helen-louise (baratron) wrote,
helen-louise
baratron

a deadjournal comment that turned into a rant by itself

There are lots of kinds of physical beauty. Modern Western society has decided to focus on a particular type that, for female-bodied people, is tall, slim and willowy. This idea of beauty is a comparatively new thing. If you look at portraits painted at various times over the past few centuries, you'll see that curves were most definitely in fashion for a lot of that time. Victorian women wore bustles to try to make their bottoms look bigger. Georgian women have soft, plump features like babies. In Rubens' time, zaftig was most definitely in.

According to a Cosmopolitan magazine in my doctor's surgery, in some modern African societies, women go on a diet before they get married. But rather than going on a diet to lose weight, they diet to gain weight. For, in a land where famine is common, fat is prized. Being fatter increases your chance of surviving if food becomes scarce, so increases your desirability as a breeding partner - which is, apparently, what our brains are subconsciously looking for even if you're childfree by choice. Makes no sense to me, but that's biology for you. (I wonder whether anyone has done research into what people look for in a same-sex partner?).

Anyway, society has decided to focus on one type of beauty, and the mass media hysterically report this, as if that is the only type of beauty that counts. This is entirely unhelpful for all of us whose genetics will not allow tall, slim and willowy in this lifetime. The word "fat" has become associated with "bad" on such a deep subconscious level that it's difficult even to think of oneself as "fat" and "beautiful" at the same time. Yet the idea that these things must be mutually exclusive is crazy.

You are shorter and fatter than modern Western society dictates. You also have fantastic curves - breasts and hips to die for - that just wouldn't be possible on a thinner person. These things are highly desirable, in my opinion. I like curves.

When the mass media bleats that "blonde hair" is sexy, or a "suntan" is in, many people with common sense are able to block that out if it's not helpful. If you have thick black hair, why should you damage it with bleach to try to turn it blonde for this month's fashion? If you have naturally pale skin, why should you damage it with ultraviolet to get a tan for this month's fashion? This blocking out is fairly easy for most of us to do.

So why, then, when the mass media bleats that tall, slim & willowy is in, do those of us whose genetics won't permit that get unhappy? Why is there this unspoken assumption that everyone should be thin, and that if you're fat it's your fault? Why is it so hard to block that out?

I can say all this - I can lecture about it, because I've been on a very low-fat diet for almost a year for health reasons. Yes, I have lost some "weight" - but I haven't gone down to a skinny size 6. I've stopped at a plumpish size 14, because that's what my genetics think I should be. If I had been trying to lose "weight", I'd probably be really depressed by now, because I've been eating a healthy diet with a lot of fruit and vegetables, lots of complex carbohydrates, a mixture of vegan proteins and only a little, vegetable-based, highly polyunsaturated fats - yet I still have big thighs, rolls of fat and visible "cellulite". Yes, I could force myself onto some kind of low-calorie torture for a while, to squeeze into a smaller-sized outfit - but for what? My current diet is healthy and balanced. How could a low-calorie diet possibly give me enough energy to live my life long term? Having enough food that I'm able to exercise and use my body is important to me, and to my long-term health.

I can understand dissatisfaction with physical appearance - especially if some of it is "your fault" - if you eat total crap or have no time to exercise. But I feel it should be based on what is physically possible with your genetic makeup, and on goals that will actually improve your health. Yo-yo dieting is generally worse for your health than staying fat, and certainly is much, much worse for your health than long-term healthy eating, where you gradually reprogram your brain to enjoy different foods. I still crave chocolate - who doesn't? - but having had the gallstones for so long, I now feel terribly naughty if I eat 25g of dark chocolate all at once, and lose desire for it after that. I'll always want dessert - who doesn't? - but I've had to learn to plan for it by eating a heathier main course, and low-fat snacks during the day, rather than being suddenly ambushed after a greasy meal.

This rant has gone off on several tangents, many quite far from the original, supportive "You look great as is" comment it was meant to be - but that's no bad thing. To pull it back together, I think people should learn to see the beauty that's inside themselves, rather than constantly comparing themselves to other people. We are all different, and that's how it should be. And I do, honestly, feel that health is more important than looks. A stronger heart and larger lung capacity seem much more important to me than fitting into a particular size dress.
Tags: fat, mental health, my evil gall bladder, thoughts
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  • Still alive.

    I am alive. Coping with the hiatus hernia. Perhaps in a one damned thing after another sort of way. Still, the symptoms have all improved…

  • Blargh.

    So I haven't written anything here since July, which is impressively lax even for me. In short, I have been suffering from the worst chronic fatigue…

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