I have been thinking about writing a post about body acceptance for about a week now. When I thought about what the title would be, my immediate thought was “The Greatest Love of All”, after the Whitney Houston song, but I thought it would be wayyyy too cheesy. With Whitney’s passing yesterday, the title only seemed appropriate, since the key message in that song is “Learning to love yourself, that is the greatest love of all.”
Following Whitney comes another amazing voice: Adele. While Adele is amazingly talented and writes songs that are raw and emotional, I can’t help but notice that she is more often in the headlines for her weight. Adele wears and American size 14/16 (the average woman’s dress
size in the U.S. is a size 14) so she is far from unusually large. Most recently, Karl Lagerfeld was quoted in an interview as saying that Adele is “a bit too fat.” Well, I guess when you’re a designer working with size zero models daily, Adele would look shockingly different. But the most inspiring thing about Adele is that she is incredibly confident and she loves herself just the way she is. She is quoted as saying: “I don’t want to be some skinny Minnie with my tits out. I really don’t want to do it and I don’t want people confusing what it is that I’m about.” I hope to one day feel as comfortable in my own skin as Adele feels.
Adele’s body image draws attention mainly because she is in the spotlight. But what about the rest of us? The average American woman wears a size 14, with about 50% of American women being considered Plus Size, however, only 30% of stores cater to the Plus Size market. Even the stores that carry plus sizes carry a very limited selection in comparison to regular women’s sizes. Plus size stores like Lane Bryant, eloquii by The Limited, and Old Navy typically use models who are a size 12 or 14, at the very bottom of the plus size range, when their clothing will go up to 24-32. Based on all of this, it would appear that even the plus size market finds relatively thinner women more beautiful.
So, it’s no wonder that so many women worldwide face the pressure of society to be thinner. It becomes a question of how you look to others and not a question of health or happiness. But in the midst of the fashion industry, you hear about the super-skinny models who have died from heart failure or malnutrition due to eating disorders. Even Crystal Renn, a model who overcame Anorexia Nervosa to become a plus-size model and wrote a book about her struggle eventually bowed to the pressure or her industry and lost weight. It is unknown if any of these women are truly happy or healthy, since we typically don’t hear about unhappiness or unhealthiness until it is far too late. How do we break the cycle and show all women and show all women that we are all beautiful at any size, and that being healthy does not necessarily mean a visible rib cage?
It starts with us. It starts with self-respect. Knowing what your body is capable of and being able to push yourself, but also knowing your limits and knowing when it’s time to stop and re-assess. We live in a world where we always feel like someone is watching us and criticizing everything we do and how we look. But the truth is, we are our own worst critics. In my own self-esteem struggles I have found it very difficult to change for the better. I don’t feel like going to the gym because all of those skinny people are going to be looking at me. I don’t want to order the salad at a restaurant because the server will look at me and wonder, what’s the point? But what I’m working on most is keeping my head held high and doing what I need to do for myself, because I know that my health is important and I am the only one who can make it happen. We can only truly change ourselves when we can accept ourselves. And if we can accept ourselves, no one else will matter.