"How can I love my body?" Some answers are simpler than others, "64 squats a day" they say, will give you buns of steel and lifelong satisfaction. Others on the other hand, encourage us to be satisfied with our bodies and accept that we won't all have thigh gaps. And yet even after all the words that have been said, it can't be denied that so many of us still struggle with the same problem. Why wouldn't we when people's advice couldn't be any more different from each other? Should we love our body just the way it is, or do we aim for a weight we think we deserve?
A Positive Body Image
It's inspiring to know that the media has taken measures to promote different body types but that doesn't necessarily make it easier. Often times, these attempts still seem like gimmicks, making the average sized woman feel even more like a sore thumb. Like, "Oh great, I feel represented, but I don't really need another sound bite of Jennifer Lawrence saying she's fat." But we can't really blame the media, can we? Because at the end of the day, it's up to us to put worth where it is worthy. Much like anything else, having a positive body image starts within and it's up to us to figure out how we can get there.
Isabella Prieto, a 22-year-old college student who battled with her weight for a huge chunk of her life shares that eventually, she realized that only she has control over changing her situation and how she feels about it. At 16 years old, Isabella weighed 186 pounds but through dedication and a healthier diet, she gradually lost almost half of that when she got to college. "For the first time in my life I truly felt beautiful and yes, desirable."
You could say that her new diet and exercise regimen paved the way to her loving herself more but it surely wasn't the only thing she needed to learn. What she lost in pounds, she gained in understanding and it's her new insights that eventually helped Isabella better herself. "When I lost weight I felt validated and wanted. But failed relationships made me question this way of thinking. I tried to examine the situation, 'I was not fat, so why didn't he want me anymore?' and then I was reminded that there is truly more to a person than the perfect body."
Through the drastic change Isabella went through, she learned that there is truly no way a person can please everyone and that we ourselves can define what is beautiful and what is acceptable.
The Other Side of the Scale
But not everyone ends up having the same proactive view as Isabella and we have to admit that sometimes, we take "contentment" to an extreme. The American Heart Association's 2013 Statistical Fact Sheet states that 74.8 million American women are overweight and 41.6 million of them are obese or have a Body Mass Index of 30.0 kg/m2 or higher.
As difficult as it is to accept, the truth is that some people do have to work harder at being healthy. Nutritionist and dietician, Patricia Quizon explains that there are people who are more predisposed to health conditions. "Individuals are born with a certain number of fat cells; of course, people born with higher fat cell counts tend to also gain weight more easily than people born with a lower fat cell count, even if they take in the same amount of calories a day."
It sounds unfair doesn't it? Like you just lost the genetic fat cell lottery, but this does not mean that naturally skinny people can eat all the bacon they can lay their hands on. "Relying on weight alone overlooks the complexities of the human body, so even for the lucky few that lose weight easily, learning and imbibing better diet and activity choices do have their benefits in the long run."
Ultimately, Patricia believes that having a positive body image "is more than just liking the way you look in the mirror." She goes on with saying that it's highly possible for someone to like how they look because it fits a certain definition of beauty we have come to believe, but still feel week and low in energy. "Striving to be more fit is the more holistic developmental goal. This addresses not only outward appearance but more so, inner confidence and body image."
The Middle Ground
What makes it complicated is that most of the time, our eating practices aren't just about sustenance. Sometimes, we eat because we want to be happy or to forget; we end up eating our feelings and using food as a quick fix.
So do we reduce food to a mere tool for survival? Not quite. Savoring food and not merely ingesting it is one of the best things we can experience but even during times when we've committed to a strict diet of not eating carbs or eating pureed cabbage for a week, we ultimately give the power to food. Once and for all, we should consider taking charge of our food and not have it be in charge of us.
It can really go both ways. Just because you're working out everyday and are carefully watching what you eat, it does not mean that you aren't satisfied. In the same vein, those who go on with their lives eating to their hearts' content aren't necessarily happy in their own skin. The key here is acceptance; both in learning to accept your body for what it is and reminding yourself that you probably don't need that third extra slice of pizza.