Monday, January 30, 2012

Unskinny Me

The news that size six models are now considered "plus size" hit two weeks ago.  This picture starting circulating facebook ten seconds later.  As a mom of teen and tween daughters, I know this news is going to affect them.  My girls do not ingest Seventeen magazine yet but they are still influenced by the media and advertising around them broadcasting  "skinny" is the new way to be. Females have been hearing that same mantra for years now, but today's "skinny" isn't what it used to be.

I remember poring over the pages of my first Seventeen magazine at age twelve. The issue was all about bathing suits and making sure your body looked "beach ready".  I had no idea what that meant back then.  I was so young I don't even remember feeling inadequate in comparison to the models on the pages of the magazine.  I was just enthralled.  I felt certain I was going to grow up to be as beautiful as those young women. 

What I don't remember is the moment of realization that my body didn't look like the pages of Seventeen magazine. But oh it happened all right. Worse, I thought my body was too tall, too round, too everything it wasn't supposed to be.  I spent most of my teen years dieting and a teen girl on a diet without supervision is a scary thing. I lived an entire week once on Snackwell cookies, the gross Devil's food flavor with fake marshmallow filling.  Disgusting.  At the time I was 5'7 and weighed 115.  I probably needed to GAIN weight.  But I felt tall, huge and like my body didn't fit.

One of my best friends during middle and high school was 5'3 and weighed 90 pounds soaking wet.  But she wasn't "skinny", she was tough.  She was the only girl in our eighth grade gym class able to do four pull-ups.  She lifted weights, never got sick and loved coming to school every day.  I was envious of her honestly.  And I constantly compared my 5'7 body to her size zero. 

 As a high school junior I finally lost down to a size 4.  I was running regularly at the time, but I still wasn't eating enough to be healthy.  I went shopping and got this really cute pair of shorts. I was so stinkin proud of the "4" on the tag.  I stayed at the best friend's house that night and the next morning 90 pound friend grabbed my shorts, size FOUR, and stuck them in her closet, thinking they were hers.

Instead of taking the mistake as a compliment...I had finally reached my friend's lofty measurements, at least in my hips...I got insanely angry.  I'd starved all the fat off my body and got zero recognition for the feat.  Instead I had my shorts stolen because they couldn't possibly be MY size four shorts...I was a six at least, right?  Yeah, we didn't talk for a few days after that.

See how crazy my thinking had become about what my body was supposed to be???

 I can still feel the laments in my younger teenage heart over my unskinnyness.  Now society is screaming  crazier extremes. Back in my first Seventeen magazine I remember the articles stressed physical activity and wise food choices as the key to a healthy body.  They even used the word healthy to describe the ideal body.  The models were not sticks and they were even a little muscular...think Gabbie Reese.  They had some curves.  They looked...well, real. 

But today's model in a fashion magazine is 23% smaller than the average female reader.  Did you catch that?  I just did the math and for my height and weight that means the model showing off clothing probably weighs FORTY pounds less than me. Plus-size models now range in size from six to fourteen and most retail clothing stores do not sell clothing above size fourteen. I suppose the fashion world considers you a hippopotamus if you're any larger than that.  Most fashion models today are considered anorexic.

What's a mom to do with all this startling information and my own past struggles as I teach my girls about healthy self-image?

For starters, we have banished the word "fat" from our home. I've had lengthy discussions with the girls about eating habits, how the body breaks down protein and carbohydrates and which foods go in each of those categories.  We talk about re-touched photos and the other techniques used to make models look more perfect than humanly possible.  I explained to them my new eating and weight-training plan is not for me to get thin.  I don't want to be skinny, I want to be strong.  Lean and healthy.  I use every example I can on a daily basis to explain to my girls what is healthy and attractive and what is not.

But here is what I tell them most- You are the most beautiful you can be when you are being you. So be YOU.  Figure out who you are and embrace it with your whole, attitude, and size. Stop comparing yourself to other people around you. 

I wish physically attractiveness was rated the same way today as it was back in the 50s and curves were still considered beautiful on all young women.  But just because society is telling my girls underweight is beautiful, I am going to tell them the truth- God created their bodies and they are perfect.  Size 2 or size 12.

I know how seductive advertising can be.  Most of the women I know have been fighting the "unskinny" lie their entire lives.  I have too.  No more.  I am going to be healthy and teach my girls the same.  Healthy is the new gorgeous...the new Marilyn.  Wait and see. 

Next step...we are gonna banish the word skinny from our vocabulary too.  


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