Almost all of us have a distorted image of our body, often due to the importance our culture places on outward appearance. Everyday, an onslaught of media images featuring airbrushed models and celebrities, bombards us. Do any of these statements sound familiar? I’m fat. I’m too skinny. If only I were taller, shorter, had curly hair, straight hair, a smaller nose, bigger muscles, a smaller bottom or longer legs, I’d look better. On a daily basis, we talk to ourselves in ways we would never speak to another. We demean ourselves for not being “perfect.” Imagine speaking to a child the way you talk to yourself about your own body? It would devastate and squelch a child. Here is some BAD news; it actually does affect you in a similar way. This kind of self criticism causes stress and emotional pain which effects your body and can make improving your health or losing weight even more difficult. Consider this— women and their body parts sell everything from food to cars. Women’s magazines are full of articles urging readers to lose that last twenty pounds. Then they’ll have it all—the perfect marriage, loving children, great sex, and a rewarding career.
Why are impossible standards of beauty being imposed on women, the majority of whom are naturally larger and more mature than any of the models? The roots, some analysts say, are economic. By presenting an ideal difficult to achieve and maintain, the cosmetic and diet product industries assure their own growth and profits. And it’s no accident that youth is increasingly promoted, along with thinness, as an essential criterion of the current culture’s model of beauty. All women may not need to lose weight, but they will age, and according to the industry, age is a disaster that needs to be fixed.
The stakes are huge. On the one hand, women made insecure about their bodies are more likely to buy beauty products, new clothes, and diet aids. It is estimated that the diet industry alone is worth anywhere between 40 to 100 billion (U.S.) a year. Even worse, this industry subsists on selling temporary weight loss gimics (90 to 95% of dieters regain the lost weight). On the other hand, research indicates that exposure to images of thin, young, air-brushed female bodies is linked to depression, loss of self-esteem and the development of unhealthy eating habits in women and girls. The American research group Anorexia Nervosa & Related Eating Disorders, Inc. says that one out of every four college-aged women uses unhealthy methods of weight control—including fasting, skipping meals, excessive exercise, laxative abuse, and self-induced vomiting.
So, what’s a girl to do? How about taking a moment to think of all the intelligence, creativity and time you spend on improving, altering and judging your appearance? Who would you be and what could you accomplish if your valuable resources weren’t used this way? Constant emphasis on the external makes us discount the great presence and intelligence that is housed by the body. It makes us forget the magic of our internal rhythms and fail to acknowledge the true beauty of our bodies. The body you have right now is incredible! It never misses a heartbeat, it maintains homeostasis and it miraculously digests whatever you put inside. Your body is an instrument for expressing creativity, intelligence and love. By focusing on the 1% you don’t like or wish was different, you may be ignoring the remaining 99% about your body that is beautiful, unique and delightful.
What would your life be like if you were simply at peace with your body? You may wish to be healthier and stronger, but can you do that out of love and respect for your body instead of the opposite? Can you treat yourself with kindness, limit the negative self-talk and reconnect with your inner wisdom? Take a minute to imagine what that would feel like. It would mean celebrating your body rather than punishing it. It would mean nourishing your body rather than depriving it. It would mean a chance to watch your body flourish when treated with care and respect.
To your Health! Collage by Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library
Carol Takakura is a Health Coach, Nutrition Consultant, Yoga Instructor and Wellness Expert. She works with corporations, schools and private groups, to ensure individuals have better health, nutrition, and lifestyle tools to lead an energetic, balanced and healthy life. Carol provides wellness lectures, cooking demos and hands on classes, and health store tours to ensure clients can create easy, healthy meal planning with products they can find in most stores. Known for her Kitchen Coaching, Carol provides in-home lessons for cleaning up and re-stocking pantries to create lots of easy healthy options for everyday use and special occasions.