My 14 yr old daughter came home from school yesterday and proceeded to tell me about cultures around the world who embrace and even revere people of larger sizes. They consider skinny people to be sickly, unappealing, unhealthy.
But we live in America, where Twiggy set a standard 50 years ago that nobody can shake. Today I read about a lingerie company that has announced they won't photoshop their models anymore. Yay? I guess.
Why did they start doing it in the first place?
We're all familiar with this quote attributed to Harry Potter author JK Rowling. And, for the most part, we believe it. I mean, wouldn't you rather be told you're fat than vindictive or cruel?
Our instinctive behavior would indicate otherwise. Anyone who grew up on a playground of any kind heard it. The heavy girl is called fat. When insulting one another, the popular girls call each other fat. How is FAT the worst thing we can think of?
I was "big boned" in middle school. Translation: I grew taller faster than my petite friends. I dieted at age 13 to wear a borrowed dress I absolutely loved to my 8th grade graduation. Looking back, I don't know what I was trying to prove. (truth probably had more to do with the fact that I couldn't afford a new dress, and this one was the only nice one I had access to) I weighed 125 lbs from age 13 to age 21, when I got pregnant with my first child. In that time I grew 5 or 6 inches in height.
Think about that. 125 lbs on a girl who's 5'3" or even 5'4" might look a little heavy. But on a girl who's 5'9"? My favorite pair of jeans to wear on dates with Bryan was a bright red size 5. I kind of had to squeeze into them, but they were my "wow" jeans. I was maybe a size 8, which his perfectly healthy and even a little slim. For a normal human being. But you know what? I was ashamed of my "belly." It wasn't washboard firm. It was embarassing. I tried to hide it from my husband after we got married. (Yeah, didn't work. Turns out he didn't care, but that's another story)
Back to my daughter. She struggled with weight issues in 5th thru 7th grade. Interestingly enough, she was also horribly bullied during that time. I worried about her health (and mine at the time, still do) because she has a major sweet tooth and abhors any physical activity that might lead to sweating. I mean, seriously. She's the only child who complained at Disneyland. So we discussed things with her and with her doctor, we implemented healthier eating habits and she got healthier. As a side effect, she also lost some weight. She also grew like 3 inches, so that took her off the "obese" charts at the Dr's office.
I just want to point out that our obsession with thinness is a societal thing--not a health concern or even a world problem. Sure, other societies do embrace thinness as the ideal, but many many societies DON'T.
What I'd really like to see is a focus on healthy, if you're going to focus on the appearance of a person at all. Healthy is good, and it's DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE. Eating smart is a great idea whether you're 5 or 55. Moving your body is good for your body--physically and emotionally. The food industry is there to make money, not to help us be healthy.
We have to be our own advocate and shop and eat smart. It would also be great if the side effect was a society-wide departure from fat-shaming and other horrid behavior.