Leslie B

“You look great! Have you lost weight?”

By: Leslie Barrett

“Oh my gosh. Look at you, Skinny Girl!”

“Thanks. Um, I mean, I haven’t really been to the gym in a month.”

“Well, maybe you shouldn’t go,” my loved one laughed.

I stayed silent because the situation wasn’t right for a verbal challenge. But as I forced a smile and looked around the small party, my thoughts grew angry. Are you kidding me? I shouldn’t go to the gym because I look “skinny”? I’m sorry, but I would rather be strong than look “skinny.” The fact that I haven’t gone to the gym upsets me because I have lost muscle. I have lost strength. I couldn’t care less if I’m “skinny.” I want to be strong enough to lift my 50 pound suitcase with ease and strong enough to run up the stairs without losing my breath. I would rather be strong and muscular and athletic than “skinny” any day. If you think that looking frail and “skinny” will lead to a long and healthy life, you’re wrong. And if you are not after a long and healthy life then you may want to re-evaluate your priorities.

All right, so maybe in that moment I didn’t think those thoughts verbatim, but the comment ignited passionate anger leading to a strong reaction along those lines. I decided it was time to spread the word.

Over the past few days I have been to numerous parties where friends and family are reuniting for the holidays. I have noticed that more often than not, people comment on each others’ appearances.

“You look great! Have you lost weight?”

“She lost some weight too. Good for you guys!”

“Oh my god, did you see her? She’s gained so much.”

Frankly, I’m sick of it. Neither my weight, nor my sister’s nor my friend’s nor my mother’s nor my brother’s, should be of importance to anyone else. “Complimenting” each other upon reuniting has become so acceptable that, unfortunately, many of us dread coming home expect the comments each time we come home.

“Complimenting” belongs in quotes because these comments are not purely positive; they can even endanger people. One of the dangers of making such statements is that we don’t know how our loved ones lost weight. If they did not do it in a healthy way, we are doing nothing but reinforcing negative behaviors, which could be detrimental to their health. In addition, what people convey when they say these “nice” things is a message that you are now good enough. Before you lost this weight, you did not look great. You were not as good. We didn’t value you as much. And now, we would like to welcome you into the club! You have joined the other side where people look great!

These comments create associations between outward appearance and self-worth. When you look “great” you are better, and when you no longer look “great” you are no longer as worthy. Family and friends have good intentions and think they are doing their loved ones a service by saying “nice” things to them, but they are unaware of the effect their comments have. They have no idea they are teaching their children to value appearance above all; they have no idea that they are instilling fear of weight gain with each word; they have no idea the long-term damage they are doing.

So, this holiday season I would like to invite you to take a pledge with BARE. We have pledged not to comment on the appearances of our friends and family. We have pledged to instead ask questions about their accomplishments, comment on character, and compliment in ways that will positively affect them in the long run. We have pledged to stand against fat talk whenever we can. I am a Beauty Advocate with Realistic Expectations and I intend to spread the message.

If you notice that someone else looks “great” you are welcome to tell them, but find a way to focus the comment on their health or happiness. Comment on how they are holding their shoulders back more or how they are radiating confidence. Comment on their beautiful smile or their sense of peace. And, if you were not aware of this back-handed “compliment” trend before reading this post, I would like you to pay attention next time you go to a party or reunite with someone. I would like you to listen to the amount of times people comment about bodies. If you are someone who is on the receiving end, I want you to remember that you are more than your appearance. You are more than the weight you lost or gained. Your inner beauty will always shine through if you let it. Do yourself a favor and try not to take people’s words to heart; you will be much happier.

Even if you choose not to take our pledge for whatever reason, please just become more aware of the issue. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking out, at the very least, don’t participate. You will be doing absolutely no one a service by commenting on someone else’s body.

BARE wishes you all a happy and healthy holiday season. Find your inner beauty and celebrate yourself.

Leslie G

Combating the Marketed Image of “Real Beauty”

Usually I don’t get super fired up by my Consumer Behavior class, but the last class was surprisingly different. Everyday is pretty routine. We talk about what pages we need to know in the text, what we can skip, blah blah. As I was zoning out and updating my LinkedIn profile, my ears perked up a little when my professor announced we would be talking about self-esteem  in regards to consumer purchase decisions and habits. Just as I was about to revert back to my social media happenings, I stopped when I heard him continue with:  “Did you know that 72% of men and 85% of women say they’re dissatisfied with their body?”

Shut up, that’s insane. More than half of us don’t like what we see every single day in the mirror. Alright, touche Professor Roberston you’ve got my attention. 

He then proceeded, ever-so clinically, ” The primary cause of body dissatisfaction is advertising.” Boom. He said it. It was like a criminal admitting to a crime. I am by no means insinuating that my professor criminal, it was just eye-opeining to hear an expert in the field admit to the shortcomings of his profession.

Studies have shown that women’s (and men’s) self-esteem dramatically drops, after seeing advertisments where the model’s body is the main focus. The problem is we’re all looking and aspiring towards airbrushed, slimed down images that are completely unrealistic.

The average female in the United States is 5’6 and 160 lbs. Fashion models vary by company, but specs usually float around 5 ft. 10 in. and 100-110 lbs. The ideal size in the fashion world seems to be the coveted zero, or better yet the double zero!!! Women rarely see anything other than tiny and tall; and when  do it’s a big ol’ controversy about how some “plus” sized model made it big. I think this is just crap. I’m a size six. So, if I’m a plus sized model hell yeah, that must mean I’m extra awesome.

Embracing what we’ve got and ignoring the hyper-skinny illusions we see is obviously easier said than done. I can admit that there are times when my own self esteem has been hurt by an advertisement or even worse I’ve secretly searched “How to get a flat stomach” into Google. Sigh….Shame on me. However, I’m lucky enough to have education and the surrounding BARE network encouraging me to ignore what I’m seeing. My main issue is that a lot of women, especially younger women, do not have these resources to teach them about the fallacy of ideal beauty.

Think about the most popular doll in the world, our girl Barbie. She’s destroyed everything that is realistic about beauty. No, I’m not referring the irony that is her plastic frame, but her measurements, her shape, and her stature. If Barbie was real she’d be a 38′ chest, 18′ waist,  and 34′ hips. That’s what a majority of young girls are playing with on a daily basis. Interestingly enough young boys are also exposed to this hyperbolized ideal body. If a Batman action figure was a real human being, he’d have a 57′ chest, 30′ waist, and 27′ biceps. Are you kidding me? His biceps are bigger than Barbie’s waist. So much for natural beauty.

The pressure to reach this standard of  unobtainable perfection is undeniably affecting the younger generation of women as:

  • 80% of 10 year old girls say they have been on a diet.
  • Among 5–12th graders, 47% said they wanted to lose weight because of magazine pictures
  • Given three magic wishes, the majority of girls aged 11-17 would include one wish about losing weight.

Even more upsetting is the research that  Elementary school aged girls said they would rather be handicap than be obese. Pair this statistic with the 57% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat.  Around 10 million females in America have suffered from anorexia or bulimia and chances are you know someone who has. American women have a legitimate fear of being fat that has turned into an unhealthy obsession with being skinny. So how do we help the younger generations move past  this societal norm that advertising has set before us? The question was a burning and my hand popped up on auto-pilot.

 How do you propose we make this better? 

My professor responded so quickly it was as if he was expecting the question–education. Teaching girls about positive body image is the first step, because the thin-ideal is a cultural value that requires work to change. Seeing more realistic bodies in the mediascape, may be a long shot, but individuals have the power to affect our country’s limited perceptions of beauty. We can all be educators or, even less burdensome, we can all be advocates of real beauty. We can skip the fat-talk, complement one another, and love every inch of ourselves.

I’m apart of BARE because I want to be an advocate of real beauty. I want to challenge these unrealistic expectations we see everyday and teach people that beauty isn’t just about your body it’s about your heart, your actions, and your legacy.

Phew feeing good.

All of the statistics  above are directly quoted from a lecture on November 5, 2013 in Consumer Behavior. Kim Robertson is a distinguished Associate Professor of Business Administration at Trinity University in San Antonio. His bio can be accessed through the Trinity University website.