A year ago, you might recall that I wrote about the different ways we define the word “health.” I made the point that the “picture of health” has changed so much. It’s gone from round, to hourglass, to stick-thin, to so many other standards. I recently saw a fitness instructor post this series of images online where she used photoshop to make her body fit the beauty standard of different decades. It was fascinating, because her body was edited drastically, and what we strive for now is nearly the exact opposite of what we strived for a couple decades ago.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about what our “picture of health” looks like today, and while it differs depending on gender, race, and community, there is obviously a lot of value placed on being thin. So much so, that people have created all sorts of diets and corset-like waist trainers to get flat stomachs. Most movies and shows cast skinny people, and those considered “plus-size” play roles that are often stereotypical and harmful. The modelling industry is infamous for idolizing unattainable body measurement standards, and so many models suffer from body dysmorphia or eating disorders.
Skinny, it seems, have been equated to being “fit”, or “healthy.” There is some truth to this. Often, when people are eating the right quality and quantity of food, staying hydrated, and exercising daily, their bodies don’t hang onto extra fat. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. There are diseases that make it difficult to lose weight. There are people that are too skinny, and therefore, unhealthy.
A large part of why I think our society, especially in the U.S., favors the thin, is because it cost a lot of money to be healthy. Organic foods? Expensive. Gym memberships? Pricey. Whole Foods? Hard to come by in a food desert. Thorough food education? Not necessarily a priority in our country’s school system. This country is known for its burgers, fries, and twinkies. It’s known for infinite television shows you could spend all day on the couch watching. Therefore, in order for someone to be healthy here, they must be given the resources to recognize healthy and unhealthy decisions, as well as the funding to pursue the healthier choices. For those who live in food deserts, or don’t have access to a gym, or are not in the financial position to acquire the proper nourishment and fitness, being healthy/thin is hard.
So, essentially, to be skinny means that you have the time to worry about your health, and the money to spend on it. It means you’re well off. Ideally, everyone could take care of themselves this way. Health shouldn’t be so heavily politicized, or used to establish a hierarchy. I don’t have a solution. If I did, I’d be doing more than just writing this blog post. But if you’re reading this, take whatever resources you have available to you, and be nice to your body, mind, and soul. And remember that physical appearance only sometimes reflects health, and if it does, it is only part of the definition.