Depictions of natural body image trump idealized form

Do you ever flip through fashion magazines, see images of beautiful thin women, compare them to your own body and wish to yourself you could look more like models? If you answered “yes” to this, then you are not alone. College women ages 18-25 are noted to have more body image issues than any other population. The manifestations of these issues range from anorexia to overeating.

While recognition of women’s rights has greatly improved over the last forty years, advertisements and media depictions of women have become much more objectifying, demeaning and dehumanizing. Real women are not shown in the media. You never see honest portrayals of curvy, beautiful and imperfect women. No, to the contrary, only extreme ideals of what a “real” woman should look like are shown and they are unreal, unhealthy and way too thin.

I spent my Super Bowl Sunday doing nude meditation with a Tacoma community group called Women Body Beautiful. When I first got to the meditation studio I was anxious and a little self-conscious. After forming a meditation circle, we discussed the 20-minute nude body sculpture we were about to create and began to undress as far as we desired without exceeding our individual comfort levels. Holding pose, surrounded by 15 other beautiful women, I felt pure, relaxed. I felt beautiful, open and loved. I realized that in our society nudity is perceived as bad, and in turn, it makes us feel insecure about our own bodies. Our culture is failing to see the beauty in all women, ignoring each individual’s unique form and rejecting natural physical diversity.

There needs to be a conscious effort in the media to show women and men that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, that skinny does not always mean healthy and that big can be beautiful too. Luckily, there are people who strongly advocate a shift in how we perceive beauty, and push for a more accepting attitude.

“BodyAsHome” blogger Olivia Green strives to relay these messages to the Tumblr community as she explains how in western society, “we are programed to want to be smaller as women, and in turn this makes us attempt to take up less space. So we literally have less power because we are smaller. Why are we trying to get smaller? I almost feel like we should get bigger and just be more in your face.”

I share these sentiments with Green, and as a tall, strong woman, I have always felt big. Society told me big was bad. Like many other women, I became obsessed with numbers, comparing my weight with my friends, calculating my BMI, wanting these digits to make me feel beautiful.

But what is not told to us in health class or Cosmo is that people can be healthy at many different weights, and there really is not one solidified way to calculate your body’s health. Women and men need to stop obsessing over numbers. Healthy means eating and exercising regularly, indulging on the good things in life and finding happiness from within.

I urge you to stop counting calories and comparing your unique, beautiful bodies with photoshoped, airbrushed and clearly starving models. Put down the fashion magazines, step off the treadmill, pause your Master cleanse and try to explore what real beauty is. Take a look in the mirror.

We must learn to love and accept ourselves before we can achieve any genuine serenity and come to appreciate the female figure in its many different iterations.