Have you noticed there’s something weird happening in the world of health right now?
It used to be that we were upfront about telling women that thinness was the ultimate state – to be achieved at any cost.
Back in the ’80’s and ’90’s, this meant a diet of coffee and cigarettes was totally acceptable, as long as it kept you skinny. Status and admiration would come when society deemed you thin and pretty enough.
But now the message has morphed.
It is still the same underneath: women must at all times conform to the image of ‘perfection’: thin, unlined skin, appearance of youth and sexual attractiveness. But now it’s couched in a new message: health (supposedly).
Now we have to listen to a whole new kind of proclamation:
“Strong is the new skinny” (only ever attached to photos of very thin, toned, young women)
“You are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake.” (ouch…the moral judgement!)
And a host of celebrities whose former job required they be thin and pretty – model/actress/dancer etc – are lining up to tell us how to eat and live in order that we too can be as fabulous as they. All in the name of ‘health’.
It used to be that we only saw these images in fashion magazines. But now it’s everywhere. All over social media we see perfectly curated lives of the famous, the infamous and just plain ole Mary-from-down-the-street.
And for those who are really good at convincing others of their super-healthy, beautiful life – they might be given the holy grail of a celebrity diet cookbook deal, complete with even more aspirational images.
We buy these books and lap up the images many are selling because we think there must be a secret pill.
I’m not enough….so what is it that I can take to make myself appear more acceptable, admirable, beautiful, lovable? To be more like these ladies of Instagram who seem to have it all together.
The formula seems to be this: do lots of yoga, drink lots of green juice, stay away from sugar…and you too will achieve this level of physical and life perfection. 🙂
What’s unsaid is the true sales pitch: that perfect health leads to perfect physical beauty. And perfect physical beauty, we all know (!), makes you more lovable and worthy.
If you are not in possession of physical beauty, then you’re really not trying hard enough (or buying enough books!).
But you know it’s just a fantasy.
1. This actor/model turned yoga teacher/nutritionist does not look the way she does due to her lifestyle. Not really. She was mainly just born that way.
2. And even she doesn’t 100% look like that. It’s image sorcery!
3. Nothing you can buy from her will make your life magically morph into what you see in her recipe book or reality TV show or Instagram photos.
4. Good health actually comes in all shapes and sizes and what’s on the outside is not always an indication of the inside. Thin does not automatically equal health.
5. Life can throw a curveball at you at any time and your taut skin and abs will be no protection against it.
“We as women are trained to see ourselves as cheap imitations of fashion photographs rather than seeing fashion photographs as cheap imitations of women.”
Isn’t it time that we stopped selling ourselves the idea that there is any one perfect way to be a woman? Or one perfect way to be healthy. That there actually are no strict rules that we all must follow.
That looking good and being physically healthy is all very well and nice but it’s not a full picture of happiness.
The real secret to happiness always lies within yourself, not in anybody else’s life.
I know. Yawn.
You’re probably sick of hearing this. And what does it mean, anyway? ‘Inside myself’? I’m sick of being myself – can’t I just keep trying to be someone else….it looks so much better elsewhere.
The real secret to health is found when you step into your own power. When you realise that you have the ability to heal yourself. Although others can open doors for you, there is no magic guru who holds the secret to your transformation. You do.
And those who really want to help you will actually teach you to be more like you, not more like them. They give you the courage to find your own truth; your own way of living life.
What we need to strive for is freedom. Liberation from the idea that there is only one kind of healthy body. Liberation from the idea that there is only one very narrow version of an ideal woman.
“While we cannot directly affect the images [in media], we can drain them of their power. We can turn away from them and look directly at one another. We can lift ourselves and other women out of the myth.”
Now, just let yourself be. You are perfect just as you are and doing the best you can. You don’t have to be like anyone else – just more like you. (And take that celebrity diet with a pinch of salt!)