I have met the enemy, and she is us.
As 2011 comes to a close, many people are already preparing to conquer their New Year’s resolutions. Without a doubt, the most common resolution that women make is to lose weight. But sadly, some of these ladies have turned Pinterest–the online inspiration board for food, fashion and assorted girly pleasures–into a pro-ana house or horrors.
Every time I log on to the site, I am accosted by images of stick thin models and surgically enhanced celebrities. I am subjected to phrases like “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” and not so subtly told that I’ll never have romantic moments if my thighs aren’t built for Daisy Dukes. And frankly, the level of body loathing makes me weary.
When I was in my teens and early-20s, much of my life revolved around what I ate and what I weighed. During my freshman year of college, things took an ugly turn, when I started going for days without eating solid food–convinced that I wasn’t thin enough until you could see my sternum peeking out from under my skin.
For a decade, I abused myself. I cut pictures (like the ones above) out of magazines and pasted them on my fridge door and on my full-length mirror. My sense of self-worth was indivisible from my status as a size 0/2. And when I think back on all of the time that I wasted worried about my weight, I feel sorry for younger Belle.
Who knew that a decade later, I’d be 20lbs heavier and love my body more than I did when I had six-pack abs and thighs that didn’t touch?
The most important thing that I’ve learned since my thinner, sadder days is this: 90% of how you feel about your body is under your control.* You put the pressure on yourself to be thin. You berate yourself when you miss a workout or gain weight. And changing the way that you think about your body can change the way you approach your whole life.
In my opinion, if you want to start changing the way you feel about your body, you need to ignore the bulls**t images you see of women who a) are thin for a living (models, celebs, etc.), b) have plastic surgeons to enhance their “perfection,”and/or c) are photoshopped to within an inch of their lives.
Don’t project your issues onto a photo in a magazine. Don’t think that you can find the key to happiness by taping photos of skinny women to your fridge. Because once you decide that the path to contentment lies outside of you, you’ve already lost. But this is not to say that you should never go on a diet or go to the gym.
What I am advocating is this: Let’s separate how we feel about how we look (to ourselves and to others) from the topic of whether we are fit and healthy. Because once you take the number on the scale and the unrealistic expectations promulgated by images in beauty magazines out of the equation, whatever diet and exercise plan you choose will ultimately be more successful.
Ladies, we are too hard on ourselves when it comes to our weight and how we feel about our bodies, and that negativity can impact every facet of our lives from career to relationships. So if you’ve resolved to lose weight or go to the gym this New Year, I implore you: resolve to think positively about your body too.
Don’t set the bar so high that you’ll never reach it. Don’t despair if you gain a little weight or miss a workout or eat a piece of cheesecake. Think of your goal, not as a number on a scale or as a jeans size, but as setting up a lifetime of health and fitness.
And whatever you do, don’t hang a photo of Karlie Kloss’s 19-year-old, photoshopped pelvis on your Pinterest and say, “This is my dream body. No more brownies for me.” Because God didn’t make that body, a half-blind photo editor did.
This afternoon I’ll share some fitness and diet tips that I actually find empowering rather than demoralizing. Because working out and eating right is a good thing, especially when you live the hectic, sedentary, junk-food filled life of a Hill Staffer.
*If someone in your life tells you that you’re not good enough because, in their view, you’re not thin enough, tell them to back the eff off. And if they still treat you that way, get away from them. Life is too precious to spend it with toxic people who treat you like crap because of something as trivial as weight. See: Belle’s former boyfriend who used to pinch the fat above her hips and call her pudgy, even when there was no fat to pinch.