I haven’t always had a super happy relationship with my body, but it’s only been the last little while that I’ve really started to care properly about my weight. And when I say properly I mean, get obsessive.
In high school I was too distracted with worries about my ubiquitous dark body hair and small bust to think much about weight. My genetic predisposition/height/beach lifestyle/youth meant that I ate crap-tonnes of chips and never really worried about my midsection. Plus my mum raised me with an extremely good ethic of “love who you are“, and never spoke about dieting or an obsession with losing weight herself. When I got to uni, I would prance around in teeny shorts, still revelling in my 19-year-old metabolism. But I remember the day I started caring. I was 21, and I looked in the mirror at my bum and though, “Oh, right. Shit.” That moment didn’t really alter my eating or exercising behaviour much, though I did start covering up more. Mostly all I got was an unhealthy dose of body-angst.
I’ve always been someone who rejects “diets” and been the first to tell my friends who are trying to lose weight that they are crazy and don’t actually need to change a thing. Now I’m 26 and I’m not sure what triggered it in the last month or two, but I started to pay attention to my body a lot more. I decided I would try and take control of my eating and exercising. As soon as I started “calorie counting” and swapping hot chocolates for tea, and pasta for mountain wraps, I became a lot more aware of just how starving some people (especially famous people) must actually be. I’ve been trying to eat “well” and exercise a significant amount, but it makes me wonder- heck those famous people must be eating air to stay as thin as they are. And damn, they must be cranky!
It turns out yes, Jennifer Aniston for one is rumoured to have eaten the same salad for her entire decade on Friends. Just one type of salad. For 10 years!
I’m not on a crazy one-salad diet, but in the last month or so I have changed my eating habits, lost some weight and toned up a bit. But I’ve also become fairly obsessed about food and how I look, and that sure seems like a bung trade-off. I think I was lucky to have escaped the weight game for so long. Though I agree that magazines perpetuate unhealthy stereotypes of bodies, I don’t think you can just “blame the media“. These kind of critiques flatten our understanding of how ideas of what is “normal” perpetuate in society, and I hate to say it, but I think most of the time it comes down to ourselves – we are effectively policing each other’s bodies, every day.
Example 1: You comment to someone, “oh, have you lost weight?”. They might immediately feel self-conscious that you have been silently judging their weight in the first place (“you thought I was fat before?!”) while simultaneously proud that they look thinner (and who knows, maybe they’ve lost weight because they have swine flu…)
Example 2: You complain to someone that you feel “so fat” and are trying to lose weight or are on a diet. This often comes up when you are buying/eating food together. The other person might immediately feel guilty for not doing the same act of abnegation.
Example 3: You judge the crap out of your own body. If you get in a judgey state of mind, there is no way that you are not judging everyone around you and comparing yourself to them. It’s a negative cycle with all roads leading to judge town, population: you.
Then of course, there are the overt examples of you or others blatantly commenting on weight or size, “you could exercise more”, “you are too skinny”, etc etc (or my personal favourite: I bought a packet of Oreos to a work meeting, and one of my colleagues told me I should “watch [my] arms”). If we simply blame the media, we miss the fact that we open up Vogue and condemn the lack of diverse bodies on the one hand, and then all secretly download calorie counting apps and don’t have a tim-tam when it comes to afternoon tea, on the other. We are promulgating the issue, just by the fact that we don’t acknowledge just how much we are really judging ourselves.
There’s obviously no simple remedy to this (except maybe watching a local Roller Derby game to remember that kicking-ass comes in all shapes and sizes). But perhaps, if we can’t stop judging ourselves – and by that standard others – maybe we can at least admit that we are. We need to think: when we are watching weight, is that all that we are really watching?