At Fem 11 on Saturday, I went to a talk about Ditching Dieting: Making peace with our bodies and how to eat happily ever after. As I walked in they were showing this video which summed up part of what they are campaigning against.
Naturally Critical from Stephanie Heart on Vimeo.
This video speaks very strongly from the start: Young women are self conscious about their appearance from a young age. How sad is it that young girls, that haven't fully grown into their body are self aware of what they hate about their appearence. What is it that makes them so self aware. During the open session at the Endangered Bodies talk, a science teacher spoke up and told the room that a pupil of 14 was already saving up for a boob job. FOURTEEN! She hasn't even fully developed as a women and already wants to change her body through expensive and painful surgery. Is this really how we are bringing up the next generation?
The speakers leading the talk spoke about how dieting companies feed off peoples body anxieties which is enforced by the media. I personally think that the majority of female magazines are guilty of making women feel uncomfortable with their bodies. In many magazines, there are articles scrutinizing the weight loss and gain of celebrities and more often articles about celebrities and their post-pregnancy weight, glorifying those who crash diet/exercise to regain their small figures. Weekly magazines constantly criticize celebrities bodies, when they should really be praising them for their figures no matter what. Woman are peer pressured to look a certain way, reinforced by pages of fashion on slim models.
What isn't praised enough, are those who embrace women for their natural size. I highly praise Mark Fast, who used plus size models for his Fall 2009 show. He used models size 12 and 14 to showcase his knitwear collection alongside smaller sizes which casued a lot of criticism from people, including his own stylist walking out.[Guardian article]
Standard Slim Model in Mark Fasts catwalk.
'Plus Size' with wonderful curves, and amazing legs!
'Plus Size' showing off her curves in Fasts knitwear.
I discovered a Plus-Size fashion walk by Myer in Sydney in August 2011 showing off the most beautiful women, who are all between size 16-24 and look stunning and comfortable with their bodies.[Mail article]
This catwalk certainly shows that more people in the fashion industry are embracing the idea of change, however slow it might be to change. Realistically, they need to realize that having small models puts pressure on these women to look and feel skinny, leading to eating disorders. By embracing women of natural sizes, they encourage women to be themselves and enjoy their body image. It also shows that you don't need to be size 8 to be beautiful and fit into nice clothes that suit your body.
Happy plus size Model, whose figure is divine and feminine!And don't these women look much happier than standard catwalk models? You never see them smile!
According to Lizzie Miller, who was considered a plus-size model at American size 12-14 that 'In the industry anything over size six is considered a plus-size'. Lizzie bared all for Glamour magazine in 2009 showing that you can be confident with your body, even with a roll of stomach fat.[Guardian article].
In October 2010, figures were released by Office for the National Statistics[ONS] which stated that:
' The average man in England was 5ft 9in (175.3cm) tall and weighed 13.16 stone (83.6kg).
The average woman in England weighed 11 stone (70.2kg) and was 5ft 3in tall (161.6cm). '
If magazines were to actually use statistics such as these to reassure women that it doesn't matter how they look, they are regular women and need to embrace their body. Peer pressure from magazines can lead to crash dieting which can become obsessive.
Back to where I started- Fem11. After the introduction to the session, a microphone was handed around the women, to the women and men who had come to attend the talk. We were asked to respond to a few questions that were put up about dieting:
What does a diet mean to you?
What did you think would happen when you started dieting?
Can you remember a carefree time of eating?
Do you think you will feel at peace with your body?
For the next hour, the room was full of stories about families obsessed with diets, food as fuel and even encouraging spirit from a 16year old.
The story that touched me most, was of a girl in her early 20's who said she wished she has put more effort into her university degree rather than being next to the toilet with her fingers down her throat. She wished she has spent the hours worrying about her body onto something more productive as she now accepts her body for it is.
An eyeopening account from a woman who came to live in the UK not long ago from Ghana [if I remember correctly] who claimed that she never felt so self-conscious about her body until now, where the media is so critical of celebrities and shelves are packed with junk food, which is so accessible everywhere.
There were a lot of stories from ladies in their 30's and 40's who look back and realized they have wasted years and money on obsessing on their body, and even now cannot feel at peace. It was so sad to hear people could not accept themselves as they were, which can be understandable through body change after giving birth.
What I think really helped the room, was the young girl at the front, who had come to Fem11 with her mum and told the group [how I best remember it]
'I tell my friends that they are beautiful, because they are. I tell them I don’t judge them on their weight. I judge them by how nice a person they are'
We should tell our friends more often how beautiful they are, as a point was made early on that we only ever tell people how great they look after loosing weight, encouraging a culture where you are only considered beautiful when slimmer.
We should really encourage people to not waste more time, effort and money to companies who take money from women who are self-conscious because of the society we live in.
Lets encourage everyone to embrace our bodies as we are, as to eat healthily is to live healthily.
I'm off to make a chocolate cake.
Ditching Dieting - Campaign
Blog - Another review on the Endangered Body workshop.
Guardian - Mark Fasts use of Size 14 Models
Too Fat To Be A Model - Lizzie Miller interview
BBC - Mr & Mrs Average statistics