Self magazine published an article, “The surprising key to feeling body love,” that discussed the implications of friends and family on women’s perceptions of their own bodies. The article said that the negative comments made by one’s family are often not meant to be hurtful, but nonetheless have the ability to alter an individual’s perception of their body for years or even a lifetime (Graves, 2012). Furthermore, peers’ emphasis on body image leads to self-consciousness. While I don’t doubt their assertions, I ultimately felt that what the magazine article said contradicted the magazine as a whole.
The article reported that Rachel Salk discovered that 93% of women participated in “fat-talk.” Salk believes that this weight centered self-conscious talk leads to “long-term body anxiety.” I can completely relate to that. For a long time, I primarily hung out with people who did not generally participate in negative talk regarding their bodies. Then, in treatment, I came across a lot of friends who constantly spoke deleteriously about their bodies. The ones who are truly fighting back against their eating disorders may discuss how they feel in respect to their figures, but it is rarely triggering. For me, when the ones who workout relentlessly or those whom I mysteriously rarely see eat (our schedules must not match up well, right?) and who are considerably smaller than me talk sh*t about their body, I feel self-conscious. If they are so in shape and skinny and are calling themselves fat, then what do they think of my body? I know I am not over-weight, but am I fat? Do my thighs jiggle when I walk? I can usually snap myself out of the thinking once I realize it, but the fact that my mind goes there so quickly upsets me.
When my friend who is actively working on eating and exercising in moderation after a long-term eating disorder tells me how she feels fat, it is different. I do not comment on her body, but I listen and encourage her to keep up her regimen. I do not always know what to say and certainly must say the wrong things sometimes, but regardless when she tells me how she feels, I know she just needs to talk. I see her working through her difficulties and that is what matters to me. It is not to say that my friends who behave and talk this way all have eating disorders (although many of them do), but it is to say that when people say they feel fat or when I know that they are sick, not just skinny, I am able to keep in mind that my body is fine and that I am grateful that I have never struggled with an eating disorder or considerable body dysmorphia.
I appreciated the Self article about body image, yet, at the same time, I felt that the magazine was largely fixated on weight loss. On the inside back cover, they had an advertisement for weight loss pills, and, on the cover they had a “Diet Trick” and “Shed Pounds (7 Sneaky Metabolism Boosters)”. I think that the magazine article is largely overlooking the impact of media on body image. Seeing pretty faces on stick thin bodies with hard abs and muscled limbs everywhere emphasizes that skinny is attractive and normal, while fat is unattractive and different. It is not just peers and family, because all of those family members and friends fit into a meta-context of today’s society.