Something I noticed in Mexico is that literally no female I saw in swimsuits on any of the five days I was there looked like our society’s current body ideal.
Save for maybe one…my twelve year-old niece.
If we are chasing after a body that only a twelve year-old can have, then we have issues. Because a twelve year-old isn’t going to have stretch marks or cellulite yet, she’s not going to have the swell of a baby of a post-pubescent woman, and nothing is going to sag. Yet.
The point isn’t about my niece. The point is that I looked at women, young and old, in their swimsuits. I always have done that — catalogued other women’s bodies and quickly sized them up along with my own. Is she fitter? Leaner? Tauter? Does she have cellulite? Stretchmarks? Is her stomach flat?
No one met those qualifications. At least not in that sample group.
But it’s also not in my Sunday workout class, which, to be honest, is a beast. The teacher looks like that, but no one else does.
And the thought that occurred to me this morning as I inspected my
tanned mostly sunburned body before getting into the shower was:
What if we’re killing ourselves chasing a trend?
What if we’re obsessing over looking a certain way that is not the biological norm?
What if we’ve spent all this time trying to change ourselves, and a decade from now, the style will be to look like this?
I mean, we can look back in fashion and see that what has been stylish for women’s bodies has changed dramatically, just within the last one hundred years.
It just hurt my heart to think of the young girls (and the not young ones) who are starving themselves, bingeing and purging, weighing themselves every day, checking their body fat, getting surgical procedures, making vision boards of the way everyone looks in magazines (but less than ten percent of people look in real life)…and all of that is just for a trend, for something that is going to shift, to change, to die.
And it hurts my heart to watch myself, too. Always cataloging. Always scanning. Always asking, Do I measure up? Do I belong?
I got back from Mexico and discovered that I’d actually lost some weight, no doubt from not loving the all-inclusive food, but likely also from actually sleeping eight hours a night, carrying my toddler everywhere, relaxing and being in the sunshine. Living a simpler life, my body let go of something.
And it had nothing to do with macronutrients.
But then I thought, Why does it even matter to me if I gained or lost weight?
My friend Jessie pointed me in the direction of an amazing instagram account after my post on disordered eating — @mindfulcounseling. She talks a lot about diet culture, and that we are basically drowning in it. The message is always the same: you’re not good enough, so try our product. It ___________ (fill in the blank with: burns fat, has zero calories, is vegan, is Paleo, is gluten-free, is low carb).
I’m really inspired by the message she spreads. And she is a legit therapist, not just another girl sitting on her couch trying to get likes.
I don’t have an answer for all of these questions I’m posing. But I am thinking about the world we live in, and how we define what beauty is, and how we decide if someone is acceptable.
And I don’t think I like the rules we play by.