Here's the thing about fat: Fat means you're healthy. It means you can reproduce. Fat is energy stored up for later. Fat means no painful hip bones getting in the way during sex. Fat means you can take advantage of fat soluble vitamins. Fat protects your heart and lungs. It means healthy skin and hair. Fat insulates you from the heat and cold. Fat is beautiful.
Yesterday one style blogger I read posted photos from a canoe trip and felt the need to warn us ahead of time about the visibility of her lower back and went on to express how uncomfortable she was with bathing suits due to her fat and cellulite. You guys. This girl is hot. If I had to guess I'd say she's a size 6ish, maybe 8, and I have never once seen evidence of a love handle, bra bulge, or any of the other number of things women stress about. Granted, she has complete control over which images of her we see. BUT if you're someone who is very attractive, is generally agreed upon to be very attractive, and you have between 30 and 70 comments every day telling you how attractive, funny and creative you are and you still have body issues, there is something wrong. And its not something wrong with you, its something very very wrong with society.
To the blogger I'm talking about, if you're reading this- know that this isn't really about you. Its about a much much bigger trend that scares me, and your post is simply what brought it to the front of my attention. Every day from the day we are born, women are bombarded with words and images about what we should look like, how we should dress, what we should like, etc, etc. We know what kind of damage this bombardment is capable of: 6 year olds on diets, teens with eating disorders, soccer moms turned gym rats, and just general dislike of our bodies, always finding fault. Apparently this bombardment is so damaging that months and months of 50 positive comments a day aren't enough to combat it. Fifty comments telling you how great you are and you still don't feel awesome about yourself? Jesus.
I have to admit that I'm still struggling with my own body image. I was always the biggest of my sisters and got a lot of crap for it. Pile on top of that the media frenzy and you wind up with a fifteen year old with stacks of tabloids featuring starved Mary-Kate, Kiera Knightly, and Nicole Richie stashed under her bed. I starved in the morning and binged in the afternoon and spent my evenings flipping through the magazines and browsing the internet for "thinspiration." I did manage to whittle myself down to a size 12, desperately wishing to be a size 2. I was disgusted with my own body and anyone else's who was any bigger. I think I did a lot of damage to my little sister as well with all my hateful talk, even if I was just talking about me.
And this is my main point: You have to love your own body, for yourself, and for everyone else. Women (actually all people) feed energy off of each other, and when the energy you project is body negative you eventually wind up with a huge downward spiral of women tearing each other down whether they mean to or not. My little sister's best friend who is a natural stick was devastated when she hit 100 pounds. Keep in mind she was 15 or 16 when this happened. When my sister, who is definitely bigger than her friend but still totally gorgeous and totally healthy, was telling me about her friend hating her body she said something along the lines of, "If she thinks she's so disgusting, what must she think of me?" I had felt this exact same thing the countless times any of my smaller, more beautiful (so I perceived) friends expressed dislike of their bodies. Its totally discouraging. So when this particular gorgeous blogger expressed her swimsuit insecurities, all those old feelings were briefly dredged up. But ultimately I was more worried for her.
The journey to complete body love is tough, especially in the West. I should know. After about a year of the starve, binge, hate cycle I realized that I needed to start eating better. Stopping the starving was pretty easy, but I kept up the binging (I never made myself throw up, though I did try once). It wasn't until I was seventeen and had regained the weight and then some that I realized I needed to stop the hate too. I came across some old pictures of size 12, possibly eating disordered me and I looked great! Save the yellowy skin and dark circles. I kept digging and realized that even before that my body looked really fantastic, despite what my sisters might have told me. I felt like I had wasted so much time and energy hating my body when it looked fantastic. And that's what I was doing. If you are hating your body right now, you are wasting time and energy. Instead, use that energy to do something that makes you feel better.
Over time I've managed to change my beauty ideals to a more realistic standard by distancing myself from Hollywood and the fashion world and spending more time with beautiful friends of all different shapes and sizes who are working hard to start loving their bodies too. The fact that I still have ideals is a problem that I'm working on, but these things take time. We have to change the way we think about bodies. We have to watch what we say.
If you're feeling a little insecure, that's ok. In fact, I probably overreacted to that blogger's comment. But you definitely definitely shouldn't let that insecurity settle. The best thing you can do for your body image is to eat right and exercise. And it absolutely isn't about losing weight. If you make exercise about losing weight you'll hate yourself if you don't and you'll give it up, discouraged. Exercise is about being healthy. Its about being amazed at what your body is physically capable of. And its about pushing just a little bit harder. Most importantly, its about fun and feeling good. I never feel better about myself than about ten minutes after a good workout. But for god's sake, don't rely on a scale to tell you how healthy you are. The scale has no idea.
I have lost a little bit of weight since becoming vegan two months ago and adding a little exercise, and I do need to lose some weight for medical purposes, but I'll never be without fat and I never want to be because here's the thing about fat: Fat means you're healthy. It means you can reproduce. Fat is energy stored up for later. Fat means no painful hip bones getting in the way during sex. Fat means you can take advantage of fat soluble vitamins. Fat protects your heart and lungs. It means healthy skin and hair. Fat insulates you from the heat and cold. Fat is beautiful.