Anna’s Blog: Can We Please Stop Talking About “Normal” Bodies?

By | January 14th, 2014 | 2 comments

annaphotoEverywhere I go, I run into discussion of women’s bodies. Unflattering photos with mocking commentary jump out from tabloid covers, pictures of models are picked apart and actresses are asked over and over about their weight or their weight loss. I have a request: can we stop?

Let’s stop commenting on women’s weight. Let’s stop using “normal” to describe certain bodies. Let’s stop expressing concern over whether someone is really “healthy.” Let’s stop acting like women give us the right to judge their bodies just by having one.

Jennifer Lawrence has made the news recently for coming out against fat-shaming in the media, but she also explained her choice not to lose weight for a role by saying, “I wanted to look like a woman and not a prepubescent 13-year-old boy.”

Why do we have to justify loving our bodies by denying the beauty of other body types?

People have different bodies and that is fine. There’s no one normal body or healthy weight, and we have to stop thinking there is.

There’s some irony in the fact that I’m writing this at all. I’d like to think the first part of this post seems like it was written by a steely, no-nonsense kind of girl who never worries about her weight or what she eats or lets the media get in her head. I’d like to think that I am always that kind of person. I’m not.

I hate that I feel a rush when I step on the scale and see a lower number. I hate worrying about gaining weight when I skip the gym for a little while. I hate that I care about my lack of curves or my lack of breasts. I hate that even after years of school seminars and videos and articles about positive body image, even after writing this blog post, I can’t make myself stop feeling those things.

I don’t want to give the impression that I let that take over my life. I do love my body — most of the time. But the moments of insecurity still exist, and they can be next to impossible to get rid of. What’s particularly excruciating is that in those moments a part of my self-confidence relies on being thin and pretty and another part relies on not being the kind of person who worries about that. No matter what I do, it’s wrong.

They make it seem easier, those school seminars and videos and articles. “Love your body,” they say, like it’s that simple. “Love your body,” they say, like that’s a thing that just happens. “Love your body,” they say, like that will solve the problem in a heartbeat. It’s not. It won’t. It hasn’t.

Body image is not a thing that can be fixed entirely from the inside — the culture of body-obsessed tabloids and comments that treat weight as all-important needs to stop first. As long as that culture exists, no amount of positive seminars will erase the impression on girls that weight defines worth.

I’ve never once (in my memory, at least) received a negative comment about my weight. I can’t even imagine the stress and pressure people undergo when friends and strangers do take that step.

I don’t know how to end that pressure, but I do know we need to stop defining people by their bodies. Magazines need to stop talking about what body type men like best and tabloids need to stop cover stories about a celebrity’s sudden weight gain. And we, as people, friends, and family members need to stop adding our voices to a chorus of weight-obsession. No health concerns, no helpful tips, no backhanded compliments. It’s hard enough to deal with the voices inside our heads without the ones outside pitching in. Getting rid of the external focus on an imaginary perfect body will help get rid of the internal focus on achieving it. Until then, though, I’m going to work on that internal part for myself, starting with this: I love my body, and it belongs to me. I won’t stop worrying about it overnight – that’s okay. But I’m healthy, and I’m happy, and the rest will come in time.

Anna Wing is a frequent guest blogger. She is a sophomore at Penn State University, where she is studying biochemistry.

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