I have been thinking lately of the concept of health. What does it mean, how can I get it? I have realized that the idea of health is much more complicated than it seems and that is so closely tied to body image.
To start I will say what I originally thought health was. I thought it meant being able to run marathons or 5km race, I thought it meant eating salads and not fast food, I thought it meant not being a victim of any mental health issues and being happy.
Now here is what I thought the perfect body was. Small waist, strong legs, big eyes and perfect makeup.
Here is what I think today. It’s all lies! There is not one perfect version of health and one perfect version of a body. This concept is what has caused me and so many others so much pain. Think about it, everyone has different dreams, everyone has different obstacles they face, everyone has different genes and medical issues and diagnosis’s and the list goes on. So, with all of these wonderful differences how can we be expected to all fit in two molds of perfect health and perfect body? We can’t, that’s the answer, it’s unrealistic, but this concept has been ingrained in all of us. We see it in all the media, we hear it from our friends,loved ones, bullies, teachers, fellow students, peers, work collegues etc… It’s everywhere. I challenge you right now to look around you and not see one thing that represents this image of perfect mental and physical health and perfect body type. I am sitting in a class room and I see at least 3 examples.
Now I am not saying everyone is judgmental and wants you to lose weight and be perfect. But I am saying that these doubts that sometimes we are not good enough is in most if not all of us.
Some examples of this are coming out and people are denouncing it. I love how people are starting to be more open about these unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves as well as the negative effects it can do to us. Some are obvious such as eating disorders, this might seem like a small problem but did you know that:
Thirty-seven percent of girls in grade nine and 40% in grade ten perceived themselves as too fat. Even among students of normal-weight (based on BMI), 19% believed that they were too fat, and 12% of students reported attempting to lose weight.
AN has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness – it is estimated that 10% of individuals with AN will die within 10 years of the onset of the disorder.
Adolescent girls who diet are at 324% greater risk for obesity than those who do not diet.
- facts taken here (http://nedic.ca/know-facts/statistics)
Then we can add all those people who obsessively go to the gym everyday for 3 or more hours. Some do it in healthy ways and for outside goals or careers, but some just put too much pressure on their bodies.
We can then look at the negative effects that these unrealistic expectations have on mental health, self perceptions and confidence. Some examples of these where are again coming out, fighting the negative perceptions of social media with positive body loving messages. For example there is the example of the famous singer pink who did a speech about her daughter who at such a young age felt ugly.
There was the same thing with this entrepreneur who wanted to make a doll for her daughter who also felt ugly.
How is it ok that girls and boys at this young age already feel ugly and not good enough? There is a problem with the system is at this young age kids are already being pressured to try and fit the of mold of health and perfect body.
Here is an old commercial which represents this well. I used to hate this commercial and want to see the ads and was angry at the monkey. Now all I have to say is well done monkey, well done.
Now, It’s not just about young girls and boys it’s about adults too. We have to learn that we all have different body types and they are all good.
I talked about what I used to think health and a perfect body was. Here is what I think it is today. Having a body size or type that fits your goals. You can be what society calls fat as long as your are physically healthy(not at risk for diabetes, health problems able to walk without panting.) You can be beautiful in whatever you wear as long as you embrace and love yourself and your style. You can be healthy and suffer from mental illness. Most people battle with mental illness all their life, there is ups and there is downs but it doesn’t mean that for your whole life you have to be considered unhealthy or miserable. Even if you are bigger than society ideals and overweight you are still beautiful. If you are healthy and able to be active at your weight than embrace it. To be healthy you don’t need to live on salad and vegetables it’s about making a life change that you can stick to and changing small things such as healthy portions and healthier alternatives such as multigrain. You can be healthy and have fast food from time to time.
The most important thing in all this is the idea of loving yourself. Without self love it is almost impossible to make lasting changes that are good for you in the long run. It’s also important to remember the point I made above that all body types are different everyone has different fitness and health needs and body types are not one size fit all. There is no such thing as a perfect body or perfect health because everyone is different inside and out.
So knowing this it’s important to always keep reminders of the beauty of our differences. There is a body positive movement out there that is trying to denounce hurtful media and diets and trying to promote loving yourself. ( Please be advised that not everyone who is outspoken about body positivity is correct in what they say so make your own educated choices.)
To end this post I will say the obvious which has been repeated a lot already in this post. Love yourself. I will also give you a name to start your body positive research if you so choose. This person named Samantha Clusiau ( twitter @SamanthaClusiau ) is one of the first people who introduced me to this movement and makes body positive art. She is very talented and often posts things about this subject on her social media.
Next time you start feeling ugly or start hating yourself remember these points I’ve made. If you see someone struggling with self love take a minute to tell them their beautiful. Be part of a PoweredCrowd for positive change!