Friday, November 22, 2013

Body Image


I've always been a "fat girl." Pre-school to elementary school; elementary school to middle school then on to high school; college to my professional life--I've always had extra pounds and bigger clothes. Sure, some years I was smaller, other years I was bigger, but I've always been around the same size and my weight doesn't fluctuate much. Just this past spring I wore my sophomore year prom dress to a party (I was a high school sophomore in 1999)--proving that the feeling of fitting into something from our teen years is not a glory reserved strictly for the skinny! But we think it is, don't we? Because us "fat girls" have body images that are prone to shame, discomfort with self, and negative social commentary. 

The whole idea of "body image" infuriates and fascinates me simultaneously. Our bodies are very physical; yet, we detach ourselves from them with this "image."And said image is a very loaded topic of modern discussion. Image sells. Image entices. Image defines. Crafting image is built into every consumer business model, social media, politics, the list goes on. But, image isn't actually a thing--it's not a body, it's not a state, it is an external projection of what may or may not be real. The philosophy student in me has a hard time accepting image as real--we can thank Plato and his "Allegory of the Cave" for this, because image--in this conversation--is crafted. So, why do we hold our natural physical selves to the standards of image? Why not hold ourselves to our natural physical selves: who we are today? 

I've been told on numerous occasions that I have a "pretty face," and would be a "knock out" if I lost some pounds. And, the greatest part of this insult is that it is always said in a tone of endearment--as if the person delivering this judgment is doing me a favor. Body insults and judgments in an endearing tone are not just set aside to fat girls either. I have plenty of skinny friends who have received comments at the other end of the spectrum, "you're too skinny," or, possibly the most offensive, "do you eat?" No matter fat or thin, we live in a society where commenting on a person's body is normal because we hold ourselves and others to a body image of what is right and what is wrong. But that body image is not who we are, because by definition it is not real, and we humans of every size are very much real. 

Recent article reading has beaten this idea of "body image"into my conscious even more. Here. Here. And here. It coincides so nicely with lifestyle blogs and branding--who wants to buy/sell/promote products and goods that serve fat people? And the really sad thing is that it isolates fat even more. We now have our own little subculture to feel safe in. But here is the rub: I feel l safe in my body, and I love body. 

It's true. My body is strong. It has taken me all over the world. It has allowed me the privilege of climbing mountains and swimming in the ocean. It "moves like a jellyfish" on the dance floor and I love that--people love that! My body has taken me down the French Alps on skies, and wandered the shore line of western Ghana. In this very skin I jumped out of an airplane 13,000 plus feet above the earth, and with the help of a parachute this body glided back down to earth. This body, this fat body, did all of that and I love it. 

Be proud of who you are. The real authentic you. In whatever shape or color you come in. Bodies are tools, amazing tools that merit gratitude and appreciation. Do something nice for your body today. Tell it you love it. Thank it. Remind it of all the greatness you've accomplished together. And, next time you are hit with one of those "pretty face but" lines, stop the speaker before they finish the sentence, and let them know you've a pretty body and soul too. 

© Habit & Style, 2013

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