You can’t go anywhere these days without hearing or reading something about weight loss and how to get the perfect body. In a society obsessed with appearance, it’s not surprising. Most opinions seem to follow one of two trends.
Both are equally destructive.
The first is the “thinspiration” mindset. People in this crowd want to better themselves, which is awesome, but they do it by posting pictures of what is, for most of them, a highly unrealistic ideal. They shame themselves into adopting healthy habits. They use guilt to coerce themselves into dieting and exercising. And then when they don’t end up looking like their desired ideal, they spiral into depression.
The second is the “love your body” mindset. People in this crowd say “My body is perfect as it is and I don’t need to change it.” While I’m a big fan of accepting yourself, I don’t think being delusional is good for anyone. “Curvy” shouldn’t be a euphemism for “overweight.” “Healthy appetite” should not mean “eats lots of crap.” I would never, ever shame someone for being overweight. But I am disappointed when people don’t care about their health or what they eat. And believe me, that’s not limited to a certain size–I’ve seen plenty of unhealthy skinny people.
And then you’ve got people who waver between these two mindsets–celebrities who talk about how much they love their bodies, just as they are. And then they go on to lose weight and admit they didn’t really love themselves before but now they do. Talk about conflicting messages.
Here’s the thing: healthy looks different on everyone. And everyone’s path to healthy is unique. But you only get one body, Bridget. That’s it. And even though you’re young, the choices you make now will impact your future health.
Here’s something most people don’t know about me (although I wish they did): I’m not naturally skinny. In fact, I hate it when people think I am. I had to work for the body I have. So whenever I talk about health and people shrug me off with a “well, you’re skinny,” I kind of want to punch them. (I know, it’s not the healthiest attitude. I’m a work in progress.) Genetics has little to do with the size and shape that I am. I make choices every day to be healthy.
That doesn’t mean I’ve given up chocolate in favor of tofu. Because that would be depressing. But I try to find my own balance, the place where I can be healthy and still occasionally indulge. Not only am I physically stronger, I’m mentally stronger. I have more self-control, more focus. Because I don’t ever want to go back. I got where I am because I refused to accept excuses. I refused to believe that I couldn’t change my body and my health. And let me tell you, life is so much better on the healthy side.
Love your body, Bridget, but love it enough to take care of it, to improve it. Don’t exercise because you want to look like a model or because you loathe your thighs. Exercise because it makes you strong, because it makes you feel great, because it improves you, body and spirit.
It ain’t magic. Being healthy takes work, and it’s a gradual process. And it isn’t something you can do for anyone else. If you’re trying to change your body in order to achieve some socially acceptable concept of beauty, you’ll fail. You have to do it for you. Because you deserve the chance at a healthy life. Because you deserve to feel strong and in control of yourself.
Find your healthy, Bridget. I promise you won’t regret it.
What’s Dear Bridget all about? It’s a series on my blog composed of letters to a hypothetical teen girl named Bridget. Why Bridget? It means strong. And it represents the current generation of young women. These letters are my attempt to break through the chaos and the crap that’s flying at today’s young woman in order to offer advice and encouragement, from me and other incredible women who remember what it was like to be in her shoes.
If you’re a teen girl and you’ve got a question or issue you’d like us to address, let me know. Just click on the contact button (that round envelope icon at the top of the sidebar) and send me your thoughts. If you’re an awesome adult woman who remembers those teen years clearly and would like to write to Bridget, feel free to contact me and tell me about yourself.