There’s no getting around it: America is in a health crisis. Recent studies show that more than 40 percent of American adults are overweight, a 10 percent increase from last year. The extra numbers on the scale are obviously cause for concern, but do they affect our happiness?
According to one recent study, over 50 percent of American adults think not. For them, weight and happiness are not two sides of the same coin.
The media, however, would have us believe otherwise. From “Rihanna is getting too thick” to “Teyana Taylor is today’s ideal body,” there’s always someone is reminding us that anything less than cover model perfect isn’t okay.
Losing weight can be benefit our health, but it shouldn’t be tied to our happiness. If you’ve got kids, feeling good about how you look is even more important. One survey found that children as young as three have poor body image.
Here’s how to move past the the scale and embrace yourself at any size.
PLUS SIZE? MORE LIKE MY SIZE!
When Nebraska-born Ashley Graham first started her modeling career, she was followed everywhere by a label she hates: plus-size model. Rather than go with what was expected of her, Ashley took a bolder approach and defied the regressive pigeonholing.
In short, she stopped devaluing herself, reclaimed her body as her own and came up with her own label: My Size. Because, as Ashley so rightly points out, no two bodies are the same. We deserve happiness at any size.
The average American woman might be a size 14, but why should that matter? Why are we categorizing women because of the number inside of their pants? Especially when we don’t do that to men?
Half of American adults may not tie their happiness to their size, but what about the other half of the population, and what about our kids?
WHAT GIRLS WANT
We’re not doing the younger generation any favors when we photoshop models to perfection, then trying to tie an ideal weight to happiness. How on earth can we expect them ever to feel good about themselves when the bar is set that high?
As a body activist, Ashley says a defining moment for her was when a young girl came up to her and said, “You changed my life.” Ashley was shocked. All she’d done was post a picture of yourself in a bikini without airbrushing her cellulite out.
15-year old Julia Bluhm claims girls want fewer photoshopped images of women in magazines. As both a ballet dancer and a body activist, it would be easy to see a disconnect between the teenager’s two passions.
But having seen her ballet friends struggle with body issues, Julia sees it as an opportunity to make a difference. A 2012 petition she started with her friend Izzy proved her right when Seventeen magazine issued a Body Peace Treaty, signed by all the editors, agreeing to show real girls in their pages.
FAT GIRL RUNNING
Nat Geo Adventurer of the Year, Mirna Valerio, also thumbed her nose at the pigeonholing body shamers when she named her blog Fat Girl Running. At 5-foot-7 and around 250 pounds, Mirna is anything but your stereotypical “skinny” athlete.
The Mirnavator (as she’s known online) soon found herself in the spotlight for her unrelenting push for positive body image. She’s made it her mission to spread the message that you can be fit, healthy and happy no matter what size, shape or color you are.
HAPPINESS COMES IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES
Of course, having a positive body image is sometimes easier said than done. We can’t all be like the Mirnvator, but neither can we simply ignore the problem. Poor body image interferes with intimacy, affects our self-worth and stops us from having fun.
Boosting your body image doesn’t have to be difficult, it just takes a little guts, forethought and patience. For example, you could focus on the things you’re good at and showcase your talents in that way. The more you do, the less you’ll think about your size.
Another key factor is to curate the media you expose yourself to. Beauty magazines are going to make you feel bad, it’s a no brainer. Instead, find your inspiration in more supportive communities. Take Lindy West’s advice from her book, Shrill, and look at positive pictures of fat girls, until the images don’t bother you anymore.
While we’re on the subject, make a point of cleaning up your social media feed. Places like Facebook and Instagram can play havoc on your self-esteem, if you’re not careful.
Finally, follow in the footsteps of plus-size role models like Ashley Graham, Mirna Valerio and others. Be you and be proud.