Combatting negative body image as women

Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho/UNSPLASH

Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho/UNSPLASH

Ali Smith, Arts & Leisure Editor

TW: Discussion of body image and eating disorders.

For as long as I can remember, I was taught to scrutinize my body, my eating habits and my exercise in the name of being a girl — but no more.

The complaint as old as time is this: society sets unrealistic body standards for women.

While this is true, isn’t it also true that we set these standards for ourselves and for other women?

As a child, the adults around you might not be conscious of how they choose to discuss body image. However, how they choose to discuss it impacts the development of the mind, self-esteem and, ultimately, the body.

While some women are genetically predisposed to mental illness and disordered eating, environment is a huge factor in the manifestation of these damaging disorders.

For me, the damage was caused on both ends.

Beginning in middle school, as bodies were changing and more people started to notice and care, my mind was molded to resent this change, and do all I could to halt it.

Through no one’s fault but my own, this caused years, and more than likely a lifetime, of permanent self-image damage and skewed relationships with food and exercise.

For decades, women have aimed to come together and dismantle the harmful influences leading young girls and women of all ages to hold discontentment for their bodies, their eating habits and their preferred forms of physical activity.

Quite frankly, I don’t know one woman who is content with her body, and for me, these thoughts will forever be a daily reminder of the society and the mind I am trapped in.

In recovery from disordered eating habits, and in the process of working through these negative thoughts throughout the day, I only hope to prevent this damage in the minds of the young girls in my life, and help reverse the damage that has already been done to others.

Bottom line, we were not placed onto this earth, in this body, to spend our entire life hyper-focusing on the things we want to change about it.

Our purpose and value are much larger than consistently maintaining or working toward a certain, and most of the time unattainable, body image.

While it is important to find a healthy balance in regard to food and exercise, it is more important to make your mind a good place to live, because as ugly as the world can be, the attitude you hold inside of your head is the only one that you can control.

You are so much more than your physical body and appearance, and you have so many other bodies to care for: spiritual body, emotional body, mental body, work body and so on.

I urge you to free yourself today.

Show yourself care and grace above all things.

If you are having a craving, listen to your body. Oftentimes, it craves what it needs, even if that food, drink or even amount of sleep may seem “unhealthy.” And the longer you suppress that craving, the louder it will seem, and all the more time you are allotting yourself to beat your mind up over it.

If you have an unhealthy relationship with the gym or a certain sport, as I too do, find something that feels like fun, that frees you. Personally, I love walking my dogs, doing gymnastics in my backyard and swimming at the beach when the weather permits.

Could you even imagine what would happen if we spent even half the time we waste hating ourselves or criticizing our bodies and eating habits and used it instead to show ourselves love?

Extra skin is normal. Stretch marks are normal. Cellulite is normal. Facial and body acne are normal. Body hair is normal. Rolls and some pinches of fat are normal.

Release yourselves, and other women, from the harsh standards we impose on ourselves and, instead, use that energy to show love to one another.

You deserve it.