Growing up, I was always very thin, lanky and tall. An awkward girl with awkward looks that took growing into to appreciate. I had no curves, no shape until gaining more than my freshman 15 while in college in my Midwest hometown. My family liked to eat. Eating=loving for us and I followed suit with them, then brought those feelings into my later life.
My lowest adult weight was 118 pounds, while I topped out at around 170. So, while never truly overweight, I still felt huge among the stick figured girls flitting around New York City. I tried diets. Atkins made me ill, gave me incredible headaches and I gained back all the weight I lost, plus more when I stopped. Weight Watchers was mildly humiliating, having to pay to step on a scale in front of others each week. I lost 20 pounds, but felt confined to a calculator and notebook all the time. I ate the same things over and over because it was easier than figuring points. So I stopped that too, and the weight came back. Now, I hardly ever step on the scale. I am thinner than I was a year ago. Would I like to be thinner? Yes, but I know myself and my habits. I am comfortable with myself now, and it's taken 32 years to get here. I am comfortable in my skin.
So what does this have to do with this new wave of body acceptance campaigns? It seems that two of them are forcing those who fit into those categories into a comfort zone, rather than letting it be discovered naturally. In an effort to not be offensive, I fear that we have created room to be complacent and immune to the issues behind body image struggles. "Fat Acceptance" and "Thinspiration," the latest buzz words on the matter, I find to be unhelpful and misleading. It is very easy to hide behind those words. Who cares, I'm fat, accept it and I will get fatter! Who cares that I don't eat and exercise myself to bones, accept it because I'm going to get skinnier! There is a difference between being fat or thin and healthy. It seems that these words are throwing a blanket over the fire. Often times, deep psychological issues are brewing underneath the fat or bones, perpetuating the need to eat or not eat. Those issues need to be addressed, along with the element of acceptance in order for these two campaigns to succeed. These issues can be hard to face, so it is understandable that we would just want to gloss over them without turning attention to them. However, if we cannot accept ourselves, we cannot ask acceptance from others, and that acceptance becomes irrelevant.
"Fit is the new thin" seems much more supportive and attainable. It's not a phrase to hide behind, but one to inspire. A person can be quite thin, but still be healthy and fit; the same goes for a person with extra weight. The phrase is a call to take responsibility for one's health, both physically and mentally. It's not an excuse to hide behind. I wish that this type of campaign was around when I was struggling with my body image. I hope that it encourages others who are having trouble finding comfort in who they are and how they look. We are all beautiful; it just takes some pushing for some of us to finally realize it.
Peace, Love and Beauty! Give yourself a big hug...you deserve it!