My previous blog about body image garnered a lot of attention and feedback. I’m grateful to CatholicMatch members for every last comment. It was a very rich discussion; so I wanted to follow up on the topic here.
First, some clarification.
My goal as a follower of Health At Every Size is to challenge stereotypes. If I was interpreted as stereotyping all women as weight-obsessed, it was not intended. But I do wonder why the diet industry makes billions every year.
I’m willing to concede that my particular background may be a factor: I was put on my first diet at the age of 4, while being a perfectly normal weight. I was told I’d never marry if I didn’t lose weight. I challenge anyone, man or woman, not to be weight-focused and have body image issues after such an upbringing.
Second, the research I’d posted simply stated the biological reason for some men’s preference for a particular body type. Neither the research, nor I, asserted that this preference was to the exclusion of all other body types. It merely stated that hip-to-waist ratios, among other factors, may signify the level of health and intelligence offspring.
The results pointed to physiological attractiveness, not beauty. There’s a subtle difference. Our current standards of beauty are fleeting and arbitrary, site-specific and mostly media-driven. A century ago, full figured women were the ideal. In other countries, such as Mauritania and Samoa, “overweight” signifies robust health and financial affluence: very attractive traits. The study implies that this same hip-to-waist ratio is present; and judging from paintings and photos, it seems accurate.
The matter gets personal, however, when we are searching for a mate and can’t get beyond others’ rejection of us based on our figures. On Facebook, where I shared the blog, another rich discussion ensued. One comment stood out to me about the stereotypes associated with weight in the dating scene.
Siobhan – 367630, a dear friend whose opinion I value, said, “I get that men look for physical attraction first. I get that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. I do not have poor self esteem, nor am I desperate. However, even I am tired of those men who assume that because I am a bigger girl, I am starved for attention, that I don’t deserve to be treated better, and who believe that I should be grateful for their company. Again, these things bother me and I have a good self-image. I cannot imagine the pain that this type of behavior causes to a woman who’s confidence isn’t as high as mine.”
So, if we are one of those women in search of love but have self-image issues, we must remember that old adage: we can’t love another person until we love ourselves. As Catholics, our self-love comes from receiving the unconditional, eternal, beautiful love of God. We were created to come in a variety of shapes and sizes, just as snowflakes do. In a sense, wouldn’t our self-loathing—and others’ rejection of us—show a lack of appreciation for His work? These ideas led me to the powerful Serenity Prayer, and it helped tremendously.
The other thing that helped is finding the HAES community, which asserts that good health can be found in a variety of sizes; not just what the media tells us. We shouldn’t assume every underweight person has an eating disorder or that every overweight person has low self-esteem and can’t get a date.
I would like to share something with everyone that really drives my point home. I was part of a video campaign against an ad for “The Biggest Loser: Australia” which targeted obese singles who never dated. The underlying presumption was not only that their weight was holding them back from dating, but also that others found them undesirable because of it; as such, they’ve remained single and unloved. It feeds an ugly, but lucrative, cycle involving low-self esteem, compulsive eating, public stigma and alienation from others. Frankly, I found this treatment of singles and their bodies beyond offensive.
And so I joined others for this video montage, Love Yourself As You Are. If you watch, just be aware that there is some racy language at 1:56. And look for me at 2:47!
As singles, we shouldn’t put off looking for love simply because our body types—whatever they are—might appear unappealing to certain people. My mother always said, “There’s a lid for every pot.” Now get out there and find your lid, and good luck!
Because October is Anti-Bullying month, I wanted to add a second video campaign I was involved with. In response to the viral video clip of newscaster Jennifer Livingston‘s retort to an insulting email about her weight, a friend of mine started a website exploring the issue. She asked us to contribute videos talking about weight-bullying and its effects. Anyone can post a video so if something there resonates with you, feel free to post one, too. Here’s the link: Better than the Bullies
The upshot of all of this is that we are all God’s creations and deserve, at the very least, respect; and at most, love. God bless.