I feel like in America, those simple two words have an extremely negative connotation. Before I get into my thoughts and my personal battle with my body image, I want to throw some facts at you to get your wheels turning.
Did you know that…
- More than 90 percent of girls – 15 to 17 years – want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance, with body weight ranking the highest.
- 80% of children who are 10 years old are afraid of being fat.
- 80% of 10-year-old girls have dieted.
- 90% of high school junior and senior women diet regularly.
How depressing are those statistics?
We live in a world that is consumed with media. I challenge you to try to go just ONE HOUR without media. You simply cannot do it. From billboards we see driving by, magazine ads, TV commercials, to ads that pop up on our phones.
Now let me give you some statistics about the media…
- 69% of girls in 5th – 12th grades reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape .
- An average US woman is 5’4” tall weighing 140 pounds; the average US model is 5’11” weighing 117 pounds.
- Following the viewing of images of female fashion models, seven out of ten women felt more depressed and angrier than prior to viewing the images.
- Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape, yet only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.
I’m here today to share with you my personal journey with my self-esteem and weight insecurites throughout the past 5-7 years of my life. My hope is that by being vulnerable with you, I can encourage you all to be confident in your own skin. Although I am a healthy weight and would probably be characterized as underweight than the national average for my height, I often times don’t feel like I am. Like nearly ever woman, I’ve seen photos in magazines with skinny models that have made me want to starve myself for the rest of the day. I’ve watched the Victoria’s Secret fashion show and then shamed myself for eating pizza while watching it. I’ve looked in the mirror and wished that my body looked like someone’s else.
I still remember in 8th grade when a kid called me “Thunder Thighs” in geography class. Feelings of hurt, embarrassment, and confusion consumed me because I thought at the time that I was skinny and in shape. That comment stuck with me throughout the years, and is something I’ll never forget. Just goes to show you how crazy it is that we as CHILDREN care so much about our body image at such a young age. It makes me scared to death to raise a daughter in this world.
The school I went to for undergrad was ranked in the top 10 fittest campuses in the U.S. It was a school highly acclaimed for their physical therapy and sports science programs, so there was so much pressure on my campus to be fit and thin. I remember feeling like I was one of the “ugly” ones on campus; I constantly felt surrounded by thin, tall blondes who were on they way to becoming personal trainers or athletic trainers. It was especially hard for me because I gained the inevitable “freshmen 15.” EVERYONE was fit, and EVERYONE was obsessed with it. Still throughout my 4.5 years of undergrad, I don’t ever recall seeing one obese person on my campus. Don’t get me wrong- there is absolutely nothing wrong with being fit; I highly encourage it! But when I heard the statistic that 6/10 girls on my campus had an eating disorder, and that’s when I knew we had a problem.
The pressure was so real. I remember going to the gym my freshmen year at 10pm- YES, that’s PM, not AM, to get my second work out in. There were days where I tried to only eat a small bowl of iceberg lettuce with dressing in the morning and nothing else throughout the day so I could stay thin. There were days when I had a 2.5 hour workout of just cardio so I could burn off everything that I ate earlier. There were weeks when I would weigh myself 5 times a day because I wanted to see if what I was doing was working. There were days when I was kneeled down trying to throw up in the bathroom but then ended up in tears because I knew this wasn’t the way to lose weight.
I cringe when I think back to how insecure I was when I was 18-19 years old.
I want to say something. SCREW the media. Screw those unrealistic, thin looking models telling us to be someone other than ourselves. Screw those big time advertisers who think it’s okay to post anorexic, malnourished looking women in their ads (cough cough Gucci.) Without even realizing, it, we internalize all of these issues and tell ourselves that we need to be like these models, actresses and movie stars. And it is totally NOT OKAY.
Well guess what. Models are NOT REAL. Looking pretty is THEIR JOB. Literally, their job is to wake up, work out with their trainer, look pretty for photo shoots, eat meals that are specifically designed by their dietician, and then workout again. Their life REVOLVES around how they look. Guys, you wouldn’t want to be a model. It would be exhausting.
I actually found a Ted Talk the other day that really touched me. Entitled, “Looks Aren’t Everything- Believe Me, I’m a Model,” former model Cameron Russell speaks about what it’s like for her to be constantly insecure even though she’s the typical “American Dream.” She’s tall, gorgeous, has been a model since she was 15- yet, still never feels like she’s good enough or pretty enough. I’d highly encourage you all to watch it. It’s great food for thought.
I will always have body issues and days where I feel less confident than others, but I’m proud to say that I’m much more confident than I used to be. I ended up losing that freshmen 15 the healthy way. When I go out to eat with my fiancé, I try not to feel guilty. I am a firm believer that self-indulging is HEALTHY, even for those who are looking to lose weight because they need to. There are days when I wake up, weigh myself, and go for a run because I don’t like what the scale says. But it’s all in moderation. There are good days and bad days, which is normal.
I’ll always be honest with you guys. When I was taking these photos with my sister, I felt so beautiful and sexy. The next day when I was looking through the photos on my camera, I thought, “Oh God, I can’t post these. This dress is too skin tight. My arms look big and manly. My calves look huge.”
Um, if I didn’t post these photos even though I was somewhat insecure about them, I’d be a hypocrite. The truth is that my arms are one of the strongest parts of my body, and I’ve worked really hard in the gym to sculpt them. My body is healthy and strong and does a lot for me. The truth is that I had so much fun with my sister taking these photos, and I know that my sister will always love me regarding what body type I have. In addition, I know that my fiancé would rather be with a girl who eats and someone who isn’t obsessed with her body image than a girl who constantly nit-picks everything about the way she looks, weighs, and eats. And I love my legs, even if sometimes I feel like I have big calves or big thighs.
I’m a real girl, and I’m proud to be one.
Black Dress // H&M
Fedora // Charlotte Russe
Sunglasses // American Eagle
Photos by @ChloeHetzel