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Should We Teach Young Women Acceptance, Beauty Or Health? [OPINION]

All photos courtesy of Reese Kutzler/Townsquare Media

Everyone has felt it at some point–the tinge of self doubt; the feeling of unworthiness; the low, dark feeling where not only does the view of your appearance drop, but so does your ability to function.

Sometimes we just don’t feel beautiful.

And at 5’3″, a size 14, 40 lb. heavier than what I should have been, I didn’t feel beautiful. While no doctors told me to lose weight, I knew I wasn’t healthy. I didn’t feel it.

But to feel beautiful, I need to feel healthy. So I joined Weight Watchers and lost 40 lb.

In some way I think it’s true for everyone: beauty equates healthy.
Think of when you last went to the gym. When you left, drenched in sweat, did you feel awful? Or awesome? When you pack lunches, bring fruit, and make one good foodie decision after another–do you regret that choice or feel proud? If you were to lose a couple needed pounds, would you berate yourself or applaud yourself?

In some ways, I love seeing the “Show 5 photos on FB that you felt really beautiful in” hit my Facebook feed. These women are showing you them at their best. And many of them? Are selfies. I am not a believer that all selfies are inherently bad. Sometimes you just want a darn photo and no one is around to take one (plus, technology has made it so we can interact with people through these).

And then I read things like this teen who photographed herself and threw it on Instagram. That folks lashed out at her because she wasn’t the exact view of beauty due to a heavier set frame. And I cringe a bit.

I’m not cringing because she’s taking selfies or saying she feels beautiful.
It’s because she’s trying to tell people “I’m a big girl,” and “Fat is not a bad word. How confident can you be if you keep censoring yourself because people don’t want to look at you?”

Think about the slogan, “Real Women Have Curves.” Am I not a real woman because I’m less curvy? Am I any less for wanting to go from curvy at a size 14, to slim at a size 4?

So my mind turns to health. We’re applauding folks for loving themselves as is. But are we also then applauding for not getting healthier? And not loving themselves enough to drop some weight?

Sure, the gal from Instagram could have any number of health issues that have added a bit of weight to her frame. She could also have good numbers on the doc charts. And she’s very obviously putting these photos out there because she already feels beautiful.

But what are we teaching our kids with the 5 photos? Real Women Have Curves? Or with things like instagram? Are we telling them, “Hey Little Mary, Don’t worry about the weight. Just be happy.” Shouldn’t they worry about the weight? Wouldn’t that be the prime time to talk to them about eating better? Exercising? Being healthy for healthy’s sake? And overall health benefits?

Just being healthy alone can produce the same results.
And they come with (sometimes) better benefits: being more active, increasing life span, increasing heart health, blood circulation, reducing chance for diabetes, high blood pressure and allllll the other health concerns associated with excess weight gain.

Plus this could be a good time to get back to more active lifestyles, smaller portion sizes. Maybe we SHOULD worry about how we look.

I’m torn. I want to be happy that folks are loving themselves regardless of shape, size or health. But I’m also saddened that they are using this love as an excuse to not make themselves an even better, healthier version.

And then again, I feel like a total and complete ass for insinuating that because she’s carrying weight, she isn’t healthy.

What are your thoughts?



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