Friday, September 26, 2008

Beauty

I have resisted writing about this for a long time because I'm really resistant, in general, to the way women talk about losing weight, dieting & exercise ALL THE TIME. For as long as I can remember, this is something that occupies the time and space of the lives of women, especially in America, WAY TOO MUCH. We could be doing other things, people. Saving the world, for example.

But I cannot hide my head in the sand and pretend 1) that the problem doesn't exist, or 2) that it doesn't affect me. The truth is that the problem exists in a horrifyingly big way in our culture. When someone tries to talk my 17-yr old, beautiful, soccer-playing, bike-riding, healthy, active, and incredibly strong daughter into dieting, I KNOW this culture has a problem. Do we even remember that women are supposed to have curves? That a little belly pooch means that our bodies have enough stored fat to carry babies, the way we were designed?

Yes, yes, I totally understand the flip side of this. I understand that obesity is an issue, that fast food, junk food, soda, candy, and huge portions are also an out-of-control problem in our society. I understand that people watch too much TV and play too many video games, which means they aren't getting the exercise they need.

We have a real crisis, though, when it's ok to eat junk and lie on the couch as long as you're skinny. See, the way I see it, people are only responding the the trouble with fast food and candy in as much as it applies to obesity. Very few people are actually talking about health. And when we talk about health, we act as though the only way to be healthy is to be thin.

I'd like to see the day when our standards of beauty embrace people of all kinds of shapes and sizes. And I'm making a concerted effort to at least set a different standard for beauty in my own home. We talk about being healthy, eating healthy, exercising to keep us strong and alert and happy, and taking care of our bodies in a way that makes us feel good about who we are (whether that's clothes or lotion or perfume or jewelry, whatever...). What I'd really like to do is think about some artwork that reflects real beauty. AND, I need to guard carefully the way I talk about myself because it affects my whole family.

You see, I'm really ok most of the time. I know that I haven't gotten enough exercise when I start complaining about the way I look because I feel pretty much ok when I'm healthy and active. When I'm not healthy and active I start to feel bad, and then I complain about how I look. And it's easy to go there because I grew up being told I was fat. It's really hard to let go of that. And now I'm watching my daughter go through it.

You know how they say that we all need 10 positive comments for every negative? One negative comment about appearance is SUCH a set-back for women. It takes so much reassurance to believe the people who say we're beautiful. It seems only natural to assume that the people who say the less pleasant things are the ones who are telling the real truth. In the area of beauty, though, it's more often that the people with the negative commentary have been brainwashed by our culture and are trying to feel better about themselves (by putting other people down or getting others to join them in their mostly unhealthy dieting plans).

Why is it that diet plans are so often completely unhealthy anyway?

What is it that I'm getting at? I'm trying to brainstorm how to protect my children from this mindset. If we work on this one household at a time, maybe we can save the world, eh?

And I want to put it out there that I'm on a quest for health. I've been dragging a little lately because moving to the new place has meant that I've gotten less exercise. Less exercise makes me want to exercise even less. Then I feel blah and depressed. Then Vespera gets depressed because I'm depressed and Mango gets worried and Mane gets crabby. AND, winter is coming, which means that we cannot afford to get all depressed now. We have a hard enough time getting through winter without all that.

I'm on a quest for health so that we can all make through the winter alive and joyful, healthy and strong, and feeling beautiful! This is going to involve some mental work as well as some physical work and a great deal of creativity. I'm ready to tackle it, though. Starting now. With me and my little family.

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. For now I'm going to leave Laura's comment up because it's a blatant and disgusting example of this problem in our culture. I may choose to delete it at some point in the future because it is unsolicited advertising...and it makes me angry. (Hey, at least I'm honest about it.)

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  3. Winter in MN=insanity!!! I look back on MN winters so fondly but really, there were days when I felt like a caged animal, not to mention the fact that the days are roughly 10 minutes long.

    You guys will get your groove back, and I can't imagine how Mango lives with 3 stunningly gorgeous women and keeps himself from locking y'all away and guarding your door with a gun. Love you guys!!!

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  4. I'm so confused about Laura's comment? Did she read the post? Or does she do searches for posts on weight, skips reading them and then advertises... I don't get it.

    LOVE this post, Amy. Yes, I'm naturally "thin" Runs in the fam. But I absolutely hate the focus on weight. I agree with what you said completely.

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  5. Hi dear friend
    I love your honest post. I have had to deal with this issue not only in my own life but constantly in the youth ministry world. from my experience this is a never ending problem. even the most secure girls will have moments of feeling the pressure to be the unrealistic image of what they see in movies or in magazines. The only thing I see that works is the continued return to God. I had one friend who in college had a day that she felt so ugly that she asked God if she could see herself through his eyes. All day long she received compliments on physical beauty. God understood that she was trying to fight the lie but today did not have the strength to, so He fought it for her. She still will have her moments of feeling ugly but she knows how God sees her.
    I went through a book with a group of teen girls called "Do You Think I'm Beautiful?" There is an adult version of this book which I have only done about 2 lessons so I can not give a good opinion on it (my sis-in-law loved it). The teen version is a bit corn ball and really for the tween age but it can create some good discussions with a little help from the leader. It does have some great scripture.
    Over all dear friend you are doing a great job of creating self worth in your girls! just keep doing what you are doing.

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