Love Your Body

MeandTim

{Here’s a picture of me and my boyfriend Tim, taken a little over a week ago <3}

In a time when, “thin is in” it can be easy to justify going to extreme measures to make your body match an ideal that society has created. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly felt bombarded with images of women who are far thinner than I am – thinner than I’ll ever be. I don’t wish I looked like them, but there was a time when I’d stare at those images; I’d dissect every part of a woman’s body and wonder why mine didn’t look the same. I wondered why my thighs weren’t as thin; why my cheekbones weren’t as prominent; why my stomach wasn’t as flat. It didn’t take very long before I started to cut back on the amount of food I was eating.

It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I slowly began accepting myself. When I went to college, the acceptance and love for my body grew. I became a Healthy Eating and Living Intern at the Student Center. For “Love Your Body Day” my fellow interns and I ordered shirts that said, “I <3 My Body.” We wore them around campus and observed people’s reactions (most were positive :)). I was happy to be wearing one, because it was true. I wanted to inspire others to love their bodies, too. If you’d given me a shirt like that to wear when I was younger, I don’t know that I would have, because I wouldn’t want people to look at me and think that I actually loved my body. How could I? I was no model. But in college, I did love my body. I truly learned to care for myself. I didn’t diet. I shopped for healthy food. I walked for miles every day. I ran by the lagoon. I danced. I filled myself with love, laughter, and happiness. I was fulfilled.

I cringe when I hear how much women torture themselves to look a certain way. I feel saddened by the amount of pressure many people feel to be thinner, prettier, taller, etc. I wish that we could appreciate our bodies for everything that they do for us – that’s part of how I healed. I thanked my body for taking care of me. Instead of wanting to look a certain way, I just wanted to be healthy. I still feel this way.

I wish that we could spread more love; instead of calling ourselves or others fat, my hope is that we will look at ourselves and others for who we really are; the numbers on the scale, the size of our skirts, the fact that we don’t look like a small percentage of women who are incredibly tall and thin doesn’t define us. There was a time when being thin was everything to me. Now, I think it shocks people that being skinny isn’t my ultimate goal. It’s not even on my list of things that I want. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, or because I love and accept my body, but I genuinely don’t want to stretch myself out to be a few inches taller and a few pounds lighter. I love my curves. I am passionate about helping women be healthy and learn to truly love their bodies, too.

Instead of focusing on being a certain weight, I would rather we all strive to be our healthiest, happiest, most radiant selves. When we learn to love ourselves and enjoy life, if we have weight to lose, it will come off because we are feeding ourselves healthy food, and are taking time to be active, as well as to relax, and connect with nature, ourselves, and people who lift us up. To me, that’s what life is about. If you’re on your wellness journey and are struggling to love yourself, accept your body, and heal, I’d love to help. If you have an eating disorder, I can refer you to a specialist who can help. Wherever you are on your health journey, know that there are people who can help. The fact that you’re beautiful won’t change as your weight changes. And, you can learn the tools to take care of yourself, too. You’re worth it. <3

Esther Honig: Make Me Beautiful

Blogger and journalist Esther Honig has shown, once again, that the standards of beauty vary across cultures, and around the world. In her project, “Before and After,” she worked with 40 people from 25 different countries and asked them to take an unaltered photo of her and make her beautiful. She has shared some of the resulting images, which are a reminder of how beauty is defined differently around the globe.

This project reminds of Jessica Simpson’s The Price of Beauty, in which she traveled to different parts of the world to explore what people consider to be beautiful. In The Price of Beauty, Jessica Simpson traveled to France, where she met Isabelle Caro, a model who shares her heartbreaking struggle with anorexia. (Isabelle passed away on November 17, 2010, at the age of 28, after struggling with anorexia since the age of 13.) Jessica also traveled to Uganda, where being overweight and even obese is considered to be beautiful. Women are often sent to fattening huts before their weddings, where they are forced to drink milk and ghee (clarified butter) to gain unhealthy amounts of weight. This is very different from the standards of beauty that we have in the US, where most people (especially women) are striving to reach an unattainable level of thinness (remember, it’s about being healthy, not thin!). When she visits Thailand, Jessica learns that white skin is considered beautiful, and many women will go to extreme lengths to whiten their skin. One woman disfigured herself when she bleached her skin. In the US, most people consider tan skin to be beautiful (just take a look at all of our tanning salons and orange celebrities), so this was another beauty ideal that differs from what we see in America. I actually got teased by my cousins when I was growing up, because I have fair skin and they are all tan. I was constantly told that I needed to tan, so it took me some time to embrace my white skin. And now I won’t even consider tanning – natural is best!

I’m always struck by the different ideals that people around the world have of what it means to be beautiful. True beauty, of course, lies within. Within Honig’s project, it’s interesting to see how some countries chose to stick with a more natural look, while others used of lots Photoshopping to give her darker eyebrows, makeup, extended eyelashes, and different facial features. What strikes you most about the Photoshopped images and Esther’s project?

Here is the original, unedited photo of Esther:

EstherHonig

Before and After: Unedited Photo of Esther Honig (all photos courtesy of Esther Honig)

And here are some of the images that she has received so far:

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Argentina

Before and After: Argentina

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Pakistan

Before and After: Pakistan

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Morocco

Before and After: Morocco

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-UnitedKingdom

Before and After: United Kingdom

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Philippines

Before and After: Philippines

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-SriLanka

Before and After: Sri Lanka

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-UnitedStates

Before and After: United States of America

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Vietnam

Before and After: Vietnam

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Serbia

Before and After: Serbia

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-India

Before and After: India

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Kenya

Before and After: Kenya

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Bangladesh2

Before and After: Bangladesh

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Chile

Before and After: Chile

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Philippines2

Before and After: Philippines

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Bulgaria

Before and After: Bulgaria

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Greece

Before and After: Greece

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Bangladesh3

Before and After: Bangladesh

Esther-Honig-Before-and-After-Beauty-Indonesia

Before and After: Inodnesia

*All photos courtesy of Esther Honig.

*I do not own the videos that I link to in this post.