Saturday, June 8, 2013

Weighty Issues

I recently came across this article which explains the damage that the Biggest Loser and shows like it do, not only to the contestants, but also the absolutely idealistic and unrealistic image it portrays to the wider community. My mother (who is very petite), loves the show much to my bewilderment - I just think it is appalling, and completely unrealistic. She has always been obsessed with her weight, I just think... hmm.

I remember being in high school, terrified of becoming one of the 'fat girls'. Terrified that if I gained weight, that I would be considered less than - lazy - weak. I remember being told "Oh you have to be especially careful, Jo - your body will gain weight quickly, like your cousins" - regardless of the fact that at the time, I was barely 45kg.  I would play a game with myself, with everyone actually - taking the bare minimum to school (a muesli bar and fruit juice), and then eat as little as possible at home, but not to the degree that I would have been called out on. Control, Control, Control. The only thing that at the time, I could do.

Now I am the 'fat girl'? I really don't care. I love my body, it is been through hell and back, and it is still here. I am not weak, lazy, or worth less. Frankly, there are many other things to worry about in life. When I read this article (which is BRILLIANT, btw), it was my 'aha' moment. The author writes-

Now I understand what it’s like to grow up in a society that tells women that their beauty matters most, and at the same time defines a standard of beauty that is perpetually out of our reach. I also know the pain of internalising these messages. We have become our own jailors and we inflict our own punishments for failing to measure up. No one is crueller to us than we are to ourselves.
But this madness has to stop, Mum. It stops with you, it stops with me and it stops now. We deserve better – better than to have our days brought to ruin by bad body thoughts, wishing we were otherwise.

If you want to lose weight, that is your choice. But don't make it your daughter's choice. And her daughter' choice and so on. Live a healthy life by all means, but don't try and fit yourself, and your daughters into an impossible box.

It's simple - don't criticise your body in front of your daughter. Or criticise her body. Even little things like 'oh I have put on weight this week - ugh' can be locked in your daughter's head, becoming a beating chant that never leaves it. Don't be ashamed of the stretch marks, the scars, the round, undulating curves. Every woman deserves to be loved just the way she is. This isn't about burying your head in the sand - being healthy matters. But aiming for a ridiculous ideal that doesn't suit every body is not healthy.

I don't want my daughter to grow up with that chant in her head. I want her to feel that her mother loves her own body , and that of hers as well. That she is empowered to make healthy choices not governed by a ridiculous ideal. I want to change the conversation. I know that my mum never wanted me to starve, or become anorexic, but indirectly, her words did very nearly push me in that direction. I love my Mum don't judge her for this - no doubt, she grew up with the same dialogue - and I can see that she is trying to change the way she talks about her body and mine. But I CAN recognise my own struggles in this area, and not continue the cycle. I CAN change the dialogue.

Jo