ‘you’ there is.”
I leave you with this: Every size is beautiful, but body shaming is not.
So, I’m working on my dream of being happy by ignoring the body shaming all around me on campus, in the media and sometimes within myself. I refuse to shame my body with a phrase such as muffin top. Guess what: the top of the muffin is the best part.
Contact copy editor Rebecca Fradkin at email@example.com