Society seems to give us a lot of strong messages about what “health” and “beauty” look like in a woman: thin, lean, flat stomachs, large breasts, long legs. Magazines and media are saturated with images of the expected female ideal, and we are bombarded with all sorts of commercials advertising diets, surgical procedures, and weight loss pills to enable us to manipulate and change our bodies in order to fit into the mold.
The popular opposition is that “real women have curves,” and this mantra is perceived as the epitome of body acceptance. I hate when I see this argument, because both are stereotypes that propagate the idea that one body type is better than the other, that one is more valid. It pits women against each other: you have to be thin to be beautiful; you need curves to be a real woman. Thin women don’t deserve to be shamed any more than bigger women do; no one body type is superior in neither health nor beauty. It’s our diversity that make women so beautiful and so real.
And our health? Health is a multifaceted thing, concerning medical, mental, and physical well-being – it’s not an issue of being a size zero or a size eight, or about whether or not you have abs. It goes beyond size and shape.
One of the hardest things for someone in recovery to accept is the concept of being “healthy,” which, because of their extreme situation, is almost always equated with weight gain. When I first got out of treatment, I wanted to cry every time someone said to me, “You look so healthy!” When they said that, I was hearing them say that I had gained a lot of weight. And I had – 20 pounds is a significant amount to gain in two months’ time – but the context in which my mind was putting it in, although extreme, was reflective of societal dictum. (I mean, think about all the commercials on television saying that, in order to feel good about yourself, you need to be losing weight, not gaining it. These messages are so fucked up!)
Now that I’m in recovery, I feel pressure to appear “fuller”; I’m terrified that if I’m slender, it will look like I’m “losing weight,” and people will immediately assume that I’m relapsing. It’s like damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
While you’re in treatment, you’re taught that being thin is unhealthy and gaining weight is healthy, when, in reality, it’s more about the behaviors in which you associate with weight. It’s alright to be slender as long as you’re practicing healthy behaviors and habits, and it’s alright to be bigger if you’re doing the same. It all comes down to treating yourself and your body right, because you are the only YOU that this world has, and you gotta cherish that!