Body Con(scious)

Posted on July 21st, by Birdie in Beauty Blogs, Body Love. 12 comments December 14, 2012

Part 1 – I always feel strange writing about body issues – especially considering my size.  I worry that, since I’m on the small side, I’ll be subject to a lot of negative commentary pointing out that I’ve got nothing to complain about.  And that’s exactly the problem…

Natalia Vodianova in Love Magazine’s Body Conscious Series January 2010

During a recent conversation with friends, a gal I know mentioned going on vacation and wanting to shed a few pounds for the beach.  She was asking about our workout routines (for those of us who are so inclined).  There were a few different camps – those who said that diet could change it, those who said that exercise could change it, those who (like me) said “get a trainer because they are magical creatures who tailor your workouts…” And then there was the camp that shamed us all, saying “That’s silly. You don’t need to go to the gym.  You’re fine the way you are”.

It felt a little like saying *if you have to go to the gym you obviously don’t love you and that’s wrong* – like wanting to better your body is not a legitimate goal. I started to feel like that’s just as damaging as the whole “thin is in” campaign we see in fashion mags, etc.   It’s very damned if you do, damned if you don’t – when did we start subconsciously shaming  girls for wanting to care for their bodies?  For striving towards becoming a better person (in whatever regard that may be)?  Or for just loving and accepting themselves as they are now?

As Kate from Eat The Damn Cake says in this post:  “Really, there’s probably a compromise here. If someone is trying to lose weight, I’m not standing next to them at the gym with a bag of Doritos, going, “You’re wasting your time! Want some pizza? I could really go for a pizza…” I think losing weight is a completely legitimate goal in plenty of cases. I don’t think it has to be a symptom of superficiality or self-hatred. It can be really, really healthy.

When I shared my thoughts with Kate, she added:

“I think sometimes on my blog I lean too far in the direction of the women you were describing, who act derisive about weight loss. I don’t feel like that, but I feel pressure to act like that publicly. Reading [your note] helped me put that tendency in perspective and understand better how unfair and, like you said, shaming it can be, to emphasize either approach without giving people room to make their own decisions. Life is too complicated for extremism in either direction.”

It feels like the “real women”, body-love mantras we hear so much about are walking a fine line; we should start loving us regardless of what our body looks or seems like, but we should be ashamed of wanting to change ourselves (and, we know that certain body love movements can be very exclusionary).

While it’s great that the motto of many bod-acceptance movements is “love thyself”, I feel it’s can be healthy to both accept yourself and be a little conscious of your body, knowing its limits, knowing what it can do and what’s good for it.  And if you’re comfortable with you, rock on!  Work it!

But if you want to shed a couple pounds before your tropical vacation, that’s a legitimate goal.  You can eat what you want, and/or be religious about exercise if that’s your thing.  Being conscious of you, of how you look, of how you want to look doesn’t mean that you hate your body, or that you’re necessarily trying to conform to a thin ideal.  Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot of “thin idolatry” out there, and current beauty standards do shame girls for not having the perfect body (whether it’s Christina Hendricks or Twiggy.  And, of course, this is not touching on cases where there’s something else going on etc.).  But we all realize that the perfect body doesn’t exist, but in a few very lucky cases.  The majority of us are gloriously imperfect.  And you have the power to demonstrate enormous self love by caring about your body – whether it’s feeding it cookies or taking it for a walk.

More tomorrow…

12 Responses to “Body Con(scious)”

  1. Excellent post. The big difference between Europe + us. RT @Birdiee: New at Bonne Vie: Body Con(scious)

  2. Marie says:

    I agree with all of this!!! I just think it’s important for people to be healthy in body and mind, and it is different for each person. Our bodies are amazing machines! We should all use them and appreciate them in many ways!

    Such a great article m’lady!

  3. Sheena says:

    This is a wonderful post. I agree with your sentiment and I agree that it’s a very fine line to tread in conversation. I believe that everyone should be happy in their body–no matter what size they are. I also believe that there is nothing wrong with wanting to take care of yourself and working on being healthy. For instance, although I wasn’t necessarily comfortable in my body, I didn’t really make the strides to lose more weight because I still thought I was fine. It wasn’t until I received a wakeup call from my doctor telling me that at my weight/height, I wasn’t healthy and had to make changes for a better quality of life, was when I began to listen. All this to say, I think it comes down to your health and how you feel more than anything.
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  4. LF says:

    Let me first say thank you, for writing this absolutely great piece.

    I’ve often thougth about this issue and felt as though no matter what I say it will upset someone somehow. But the truth is exactly how you put it. Love yourself however you look,and ,should you want to change the way you look, don’t feel bad about it or make others feel bad about it.

    I remember one of my friends saying that she wanted to lose some weight and everyone around her saying “noo you shouldn’t, you don’t need to” etc while I knew she would probably feel happier if she did.
    But I said exactly what the others did.
    It’s become a standard to say to everyone who talks about losing weight that they shouldn’t. Which makes conversation about the topic very difficult.

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  7. Kionon says:

    A big issue, however, is when my female friends say that, and I don’t see it. One of the worst things I have had to deal with in relationships is when I genuinely like the way my significant other looks, and she doesn’t. Or worse yet, she doesn’t believe me. It can actually be a relationship ender.

    I don’t know how many times I have looked at a woman who has said, “I need to lose weight, I am not as attractive as I could be” and my response is “lolwut? Are you kidding?” I’m sorry, but these negative media images are actually not whatI want. Too many models look entirely unhealthy and malnourished to me. I rarely find “sexy” to actually BE sexy, and that is one of my major complaints with fashion and media today. I have attractiveness standards, we all do, but not only are they not that “high,” I quibble with the very definition of what “high” should be.

  8. Birdie says:

    Kinion – There’s a really fine line there. And in this case, I’m talking about ladies who’ve accepted those bodies. Of course, when there are body image problems or eating disorders to contend with, the situation becomes something else – less about wanting to improve your body because you care about it and more about wanting to fit into media standards.

    It’s a double edged sword though. We’re telling girls they shouldn’t be thin, while also telling girls they can’t be rotund.
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