Note- I will mostly be talking about weight and thinness here as this is the issue to
do with beauty ideals that I have the most experience with.
Women are encouraged to see their bodies as life long projects to improve on.
So, you lose weight, you lose more, you dye your hair, you lighten or darken your
skin, you sort your fucking ugly cracked heels out, you firm up your skin, you Bio
Oil your stretch marks off, pluck out all of your pubic hairs. What then? When
will you be finished? Here’s the thing though- you will never be finished.
I have dieted from the age of thirteen (unwillingly to begin with but that’s a
story about rubbish parenting for another day). I have cut out wheat, dairy,
meat, sugar, sweeteners, gluten. I have done WeightWatchers three times. I have
weighed myself dozens of times a day for long stretches of time. I have rejoiced
when my jeans felt loose, when the numbers on the scale went down, when
someone told me I looked thinner (Number One Compliment). I have starved
myself. I have hated myself for giving in and eating a pizza. I have binged and,
occasionally, made myself vomit afterwards. I felt like a failure for the majority
of my teens. I was clever and funny and talented. It didn’t matter because I was
ugly. I have turned down countless opportunities because I wasn’t ready yet- i.e.-
But this isn’t a story about having an eating disorder. Because, for women, this
is normal. This is usual. This is positively encouraged. Whenever I embarked
upon another stupid, dangerous diet I was praised, congratulated for taking
action. Women are told to base our value as humans on our bodies and how
beautiful/ugly they are. We are taught to see our bodies as objects, to view them
from a distance and judge them, as if we are separate from them somehow.
Mould, decorate, perfect them. But, as I said, there’s no such thing as perfect in
our society. If there was, if perfection could be achieved, we’d have nothing left.
Nothing to strive for, and most importantly nothing left to buy to fix ourselves.
Men are not taught to see their bodies as projects (let’s make that ‘most’ men
because there are always exceptions). In childhood, little boys are praised for
being active, for being boisterous and funny and clever. Little girls are praised for
being quiet and pretty. Men’s bodies are useful, it’s all about what they can do.
Women’s bodies can do stuff too but that’s irrelevant. Also, if they do too much
they might get muscley and, as a result, bigger- watch out!
Despite all my dieting, I am a fat woman. I wasn’t at thirteen when I was put on
a ‘detox’ by my stepmother, but I am now and I really believe it is because of the
dieting, the obsession with my body, rather than despite it. But you know what?
I would rather be fat than ever diet again. Because it is miserable. The counting,
the measuring, the feeling that you will be finished soon and the realisation that
it isn’t possible.
Rejecting beauty norms is really, really difficult. There isn’t a day when a switch
flicks and you are suddenly comfortable with yourself. It is a struggle. Sometimes
I feel shit about my body. Being fat is hard. It’s hard because I am judged for it,
assumed to be lazy and disgusting, every day I see adverts and all media telling
me that my body is wrong. Every day I hear other women saying that having my
body is their worst nightmare. Everywhere I look, I see messages that I am failing
I’m sure that some people who read this will think ‘but fat is unhealthy’. To you,
I say this: I think hating your body is unhealthy. I think telling women that they
need to be as small as possible is unhealthy. I think that looking after my mind is
more important because that is what makes me who I am, that is what matters.
I will not fit in with what society tells us beauty is, I refuse to believe that I have
to be pretty. I’m not a fucking painting- I am a person. I am not trying to lose
weight. I am not shaving my pubic hair off. I try hard not to be ashamed of my
body and it works most of the time. I swim, I run, I dance, I walk my dog, I laugh, I
have sex, I cook, I eat. My body does things. My weight does not define my worth.
Next time your friend says she needs to lose a stone, ask her why. Next time you don’t feel like your body is good enough, think about it. Good enough for what? Says who? Be brave and look after yourself. Because you really are worth it.
By Rosie Adams