“We are always more critical of ourselves than
people will ever be”
The Savvy Senorita (AKA: Bex Houghagen) 2013
The Savvy Senorita (AKA: Bex Houghagen) 2013
Google search results for websites:
Those displaying Anorexia – 32,500,000
Those displaying Pro-ana websites – 8,530,000
Pro-ana tips – 2,840,000
Those displaying ‘thinspiration’ – 2,700,000
……And those displaying ‘curvaceous women’ – 3,950,000
Women with ‘lovely lady lumps’ are indeed outnumbered, maybe they are even becoming an endangered species.
I have become quite obsessed with body image lately, seemingly revisiting my own troubled teen years, but looking at it all through very different eyes now I have gained life experience. I am more analytical of what I once took to be the truth about what women should be. I am fortunately no longer crippled with self-doubts and hatred, albeit, even I’ll admit it is difficult to keep a healthy mind and attitude with the constant bombardment of what we now call ‘normal’. It has reached new heights, far and beyond more extreme than it ever it was when I was a teen (which isn’t that long ago let me add)! So, if I struggle as a grown woman to see myself as a complete person, even though I am not a size 8 and below, then how do the teens of today cope?
I have been doing some research, looking at and listening to; websites, photographs, opinions and documentaries. I have looked at UK Parliament Publications, Mind, Clinical Knowledge Summaries (CKS) Service, B-eat UK and also pro-ana sites (which I am not prepared to name here for concern of promoting such sites). I have seen the fashion shoots of Solve Sundsbo shown in ‘V’ magazine of normal women with curves, Dove’s ‘real women’ campaign and considered the successes of Beth Ditto and Adele. I read about celebrities who struggle with, and eventually succumb to losing the pounds such as; Kelly Clarkson, Kourtney Kardashian, Jennie Garth, Bryce Dallas, Kelly Osbourne; and even Lady Gaga. I have watched ‘Living with Size Zero’, ‘The Truth About Size Zero’ with Louise Redknapp, Dawn Porter’s ‘Super Slim Me’, ‘Dying To Be Anorexic’, ‘Anorexia’s Living Face’ CBS News about Isabelle Caro’s struggle, ‘The truth About Online Anorexia’ with Fern Cotton, Jennifer Livingston’s response to being bullied about being ‘fat’, ‘Supersize v’s Superskinny’, so on and so on.
The amount of information available and the opinions on the content is vast and confusing. It seems starving to be thin is OK, as long as no one really discusses the effects; mental and physical (using Isabelle Caro as an example; how shocked the world was to see what starvation had done to her body, and yet in other ways we are happy to promote such actions. It is all very contradictory, so is there such a thing as too thin? The fashion industry may not think so, but there are people out there who do and are at last being heard.
So why would the average woman, and by that I mean every woman who will by definition of being a woman, have curves; want to destroy her body to re-gain the body of a teen, or of a prepubescent girl? Who would want to have the body and measurements of a seven year old? Why is that deemed attractive, the ideal model and ‘norm’? Why would anyone starve and make themselves so miserable, weak and unhealthy just to have the waist-line of a child; to become a size 8 or below when that is a highly unrealistic goal for them? Since when did exercising daily, eating healthily, taking all things in moderation become the route to being a painfully thin young woman, with unhealthy body and food relationships?
Surely there is still a place for flesh on women’s bones?
Women should have curves, and frankly what is being classed as ‘obese’ these days is ludicrous, and damaging for peoples psyche; hence the confusion over ‘normal’. A size 14 is seen as ‘fat’! Why? When did that become OK as the new rule? Who was responsible for making that rule?
There is no doubt people are being sent mixed messages about what is healthy and normal; vulnerable girls and boys see it everyday, so why do we wonder that so many people are dying to be thin. One minute size zero is terrible, the next, size 14 is obese; who can win the battle of the waist-lines with this destructive attitude being forced on us all. Yet it isn’t just size zero, now we see size 8 as curvy, when I was a teen size 10/12 was the ‘norm’, now size 8 is the ideal of the curvy woman. Yeah, if you happen to be petite, great; I have a niece who is a size 8 and is petite beyond belief, she still eats and drinks like a horse though. The reason, size 8 is her natural frame for her body shape! It isn’t normal for every woman out there though!
If celebrities and people in general stray off extreme diet paths they soon gain weight, and quickly. Yet, the weight gain is more shocking than their lack of weight and the reasons behind it. Maybe their initial weight was too low to be sustainable; their diet and exercise regime too restrictive and unreal. Isn’t having children also a time of normal weight gain for women? Yet even that is shunned and a disgrace.
What then is so abnormal about gaining weight? Every week a new celebrity is seen larger than before, because they are failing to cope with what the world dictates they should be naturally, and they are not! The weight they gain is seen as gargantuan and unhealthy, but no doubt nothing more than again, a size 14, as the camera is said to also add 10 pounds to the body. If in reality everyone is struggling to remain unnaturally thin, and what appears as their natural thinness is a sham, a lie; then their weight gain merely takes them back to the size they should be!
Look at Christina Aguilera at the moment. I applaud how she is embracing her body as a 31 year old mother and enjoying being curvy. I hope she doesn’t cave in to the mounting pressure and relent to revert to her teen image. Which, people also censured as too thin!
I know there are some people who once they gain weight, do become far larger than Christina, but it is no wonder. In the spot light, their heads must be ruined; all the pressure to conform to, the rules they must obey, the ideals of others they have to attain. How can they know what a healthy food relationship is? Yet, it is as equally unhealthy to starve; eating only 800 calories a day, exercising obsessively, seeing protruding bones, skin and hair falling from the body and having no periods. Being ‘obese’ or too ‘thin’; neither extreme is healthy, yet one gets more encouragement as normal, acceptable and healthy than the other.
I know there will always be people who think ‘fat’ is bad. Kate Moss may believe the mantra: ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’, but then whenever I see a picture of her face (without airbrushing), it tells the true story of not eating, clearly enough. She maybe a size of a child, but her face isn’t as youthful. It is just so darn sexy substituting food for alcohol, drugs and nicotine! It’s a glamorous life she leads, yeah, the life of an addict; substituting food for every other prop she can find. Ralph Lauren may have famously airbrushed a model to look so thin that her head was wider than her waist; it says freak show to me, it says he likes to make women look like a joke. It is not a ‘must have’ look, it is not healthy or sexy!
It is the insistence that thin is healthy, and fat of any description is bad, which perpetuates ‘sick’ and destructive thoughts in the younger generations. People can insist they are a size zero and don’t starve themselves, but after watching Louise Redknapp and Dawn Porter both struggle to try to become a size zero, I’m not so sure. Losing weight, restricting calories below a healthy level, and exercising 52 hours a week, hearing what the experts said people do to become a size zero; how unhealthy it is, what damage it causes and how it can kill them. Well I think that is not how a healthy life should be led. Why is eating so unhealthy? People eat, as humans we should, because without it we’d die. It is normal not to eat, but not normal to survive off apples and cucumbers, black coffee and cigarettes!
There are pro-ana and thinspiration sites which help to encourage extreme thinness, as opposed to being a healthy weight. As I have already mentioned previously, I won’t give the addresses or names of these websites in this post. On these sites ‘fat’ women or girls, are encouraged with hints and tips, and the mutual bonding, and understanding of a friendly support system, so they can shed astronomical pounds. It is basically camaraderie of death that is being publicly flaunted. Then there are message boards on ordinary sites in response to articles about weight issues; how distorted people’s views are about being ‘over weight’! I was shocked to read them! People don’t realise that thin models can be ill, anorexic, bulimic, and airbrushed. It seems at every turn normal women are being rejected by an ever harsher societal view of once again, female beauty.
Yet, who is anyone to be a judge and jury; no one is perfect. To blatantly authorise women to kill themselves in pursuit of thinness is ghastly though; morbid and akin to genocide. We ignore these issues every day, and everyday someone becomes victim to anorexia and someone will die as a result of that illness. How is that OK, but being ‘curvy’ isn’t?! Priorities and very wrong, spring to mind.
What is this hate campaign waged on normal women? Lack of food and nutrition kills too, not just ‘obesity’, and it will store up trouble for any woman in the future; low Estrogen levels, infertility, brittle bones, heart disease, wasted muscles (including the heart), kidney failings, and so and so on.
No wonder our children suffer with body issues if the media and world at large project this ‘norm’ onto them. We have a responsibility to readjust body image back to healthy, but we refuse.
We keep reaffirming there is a boundary between; merely thin, losing a bit of weight, counting our calories, increasing the exercise, avoiding eating in public, and being anorexia, but I don’t know anymore. What constitutes a disorder, what qualifies you to fit into food disorder statistics? Is it merely a BMI under 18? There isn’t one person I know who hasn’t some issue with food in one way or another, or issues with themselves and their own body image; so what do these statistics mean when everyone is engaging in some form of abnormal act or relationship with food and their own bodies? Are what we see on thinspiration sites, ordinary chat sites, celebrity sites that pull women apart for being a woman to blame; or is it complex internal and genetic issues that spark food and body issues? Who can be sure for all cases?
So much nonsense saturates into the public domain every day, now our view of ‘normal’ is skewed. What people aspire to be is skewed, as we as a society have become increasingly; obsessed, restrictive, and denying our bodies nutrition for the sake of thinness. So what is so unnatural and wrong if we are seeing it promoted everywhere, hearing about and seeing websites dedicated to extremely thin ‘inspirational’ role models?
Maybe this is the new normal; thin, ill, underweight and so on? It will be, if we cannot curb our hatred towards difference and real women, and quit the morbid fascination with skeletal women.
I’m not saying naturally thin women should be scorned or reviled with disgust either, but neither should everyone above a size 8! Who perhaps doesn’t fit this thin mould we are all pressing as the norm. If we continue this way then it will be the norm for young people from now until eternity; always subjected to hating themselves, pulling their minds and bodies apart, making themselves ill, punishing others to succumb too, and even killing themselves. This viscous circle will never end.
If we are happy with that, happy to kill off the next generation of women and men who become afflicted by body issues, then we should by all means carry on this way. Yet, I would rather see someone eat, be happy with themselves and to live their lives; rather than starve and be miserable, feel pain, waste their lives revolving around food and body issues, only to then die an even more miserable death. All of it in vain.
Below are some interesting statistics on Eating Disorders; food for thought for us all –
UK Parliament – Publications:
The amount of people suffering has increased from 419 in 1996-97 to 620 in 2004-05.
These figures only represent individual cases admitted into NHS hospitals in England (not the whole of the UK).
Clinical Knowledge Summaries (CKS) Service:
The highest rates of anorexia are seen in female teenagers aged between 13 and 19, with 51 per of 100,000 cases being seen each year.
Approximately 10% of cases of anorexia arise in men.
Around 5% of cases of anorexia will be fatal.
Currently, in developing countries and black communities, anorexia nervosa appears to be somewhat rare.
In the UK, 1 in 100 women aged between 15 and 30 suffers from anorexia.
Reports show girls as young as five years of age have weight concerns, and think about going on a diet.
There are many documentaries on Youtube regarding children anorexia sufferers. Very upsetting, but honest.
‘The most accurate figures we are aware of are those from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence. These suggest that 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, of which around 11% are male. However, more recent research from the NHS information centre showed that up to 6.4% of adults displayed signs of an eating disorder (Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, 2007). This survey also showed that a quarter of those showing signs of an eating disorder were male, a figure much higher than previous studies had suggested’.
Thank you for reading my post, I hope it has given you something to consider?
Leave comments below please!
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© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.