Originally Published June 27, 2013
All right. This is going to be part constructive, part rant. Hope that’s ok! Here goes.
It’s important that, on our path to health and fitness, we make goals that are not only realistic but healthy. No matter how many times we have all heard it, it is still very hard for us to understand and believe that striving for a “perfect” body is not only unachievable for almost all of us but extremely stressful and then extremely silly.
The standard that we strive to uphold physically comes from marketing campaigns and not health experts.
We know this. We hear these kinds of facts and nod and say yes, yes, so true. Then we look in the mirror and get depressed that we don’t look like Kate Moss. Having been through this mental process myself about a few hundred thousand times, I have some important facts to consider when deciding how you want to look, how you “need” to look, and how to describe to yourself how you look right now.
For starters, the models we see in magazines that we strive to look like were almost always “scouted.” This means that a model scout, someone who works for a modeling company and whose job it is to find new models, “discovered” them in a public place. These scouts walk around town looking for 6-foot-tall very thin women. Runway models are the thinnest and the industry standard, until a few short months ago, was that they be a size zero (it’s now a size 4). Any 6-foot-tall size zero walking around town was, 99% for sure, born that way. They genetically have that particular body size and shape and metabolism, end of story. For us regular folk to try to force ourselves into that is downright unsafe.
As supermodel Daria Werbowy is quoted as saying, “I won the genetic lottery.”
Another quote from a Victoria’s Secret photographer said their models “are rarer than professional athletes.”
Did you know–magazines can’t put any model they want in the designer clothes they feature? Designers have agreements that any time their clothes are “marketed” (even in the supposed non-advertisement portions of fashion magazines), they are in control of the models who wear them. Even if Vogue wanted to, they could not put a size 10 model in designer clothes.
Next on the list of comparisons we make: celebrities. Mostly actors. For these people, they may naturally have a killer physique or be working at it. For anyone that isn’t naturally very thin, to maintain the incredibly low body fat percentage they usually have (the women, that is… men have no trouble getting roles with all sizes of bellies–see Tom Hanks, Vince Vaughn, etc.), they have to work out like crazy. You may have read the workout routines these people subject themselves to–it’s at least an hour a day and frequently nearly two hours a day, 5-6 days a week! Who the heck has time for that?! They do it because they HAVE to. They will not get cast a role in a film, commercial, whatever, if they don’t have an ideal appearance. They are also stalked and photographed night and day, so they are probably beyond paranoid at being caught at the beach with a little flab hanging over their swimsuit bottom. Not a situation I would envy.
Ok, clothing: If you’re like me, you scrutinize what size you are fitting into like the numbers are those of the next winning Powerball ticket. These numbers are meaningless! Some smart person researched and discovered that women were more likely to buy an article of clothing if it was in a smaller-numbered size. So there were certain periods of time where we all started fitting into smaller sizes… so we thought. You’ve noticed you’re never the same size from one brand to the next either. The numbers are arbitrary and, again, based on marketing.
You know, a hundred years ago, people all tailored their own clothes, by the way. There was no stress and strain about fitting into a size. There was no meltdown in some shop’s dressing room because the 4 didn’t fit anymore. No one was even aware of their “size” because sizes didn’t exist! Can you imagine such a utopia? The fabric was made to fit US, not the other way around! If something didn’t look good, it was the tailor’s fault, not ours!
Thanks to, again, industry, we started making pre-made clothing because it was cheaper and more efficient for the companies–not us! And, trust me, they’re still having a terrible time trying to make standardized clothing that fits a massive variety of shapes and sizes.
In India, there is some of this utopia left. More tailors for sure, but also something called a drawstring waistband. Yes, this is worn ALL THE TIME. Those simple cotton pants you see Indian women wearing? They are slim in the leg, but the waist is big enough for a clown costume. They’re all one size, and you just get the length adjusted! A Sari is a flowing dress-like garment that, unwrapped, is a gigantic sheet of fabric. There is nothing sewn and no fixed size at all. You drape it and secure it with safety pins each time you put it on! Can you believe that?!
You can gain all the weight you want and probably never notice it. Western women, on the other hand, can’t gain 3 pounds–I mean that literally–without their jeans not fitting. And subsequently feeling “fat.” At any one time, half my wardrobe fits, and the other half does not. I literally have to have a couple of different sizes in my closet all the time. Of course weight inevitably fluctuates and when it does, my stuff either looks too baggy or won’t zip up. It’s crazy-making.
I finally–FINALLY gave up on having the perfect body after I was doing two hours of weight-lifting a week (a 1-hour class at the gym twice a week), went running twice a week, did a couple of sessions on the Stairmaster each week, and ate almost perfectly. By that I mean, hardly any carbohydrates, snack or dessert foods, not even sugar in my tea. I was still obsessing about what new exercise I needed to do and what else was left to take out of my diet (nothing), and basically just stressing a bunch over nothing. I felt fantastic, had tons of energy, a great mood, was also meditating regularly, and life was just fine–except I’d get all bummed out that I didn’t have a perfectly flat tummy. At last I decided: If I was doing everything right and still didn’t have it, it wasn’t meant for me! My body was fine the way it was, and it was time to move on. And I finally did, little by little. To have lost that last 5 pounds, I would have had to live the life of an ascetic. There was no point.
SO, ladies and gents–we need to team up against marketing and industry and stand our ground! Our uniqueness will never go away, nor would we ever want it to! Why do we ever let salespeople dictate what is beautiful?
Let health come first, and beauty will always follow.