The media (what you see on tv, in magazines, and in theaters) is a wildly messy and confusing melting pot of body shaming, unrealistic expectations, social and sexual pressures, and more than a few heaping tablespoons of misogyny. It’s hard to find a plot that doesn’t involve the abuse of women in some way, and yet it is simultaneously glamorized and glossed over to make us all think “should I be more like that?”
No matter how positive you feel about your body, there always seems to be some changing fad or niggling advertisement that cuts your confidence out from underneath you at some point. How do you hold onto body-positivity when nothing seems to support or represent your reality?
When it comes to body types, what is considered normal and healthy (a body mass index of around 18-24) is very rarely depicted in a positive leading role. While the token anorexic model type is on the decline, the average female model height still towers around 6 feet with a waist of 30 inches. Actresses in a leading role, while on the shorter side, still clock in at around 100-115 lbs. This may be a healthy size depending on a person’s height, but variation of body type within the spectrum of healthy is a far cry from reality in the media.
Perhaps just as unsettling is a new-wave glorification of obesity. Obesity is defined as having a BMI over 30 (for example, a 5 ft 9 girl weighing over 200 lbs), and can lead to severe health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension- conditions all equally as lethal as anorexia. While the US currently struggles with an obesity epidemic, with almost 70% of Americans falling into the category of overweight or obese, food and fashion industries take advantage of depicting excessive weight as healthy and “shapely” in order to appease a growing demographic and sell their products. While “plus-size” models such as Tess Holliday are being revered for representing “real” bodies in America, it is important to weigh this image against the reality of health and wellness: excessive weight gain is dangerous. Appearance, no matter how great you look in a dress, should never be glorified over health.
Importantly, whether it is criticizing someone’s body for being too thin or what you consider to be overweight is never o.k.- body shaming is anti-feminist and destructive in every form.
Being proud of your shape and curves is important, no matter what size you are. Feeling great about yourself is key, and more mid-range, normal and healthy bodies should be represented on-screen. But appearance is only skin-deep: aiming for a healthy lifestyle with moderate activity and healthy foods is the key to not only looking your best, but feeling your best. Be proud not just of how you look to the world around you, but radiate from within- beginning with a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and unprocessed foods, and keeping portion sizes in mind at meals. Feeling great, not just looking great, is where body-confidence truly starts.
Do you think the media portrays extreme body types? Why or why not? What are some positive examples of women with healthy bodies on-screen? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.