A few days ago I saw this ad on the TV. I was actually reading at the time so had to rewind the television to make sure I’d heard it correctly.
Sadly, I had. There is an actual TV commercial running which implies that your relationship with your children depends on whether or not you can lose weight and keep it off. Seriously? I have no words.
Well, obviously I have lots of words. Which is fortunate as otherwise this would be my shortest post yet.
I’d like to set your mind back almost a year and ask you to revisit the point of my Mummy Kindness Manifesto:
“I will not be defined by the number on a scale. It is not my worth”.
Talk about easier said than done.
Everywhere we look we’re bombarded with messages. All of which promise happiness, success and belonging (and in this case, your only hope of bonding with your children) if we only buy this….Wear that…Smell like this….Eat that… don’t eat that. Look like her…. Don’t look like her. It’s endless and it’s everywhere.
Image, it seems, is everything. It’s our only hope. We can’t possibly amount to anything in life if we don’t drop a dress size or four. There is no fate worse than fat.
The truth is, being comfortable in our own skins is bad for business.
It’s no wonder that the same companies who manufacture cakes and desserts also want us to subscribe to their diet programs. They want us to spend money getting fat so that we can spend more to get thin.
And of course, they don’t want us to stay thin. No. The most profitable customers are those of us with a history of yo-yo dieting. The more weight we lose, the more we can re-gain. More revenue for the slimming clubs, protein powder suppliers and personal diet chefs.
I spent twelve years selling advertising for best-selling magazines and newspapers. It’s no secret that January issues are filled with diet advice and pictures of miraculous celebrity weight-loss stories. The reason for this is the fact that it’s the busiest time of year for diet focused advertising. So the publishers feed (pun intended) our insecurities to create an environment perfect for advertisers to slot in to. They make sure that the antidote to the dose of self-doubt we’ve been served is readily available for purchase from their sponsors. It’s a commercial practise and it’s at the expense of our self-esteem and confidence.
To give you some background info on me, I’m 5ft 4 tall and currently a UK size 14 (that’s a size ten for my US readers). I’ve seen dramatic fluctuations in my weight over the past two years. I lost a great deal of weight following a strict protein-only diet before gradually regaining it, and then some. Anti-depressants and tendency to numb feelings with chocolate hasn’t helped. Not one bit.
I’m not an exceptionally large woman by most people’s standards (fashion magazines and celebrities notwithstanding). I’m smaller than the UK national average. I’m well aware, however, that I’ve gained weight recently.
When it comes to dieting I’ve tried most of them over the years. I lost a couple of stone on WeightWatchers before my wedding. I gained half back and then fell pregnant. I lost the baby weight then had another baby. I quickly lost weight again with the Dukan Diet. I’ve thrown out bigger sized clothes and bought smaller ones and I’ve grown out of them again. Three times I’ve lost around two stone pretty quickly and gained it back again.
I’m an all-or-nothing person when it comes to dieting. I’m generally either incredibly strict and at the gym every day or completely off-the-wagon. There’s not really a middle ground for me.
I’ve spent at least twenty years obsessing over my weight and appearance. Whether consciously or subconsciously I compare myself with everyone, all the time and rarely, if ever, feel like I match-up. I know some very stunning women and many of them are “bigger” girls. I know lots would be thrilled to be the same size as I am. I look at their beautiful faces and wish I was prettier. I can find something or someone better than me with almost any comparison. So I guess the trick is to simply stop comparing.
Can you imagine how different life would be if you were comfortable in your own skin? If you didn’t feel inadequate next to other woman who you perceive to be better than you in some way or another?
It’s a widespread belief that getting fat is the most detrimental factor to anyone’s health. We hear it so often that we don’t question the logic. But it’s just not as straightforward as that; body size is not an accurate indicator of someone’s health.
We all know the skinny person who eats nothing but junk and who rarely moves from the sofa. They are at a far higher risk of health problems than a heavy person who eats healthily and exercises regularly. I’m only scratching the surface of this topic and plan to post more in future weeks, but you can find much more info via this fantastic blog.
It’s my belief that if we’re truly happy with ourselves and our choices we will cease to care so much about other people’s opinions.
Because, truly, when we stop to think about it, isn’t the approval of others a huge factor when we try to get thinner?
The media and society tells us we have to be thin to be beautiful and it’s become so ingrained in our thinking that we can’t imagine feeling differently.
Now, I’m not saying that we should all ditch our new year diets and go on a huge cake binge. However, I do think we need to question why it is that we feel our lives will be transformed if we shrink a bit. Why do we need to be thinner to feel better about ourselves?
Our bodies are precious. They’re beautiful. The wobbly bits, the stretch marks and the scars? They’re beautiful too. Our bodies are entitled to be nurtured and loved.
Healthy food and exercise is good for the body, mind and spirit. It’s important to look after yourself, not because a magazine says you need to resemble a supermodel or teenage popstar, but because you deserve your own loving care.
You have nothing to prove, because you’re already good enough. Honestly.
We need to have faith in our own beauty because our children are watching and listening. Even when we don’t realise it, they’re learning from us.
They need to know that they’re worthy of love and acceptance whatever their appearance and that food is to be enjoyed and not feared.
I want my children to see the beauty in people of all shapes, sizes and colours. Not just those who fit an aesthetically perfect stereotype.
The only way I can think of to teach them is to lead by example. To look after my body with my health and well being as a priority and not just a target weight or dress-size in mind. This, if anything, is my resolution for 2014.
Happy New Year, you beautiful thing, you.
Shared on Twitter, such an important message!xx
Such a powerful (and timeley) post, thank you. I feel a tad guilty as I posted my glee on Facebook that I’ve lost 3 lbs, but I would like to think that I am doing this for me and my health, and so that my tights no longer cut me in half! It is a constant battle though, to stop comparing. I think it is something a lot of us do, not just with weight but with everything. One of the most powerful lessons I learnt last year was that I was comparing myself to what I could see in others, but this often wasn’t the whole story. The beautiful friend with depression, the confident friend with anxiety…
Thank you so much for…everything! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your blog.
You say out loud what other women like me think…on a daily basis.
Xmas was not over that ad about losing weight were all over the news/tv ad/mag/newspapers.
I am a mother of a 3 years old daughter and I do not wish my daughter to grow up in a society dictated by the image/weight etc…unfortunetely , this won’t happen …
I am not pessimist but realistic.
My duty as a woman, as a mother is to help my daughter and guide her through life the best I can. Self esteem is THE key…but again…society have such a huge impact on our daily life that I feel that the media are hell belt on making our life/mission harder.
I am French (originally Arab): we love food in my family, it’s actually a big part of our culture.
And it’s very hard to resist…when you’re constantly surrounded by delicious food.
The balance is hard to find.
Although I have always been between a small size 8 (and about 5ft8), I’ve always felt the pressure to look good, slim…and so on…
People always compare themselves to others (I am no different) and I’ve always heard “you must be happy, look at you, you’re slim…etc”
Happiness is not being slim even though fitting in a nice pair of expensive trousers makes you feel good (for 2min).
Happiness is not seeing a good reflection on the mirror.
Happiness is within…ourselves, our mind, our inner beauty.
If you’re stuck in your head, you’ll never move forward.
This is the best lesson my husband taught me. Love yourself as you are.
You’re a valuable person as you are. You’re a role model and you should carry yourself with pride and dignity.
No matter what the number…on the scale!
I really enjoy reading your blog as I wish you and your family all the best 🙂
I thought your post was really insightful on the way there is a whole industry that is *reliant* on us being unhappy with ourselves. As you say with the advertising, it’s hard to take the moral high ground when there are people’s jobs reliant on this industry, so the best thing we can do is be aware of all the factors that you describe.
I loved this post, it’s very true and exactly what I think. I’m a bit over my ‘ideal’ weight and am now eating healthily and going to the gym, but it’s for my fitness and health, not because of what society thinks I should be. We are all beautiful as we are – being happy is what’s important. I’d rather be happy than thin and miserable! Xxx
I totally agree! I know so many beautiful women, of different sizes, who are never happy with how they look. I’ve been thinking recently how I can convey a healthy attitude towards body and weight to my daughter (once she is born in June and old enough to think about these things! Which these days seems to be very early…)
In my work as a photographer I try to capture people in a way that shows their real selves, in all their beauty. I don’t slim down my clients in photoshop. I want them to see beautiful photographs of themselves, photographs they love, and know this is what they really look like. Quite often mums want me to take photos of their children but they themselves don’t want to be photographed as ‘they don’t look good enough’. I try to make them understand that for their children, now and in a few years, when they are looking at these photos, this will be completely irrelevant, that they love them exactly as they are.
Please pop over to my blog if you have a while. At the moment it’s mainly about photography but I’ll most likely be sharing more personal stuff as my girl bump grows 🙂
You’ve written a really beautiful, important post… We women – in general – are just not good at accepting ourselves as we are, and don’t appreciate what message we’re giving to our daughters when we are continually fretting over our weight and image, tutting, or subconsciously pulling a face when we catch a glimpse of our reflection in the mirror; equating it to our WORTH.
I think if we’re going to give our girls a chance for a brighter future it’s not even enough that we change our attitudes to ourselves; we have to watch how we are responding to and treating other women – both in life and in print! If every time we skim through a magazine we stop at the skinny women pages and say “oh that dress is beautiful”, and swipe past all the others, what they hear is ‘beauty looks like a skinny woman wearing a nice dress’! …And how are we responding when different women walk into our line of sight? Glancing briefly and turning away if we don’t ‘approve’; gazing a little longer if there’s a hint of jealousy!?
We women need to learn to see the woman – not just in the mirror, but the one standing in front of us too!
There are two YouTube clips I’ve seen recently about this that I think are both powerful and thought provoking:
Lily Myers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQucWXWXp3k
and the second, Dustin Hoffman talking about making Tootsie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPAat-T1uhE
A few days ago, I tried to sum up some of my thoughts in a post: 10 Ways to be Compassionate to Yourself:
Your post was a thought provoking read, thank you!
Oops! My comment was in response to the original post, rather than agataphotography 🙂 …sorry about that! …But I’m going straight to your site to check it out :-!