The beauty industry and diet culture has perpetuated unattainable and unrealistic standards for women that makes us all spend an unhealthy amount of time and a large amount of money on goals we might never reach, leaving us with toxic insecurities and a perpetual feeling of “less than” because we don’t have the perfect body or smooth skin or silky hair.
I am not doubting the existence of women who have always had healthy body images and ideas of beauty of self, but I am not one of them and I am constantly in conversations with other women who are also not them so I feel like it’s safe to say the majority of us suffer under variations of similar insecurities. I have spent the better part of four years working to change the programming in my head around beauty so that I don’t spend as much time obsessing over calories or weight in order to meet some sort of goal defined by industries that make money of my self-hatred. I have made real progress and done some concrete reprogramming.
The other night Donnie and I were watching some show on TV and he was lamenting that every woman on the screen was beautiful in a different way. Now, Donnie has also had to spend the last four years changing his programming as I work on mine and that usually happens because I nag him about his own brainwashing about beauty and sometimes he finds it all annoying but he understands the importance of it all so he usually tries to grow with me. I understood what he was saying but I responded simply by saying, “All women are beautiful in unique and different ways.”
(I know a lot of people don’t like the word “beauty” but I wrote about how I have redefined it here.)
He paused for a minute and said emphatically. “Yes. Yes, you are right.”
We are both learning over here, people.
I mention all of this to let you know where I’m at personally on this journey.
I had to stop following a lot of people on social media over the last few years that were not good for my efforts to reprogram my brain around my body and my beauty. Many fell under the “fitspiration” category of influencers, but some were just not-super-close/casual friends who talked too much about trying to lose weight. This was the suggestion of my therapist at the time because she pointed out it just was too easy for me to find myself obsessing again over calories and numbers on the scale if I was constantly seeing weekly updates on weight loss on Facebook.
Recently, I’ve realized I’ve reached a new level in my efforts and that is the “FUCK NUANCE” level.
I love nuance around politics and policy. There are a lot of topics that we don’t give enough nuance because we want solutions to fit in soundbites.
But my personal programming was SO SHITTY and I am raising a teenage daughter (hence my hardcore change 4 years ago when she was 10 and she first commented negatively about her appearance) so I am very desperate to counterbalance the shitty messaging around every corner around beauty. SO! I’ve completely put a moratorium on conversations about weight in my house. I’ve also completely unfollowed and – on some platforms, muted – anyone who talks too much about weight.
Health? Well-being? Intuitive Eating? That stuff is great.
My personal “fuck nuance” stance in order to push even harder against programming around me is: If you can’t figure out a way to say what you want to say by centering it around health and well-being instead of weight/appearance? Then you shouldn’t be saying it. Period. I’ve just reached the conclusion that resisting the terrible programming is too difficult and I can’t allow for nuance anymore and keep loving myself in the mirror.
I also don’t ever comment on anyone else’s weight and I try to be careful even with compliments on anything related to appearance.
We are all messed up (to some degree) in our heads around health and it’s relationship to weight. There has been a lot of new research showing that patients who are overweight receive poorer healthcare because the medical industry thinks the solution to everything is to “lose weight” and so it takes longer to do diagnose and often patients are made to feel too ashamed to pursue medical treatment. In my personal opinion? We all need to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction in order to see real changes in the beauty and diet industries. As long as those industries make money off us hating our skin and our bodies and our hair? They’re going to keep trying to make us hate ourselves. So I’ve personally thrown nuance out the window.
“Why so harsh, Kim? Why can’t you allow for nuance? There are some good conversations still allowed to happen about weight and health.”
Because I got a glimpse in the mirror in my daughter’s room when I was helping her with her math and my initial reaction was still revulsion. After spending the last several years with therapy and self-help books about intuitive eating and finding inner-beauty and I still fucking look at this amazing woman in the mirror and get mad because I can see her fat rolls and wrinkles.
I’m still being brainwashed by the media at every turn and people all over social media commenting on a celebrity’s weight loss reminded me that the shitty programming is also being signal-boosted by everyday people who have also been brainwashed by the same industries that got me. So, simply avoiding the messaging in the diet and beauty industries is not enough. I have to avoid all conversations around weight loss from now until forever if I really want to shut down these shitty thoughts in my head.
This is a picture my daughter took and she LOVED it and my first thought was “uggggg…” and I won’t tell you all of the things I hated. I had to shut that shit down and instead really focus on thinking about this woman as beautiful. Who cares about her wrinkly neck and her saggy boobs and her belly. And I got angry at the shitty programming that keeps popping up in my head no matter how hard I try to undo it.
Angry as fuck, if we’re being honest. That’s why I can’t allow for nuance in my personal exposure anymore. Four years into this journey and I’m still being triggered by even casual comments about weight gain from friends and family over quarantine. Jokes about the shame of being “fatter” when this is all over make me question if my weight gain from the last few years is something to be ashamed about.
Maybe you are in a better place and can see advertising about weight loss and wrinkle cream and hear your friends talk about wanting to lose that quarantine weight and not hate yourself. But for me? I’m just not there. It’s kinda like how there are a few alcoholics who can go through recovery/treatment programs and actually someday settle into a “just one, please” relationship with alcohol. But most of them? Have to give it all up forever.
Right now? I’m still in recovery for bodyshaming so I can’t allow anything even close to triggering around me. Alcoholics get rid of even their mouthwash in the beginning. So I’m silencing it all. Any conversations around the weight loss/gain of any celebrity? Muted. Any friends and family dedicating their social media to weight loss? Unfollowed. At least at this phase in my recovery.
Now, people trying to train for marathons or increase their deadlift weight or doing daily yoga or workouts? That’s completely different. Those are conversations around fitness. People trying to lower their cholesterol or blood pressure? No problem. That’s a conversation about health. People trying to shake an addiction to sugar? That’s supporting well-being. Anyone who can talk about their goals without mentioning the scale or their appearance? I have no problem with. That stuff is actually really good for me because it helps me learn how to have similar conversations and throw weight/appearance out the window.
But the second someone starts comparing one version of themselves as more beautiful than another version? I’m out. Or if numbers on a scale are involved? I’m out. Talk about fitting into old jeans? Wanting to look good for an event? Out. Out. Yes. I know a lot of these conversations are also about health and well-being and someday maybe I’ll be able to participate. But for now? I can’t allow for nuance.
I’m too early in my recovery to have even just one sip.