The weight-loss industry is really the weight-anxiety industry and the basis of its profit is exacerbating anxiety.
If you watch Good Morning or read Healthy Food Guide, they are predominantly skinny, white, young, female, privileged nutritionists and dietitians writing and talking about their life experiences, and that’s an incredibly isolating and alienating experience for anyone who’s had any serious issues with weight, or about weight anxiety. All that experience does is polarise people into thinking, ‘I’m no good.’
There’s always that partition, and adding a certain stigma. For me, that polarising experience prevented me ever thinking about my body as anything other than bad. And I’m still exactly like that now.
It is horrifying how many thinspiration and fitspiration photos have the women’s faces obscured, or everything from the neck above cropped out. So much objectification, self-objectification, and internalization of misogynistic constructs…
“Mia Hamm was born in 1972, the year women’s sport changed. She would grow up to score more goals than any other soccer player, man or woman. Over the years, female athletes like her have taken on sport by playing by their own rules and when necessary, breaking them. This week, we honor them. Make your own rules like Mia and change your profile pic to a rule from the Athlete’s Rulebook.”
As much as I hate that this is corporate advertising, I love the celebration of women for their strength and power. Women, and women’s bodies, are not typically deemed to be strong and athletic. Hopefully these women helped change the definition of strength and athleticism, and hopefully the strength of these women will one day be celebrated outside of corporate gains.
On body image, thinspiration and fitspiration
First, there was thinspiration, and now it’s been rebranded as fitspiration. Fitspiration would imply inspiration from fitness, but a quick search on Tumblr quickly knocks that idea down: “fitness” blogs don’t post stats of the cholesterol level/mile time/resting heart rate sort or images of amazing physical feats, but rather, they post stats of the weight lost/calories eaten sort and images of thinness.
I get it. I know how hard it can be the resist what the magazines tell us. “If you eat right and exercise, you can be thin because you’ll be fit!” their covers scream every month. Once upon a time, I believed them, and I borderlined on an eating disorder as I strove to look “fit” and thin. Being thin is touted as the solution to everything: to your low self-esteem, to why guys don’t find you attractive, to all your problems. Being thin will make you happy. The message is simple and powerful, yet it couldn’t be further from the truth. Being thin has nothing to do with how happy you are. I kept telling myself that once I hit my goal weight, I would magically be happy and all the guys would find me attractive and my problems would be better because the implication was that my worth was derived from my looks. But the truth was that I had never been more miserable as I ate less and less and exercised more and more.
Unfortunately, so few people realize this. Both men and women are been seduced by this crock of bullshit.
For women, not only do we tear our own bodies apart, but we tear down the bodies of other women. “Oh, she’s not fit because she doesn’t have visible muscle tone! She’s not fit because she’s not thin! She doesn’t have a good body because (insert some bullshit reason)!” And of course, there is the well-meaning “Real women have curves” retort. No, real women have bodies. Real women have bodies that reflect their experiences, their struggles, their lives. Real women have unique bodies that reflect their unique stories. Let’s respect that.
For men, the unrealistic expectation of what women’s bodies are like has emerged from all of the media representation of women’s bodies. Of all the men who have seen me naked, only two have not said some variation of “You’d be hotter if you lost some weight” to me. Both men who did not say such bullshit to me were surprised when I was more than willing to have sex with the lights on and on top of the covers; when I asked why they were shocked, they gave me the same response: All of my past girlfriends hid their bodies. All of my past girlfriends insisted that the lights be off and that we be under the covers so I wouldn’t see their bodies. All of my past girlfriends were ashamed of the way they looked.
Fit is not thin. Thin is not happiness. Happiness can only come from a place of self-realization. Although fitness (but not thinness) helps with that, it is not the answer. And above all, a woman’s worth is not derived from her looks.
It is the normalization of pathology: if you’re not constantly beating yourself up about your weight, if you’re not constantly thinking about or trying to diet, then you are somehow not a woman in today’s society. If you do not have an eating disorder or disordered eating, you are not a typical woman. Hating your body (and others’ bodies) and not recognizing its amazing qualities is part of the experience of growing up. Focusing all of your energies on how you look and not on your emotional and intellectual development is what “real” women do and those who don’t aren’t “real” women.
We see our bodies and the bodies of other women as objects, and for that matter, public objects. It is our “right” to express our opinions, no matter how hurtful, on women’s bodies. That is fucked up.