Someone in one of the vegan groups I follow on Facebook posted a video, a while back, that really got me thinking about body image in our culture. I know I've talked about this before ( a few times, I think) but, hopefully, this is a slightly different perspective on it. I shared the video at the bottom of the page; you should definitely check it out, if you have a chance.
The basic idea of the video was that there are all of these video bloggers who are promoting unhealthy ideas about body image, and telling girls how to lose weight in unhealthy ways. They condone everything from extreme calorie restriction to diet pills, and pretend that these things are totally acceptable. The video also points out that many of the followers of these blogs are very young and these women are helping them to develop destructive habits very early in life that are likely to cause serious health problems later on.
I have heard this argument many times before, that our culture puts too much pressure on women, and especially young girls, to be skinny and that it creates a whole society of women who hate their bodies. This video had a slightly different take on it though. Instead of just telling us to love our bodies as they are, he recommends a different set of bloggers who offered advice on healthy ways to take care of your body. These people tell us to eat better food, not less food, and advise their followers to keep their bodies healthy, not skinny.
I think this is something that needs to be discussed more often. It seems like our culture has two setting, when it comes to body image. There is the group that tells you that you need to be skinny, and there is the side that tells you to "love your body". Well, I agree wholeheartedly that we should love our bodies, but I feel like that means something else to me than it does to most people. It seems like a lot of people who claim to "love" their bodies, don't really do a whole lot to take care of them.
To me, claiming to love your body while depriving it of the things it needs, like healthy food and exercise, sounds an awful lot like an abusive relationship. Saying "I love you" while abusing or neglecting the one you claim to love is not really love. If we truly want to love our bodies, we should absolutely stop starving them and hating them for not looking the way we want them to, but we should also do what is necessary to keep them healthy, like giving them proper nutrients and exercise and not filling them up with foods full of chemicals, grease, sugars, cholesterol, and other nasty things.
Another thing to consider when talking about loving your body is the fact that our bodies aren't these separate things that we can observe from a distance. Our bodies are us. Whether you believe there is more to us than our physical bodies or not, I think we can all agree that, at least for the duration of our lifetime, we are inextricably tied to our bodies. So loving your body, also involves loving yourself as a whole. To me, this means being the kind of person who I can love; doing what I know is right.
As far as I'm concerned, giving my body what it needs to be healthy and giving myself what I need to feel good about the person I am (mostly) come down to the same thing, veganism. Animal based foods are bad for our bodies, our minds, and our souls. They contribute to (if not outright cause) a multitude of illnesses, force us to ignore the basic facts about these products to justify continuing to eat them, and cause a sense of guilt and shame that we may not acknowledge but is there just the same.
So, please check out the video and think about your own feelings about your body. You can decide for yourself what it truly means to "love your body" but try to remember how you express love in any other situation. Then ask yourself if the relationship you have with your body is really one of love or of abuse.