The Healthy Aesthetic?

I’ve had a theory brewing in my head recently: if all the women in the United States were a size 2 yet as a society we still struggled with heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers then the “health” argument would be very different. After watching the recent Nightline segment “Is it Okay to be fat” my theory was confirmed. The title should’ve read, “Is it okay for women to be fat?”; and then at least it would have been more honest.

It’s hard to debate health when what you’re really debating aesthetics. A serious debate on health would’ve seen men on the panel, since this issue is a societal problem and not something women should have to shoulder alone (though we often do).

I struggle with body image. I’m in my mid twenties and I haven’t yet found that balance of looking in the mirror and liking what I see. I think others would consider me  “healthy”: my body functions properly and I have what the CDC would consider a “correct” BMI number however I got that way eating highly processed “health” foods and the battle of body image rages inside of me all the time. I look in the mirror and dream of my pre-pubescent body when my boobs were higher and my thighs were leaner, when I more closely resembled the 16 year old fashion models that grace every women’s magazine.

I really do want to be truly healthy, so recently I’ve made a serious effort to integrate it into my life(rather than before where being healthy was admittedly, a by-product of wanting to be skinny.) Now I eat with a consciousness of being part of a food chain: eating locally grown whole foods that were raised and farmed sustainably. I cook more and enjoy my food with my husband rather than eating a separate highly processed dinner than him because it only had 400 calories.

As a consequence, I now have a different relationship with food: a relationship dictated by how healthy and happy I feel from eating it-not how skinny it makes me.

For women “healthy” has become interchangeable with “beauty” and a lot of products are marketed and sold to women this way. The blurring of those lines lends itself to misdirected debates like this Nightline one, where we find ourselves dissecting two separate issues the same way. I’m all for a healthy society that has a positive relationship to food… just not at the expense of women’s self esteem.

More articles by Category: Body image and body standards, Health, Media
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Jamie N
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