Body image is one large component fuelling the stagnation of my weight restoration. I have idolised the thin ideal, thinking that a body with little body fat socially defines ideals of attractiveness. I have, and still do, trade physical health for physical appearance, engaging in behaviour with the aim of hitting these ideals.
As a collective we have unlimited access to messages surrounding beauty, performance and desirability. This contributes to both conscious and subconscious beliefs that by hitting these ideals, we will be happier, more successful and valuable as human beings. The reality is, we will never meet our health whilst living up to these ideals.
Physical fitness is now largely used as a means for punishment. Gone are the days where we engage in it for fun, play or the substantial mental health benefits it has. Instead we attribute physical activity to a distorted and controlled body image; we define fitness as appearance versus internal indicators of physical health. There is a stark separation between appearance and physical or mental ability.
The more and more we objectify our own health as an external number we weigh, rather than measure the experience and the internal things our bodies can do, the more dissatisfied by our bodies we will be.
Weight fluctuation throughout the day, month and all seasons of life is natural, yet any movement of the scales elicits terror. We correlate each increase in number to a decrease in our value as a human being. When we wake up to a fluctuation, regardless of how marginal, thoughts immediately flick to how we can “fix it”. There will be days where we all feel uncomfortable in our physical bodies, however we must build a healthy physical relationship without plummeting into a shame spiral and wanting to “fix it” for validation.
In writing this I know I have privilege. I know that I can embrace my natural hair and do not have to change it, I am able bodied, I am white, I am financially stable- however this doesn’t mean that this privilege takes away the shame about my body and physical appearance. Or even what others think of me as a whole person (but that is another story). This privilege doesn’t protect against any body shame we collectively experience, because it is a standard part of living in a culture that objectifies the body for the sake of our full humanity.
I have, and do, relate my body to my worst fears. Collectively, we trap trauma and deep rooted shame inside of our body. We objectify our body as a symbol of this shame; relating it to all of the worst things others could possibly think of us. We walk down the street and instead of thinking of what a beautiful day it is we focus on what the passerby thinks of us, and whether we should adjust ourselves.
We must all recognise that we’re all at a disadvantage of how we look in a culture which worships the thin ideal. With this recognition, we allow space to rise with resilience. We can be humanised. We can see ourselves as more than a body. By engaging in behaviour reinforcing the thin ideal, it will always be hard to reach a high level of self worth. Every time we self objectify ourselves, we are holding ourselves back.
It might be scary and feel out of control at a body shape you haven’t been home too or living in for so long. However, living in the comfort zone is incredibly painful too. Engaging in an individual process of retraining means the lens can be lend outwards to all people.