Body positivity; an era of self-love

I have measured my self-worth based on how many calories I’ve consumed in a day. I’ve gone days sustained on nothing but water and carrots. I’ve felt real, tangible loathing for myself for simply eating dinner.

I am not alone.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, up to 24 million people in the United States. suffer from some sort of eating disorder. Of any mental illness, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate, due to causes such as heart or organ failure, malnutrition, or suicide.

This is not only a high school or college age issue. The National Eating Disorder Association reports that 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being ‘fat’ and 42 percent of 1st to 3rd grade girls want to be thinner.

We’ve all heard statistics like this, haven’t we? I know I have, although not with frequency, throughout my adolescence. But typically, that’s all they are to us. Statistics. Numbers on a page. Other people with other problems unrelated to us. So this isn’t about statistics, although the facts themselves are horrifying.

This is about a cultural stigma that exists in our society and drives so many people, both men and women, to developing an eating disorder. The society we live in perpetuates this idea of the ‘perfect body’ that someone must have in order to be considered desirable.

Although some think we’ve made strides towards acceptance, with singers like Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor singing ‘positive’ songs about ‘bringing booty back,’ this is far from a move in the right direction. Both of their songs include lyrics shaming women for being too skinny, which only maintains the idea that there is only one type of body that’s the ‘right’ kind.

Why is it socially acceptable to call girls ‘too skinny’? This is equivalent of calling someone ‘too fat’. Telling someone to “eat a cheeseburger” or that “nobody wants a girl that’s all bones” is just as offensive and inappropriate as telling someone that they are too fat to be desired. Ultimately, telling someone what their body should or shouldn’t look like is unacceptable in all cases.

I believe in striving to be the best person you can be. I go to the gym regularly, but I no longer feel unbearably guilty if I miss a day.

I don’t avoid mirrors any more, and I don’t beat myself up over having a piece of candy. I am lucky to be blessed with an amazing group of family and friends to support me, but we need this kind of support to be evident throughout our communities.

Hearing people say things like, “She’s too fat to wear a crop top,” or “Her butt’s too small to wear that,” upsets me greatly. So many men and women alike struggle with body image issues, yet we continue to project these impossible standards set by society and media.

Our worth is not measured by our weight or our appearance. Every single person deserves to feel comfortable, healthy, and happy in their own skin. It’s time to put a stop to labels such as ‘too fat’ or ‘too skinny.’ It’s time for society to realize that each and every person is beautiful as they are. It’s time to lower these horrific statistics on eating disorders.

It’s time for a new era of self-love and body positivity. It’s time for a change.