6.02.2012

What Is Beautiful? What Is Healthy?

Typically I don't engage in issue debates on Facebook.  Last week, I read a post about a segment on the Today Show.  You can watch the segment and read the article here.  My feelings about the post and the conversation that ensued has stuck with me for a few days so I decided to write about it. 
http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/47616510/ns/today-style/

Now, I want to say that I believe everyone has a right to their opinion. I am not trying to call this woman out or make anyone else "mad" at her.   I typically try my best to understand a persons opinion, but in this case, I think there is a bigger issue.

The woman that posted about the segment was disturbed that "curvy" women were being promoted.  She believed that the show was telling the country that "feeling good" about yourself is more important than the risks of obesity.  She also seemed irritated that the show "slammed" those that are skinny and go to the gym and are not plus sized.  She also discussed plus sized women being applauded for wearing skimpy clothing and "skinny" girls being judged for it.  Her main concern was promoting health over obesity.

As a woman that has been on both sides of the issue, in the modeling industry (waaaaaay back when I was a teenager, had no hips and was made of almost entirely muscle) and now a "plus size" woman, that is fighting to lose weight, feel good in my own skin and maintain a healthy lifestyle, this was my response:



"Strong is the new skinny. As women, we can't always just choose to be skinny, but we can choose to be strong by fueling our bodies with vitamin rich foods, regular exercise and a healthy body image. As far as wearing revealing clothing, I applaud women for wearing what they are comfortable in. At the end of the day, “slutty” is slutty no matter the size on the tag. Ultimately, take care of the body that you have as best you can and be confident with it. It’s the only one you’ve got."

I wrote this before watching the clip.  Since watching it, I feel even more passionate about my statement.  Wouldn't it be nice if we were all born with great metabolisms and "skinny" genes? (No, I don't mean denim!)  I apologize if I go on a little bit of a rant here, but these are my thoughts.
1. Yes, obesity is a HUGE (pun intended) problem.  Yes, we should all do everything we can to eat healthy and stay active.  But, was the Today Show promoting obesity?  Absolutely not.  In fact, when I tried to find the clip, I went to their health page.  There was nothing except articles encouraging healthy eating and ways to maintain a healthy active lifestyle.  So I checked the Style page.  Ah-ha!  This was not a health story at all.  The woman never encourages women to be "fat" or unhealthy.  She mentions she is on her own journey of health.  No one should strive to be "fat", but if you have extra junk in the trunk, you can be on a journey to health while still loving your body.  Think how much more you'll love it if you drop a few lbs!
2.  The woman featured is a plus-sized fashion blogger.  She is not wearing a skimpy bathing suit.  It is a high-waisted two piece with ample coverage of the girls and the goods.  None of the women photographed were wearing "skimpy" things at all.  Like I said I applaud women for being so comfortable in their skin that they can wear floss and a couple of "titty-tassels".  I can't even imagine having that enough confidence or exhibitionism to pull that off, no matter the size of my clothes.
3. As a women, there is a lot of pressure to have and maintain a perfect body. But my perfect, is not your perfect. I am always sad when I see a woman that doesn't feel she can be completely herself because she isn't comfortable with the shell she lives in (thin or curvy).  I have felt uncomfortable in my body at both 120 pounds and 220 pounds.  Even just typing those numbers makes me uncomfortable.  I try everyday to be comfortable in my own skin and make the most of it.  Some days I falter and eat like crap or don't go to the gym.  Some days I feel great.  It's a constant struggle. 
4. The Today show never slammed "skinny" girls that go to the gym.  In fact, it encouraged being healthy, but health doesn't look the same on every body.  You can be physically fit and still be a large girl. 

Please don't misunderstand me.  I think being healthy is a lifestyle that requires nutritious eating, daily activity and equally important, a healthy self image.  Every day the media is talking about who has "gotten fat" and who is "too skinny".  This runs over into our daily lives and we make it a habit to decide who is "fat" or "too skinny".  Why?  
I try my best to not judge a woman's body thin or curvy.  I think loving your body is hard enough without other peoples opinions weighing in on it.  In the end, my response remain, "Women can't always choose to be skinny, but they can choose to be strong (healthy)." 

Lets all choose to be healthy and support each other on our quest, instead of judging curvy or thin women for feeling good in their own skin.

5 comments:

Jane and Lola said...

Ashley,

Great post! This status on Facebook kind of offended me. Sure, I'm a skinny girl - but I too have struggled with my body image. I was really struggling with my thin frame my first two years of college - I had coworkers who would belittle me and call me anorexic. After I had a breakdown, I went to my family doctor and asked her to put me on a diet where I could gain weight and look 'normal'. She gave me this puzzled look and was like, 'Jordan, you've weighed the same since your Sophomore year of college - NOTHING is wrong with you. Why do you care what other people think? This is your body.'

I realized that she was right - I think what women struggle with is accepting their body for what it really is. Sure, we can sculpt our bodies all we want - but not everyone is the same size, same figure, etc. It makes me sad when women look at models and Victorias Secret models and think that's what they're SUPPOSED to look like. Everyone is different! Sure, it's important to be healthy, be active - but it's more important to have a healthy body image.

I'm not trying to say a certain figure it picked on more than others. But I DO think it's more 'acceptable' in the media to be stick skinny - which is so unfortunate. Also, the media has crazy unrealistic expectations on what a 'healthy body type' should look like.

As I mentioned in my response - HEALTHY shouldn't have a certain body type or 'look'. As long as you're doing your best and love yourself, that's what matters.

I just feel very passionate about women having a healthy body image and good self esteem. When I say healthy body image, I mean REALISTIC healthy body image. Am I going to gain 10 pounds in the gym of pure muscle? I could if I wanted to spend hours on end in the gym each day and eat nothing but protein. But - I'd rather spend time with my friends and family.

I've loved working with Girl Scouts of Colorado because it shows me how important it is to encourage women to love themselves for who they are. To me, that's more important than what your weight it.

I completely agree with you - I don't feel that the clip was encouraging obesity. That's just absurd. I think the message was LOVING yourself and no matter what your body type - you have the right to feel sexy and wear WHATEVER you want!

:)

Jordan

Jane and Lola said...

ALSO - us women need to stick together! To encourage each other and not tear each other down. Just saying.

ALL women should feel beautiful. No matter what.

kdchio said...

You go Ashley!! I totally agree, I am a triathlete and training for my first marathon....I'm also not "skinny" and struggle with feeling beautiful everyday. But at the end of the day I try to be healthy and be the best person I can be inside and out. Healthy should mean more then the size of your pants, because some of my skinniest friends don't have the fitness level I do and certainly can't do a triathlon. Being skinny doesn't mean you're healthy. We should focus on loving ourselves and others for who they are and promote healthy! Love love love your post!!!!!!

thatcertainjenesaisquoi said...

Like, like, like this post! Agreed A Allan!

Monica said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and really enjoyed and agreed with this post. I was going to write a blog post in the near future about a similar topic to what you mentioned, how you were both 120 and 220 and still had moments where you felt uncomfortable at both weights. I have also been both skinny and chubby (I just thought I was big boned!) and both come with their own insecurities.

I resonate with the other comment on your page that when you are skinny, people claim you are anorexic and not eating, and then when you are bigger, you get harassed for perhaps not being "healthy" or "being lazy" or whatever negative comments people attach to bigger people. The most important thing is to be healthy and be confident with who we are. I wrote a blog on somewhat of a related topic called "What is Beauty" on my blog www.skinandhealthgeek.com if you ever want to check it out. Anyway, thanks for the post!
:)
Monica