Whenever I find myself around a group of girls I am always astounded at how quickly deep, intellectual conversations can be so quickly derailed by the ‘Oh I need to lose x amount of kilos fast’ bit. I’ve watched as we collectively find it difficult to accept a compliment without shifting into the ‘but I have so far to go’ mode. About how we downgrade our accomplishments in our careers or studies because we feel that our appearance isn’t up to scratch. Or that we don’t weigh up (or down in this instance) to the purported standards of desirability that are supposed to fuel our ambitions in life.
The thinking behind why we as women feel the need to justify a large or over indulgent meal with a commitment to ‘shred’ or ‘cleanse’ is mystifying. Even within myself I struggle with this, because it’s my own very first go to thought after a big meal too. But I mean let’s actually call it for what it is, it’s not about fasting or cleansing or anything other bullshit such term, in actuality what we are saying is ‘dang I ate too much and now as punishment I must starve myself’.
I read an article recently which was entitled ‘Getting thin: Why is it the ultimate female ambition’. The title itself shook me to my core as it touched on something that had long infuriated me. But the more I read on the sadder it made me feel. The author, while writing with conviction demonstrated a perplexed tone in which she stated: “Nothing I have achieved in my life has been as publicly celebrated as this inadvertent weight loss”. The fact that she was a distinguished Oxford scholar or thriving in her career was not enough or measured up to the apparent ultimate benchmark of success for a woman of being thin.
I think of my own situation in which the enforced starvation I was inflicting on myself was leading to dangerous levels of malnourishment. I was purposely not consuming water during the day because I felt that it made me appear bloated and was reflecting unnecessary ‘water weight’ on the scales. I remember placing the entire emphasis of how I felt about myself on the number on the scale, of how I looked and needed validation that people inevitably gave me when they told me how fantastically skinny I had gotten.
Now I know that the weight loss bit is genderless. Of course men strive towards leanness and muscle tone and that ‘enviable’ six pack. But the cult of skinniness that affects women’s self-imagery is something outside of staying fit. I myself am guilty of taking appetite suppression pills, so I am by no means attempting to point the finger squarely outside of myself. But what we as women need to be conscious of is that we are not fuelling someone else’s illness by telling them how incredible they look when in actuality their gauntness resembles something else entirely.
We need to stop only complimenting each other on weight loss or remarking about physical appearance alone. We need to be mindful that the consistent chatter about how to lose 5kgs, or speaking of that time before when we were ‘fat’ might have detrimental consequences on others. We must remember any number reflected on a scale will never be enough if it isn’t attached to love and worth within our inner selves.
We as women are powerful and capable and strong. We are courageous, determined and motivated to achieve great things. But our ambition for ourselves, our girlfriends and our sisters must sit outside of the attainment of skinniness. We must love each other and cajole each other to put our motivations, our intent into bettering ourselves, into succeeding in this world as badass boss fucking women. Instead of spurring each other on in a never ending pursuit for an unobtainable thinness that is diminishing our collective potential.
p.s. That article I was referring to is by Hannah Betts and can be found here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10607040/Getting-thin-why-is-it-the-ultimate-female-ambition.html