At the office, in the field, and through my presentations as a nutrition and fitness consultant, I have had the privilege of speaking with thousands of women. When I ask them what their goal is, the most frequent response I hear is, “I want to be skinny, I want to lose weight and look good.” I have never heard a single woman say she wishes to be stronger, healthier and more resilient. In answer, I explain that their perceived visions of being skinny are nothing more than Hollywood’s unrealistic portrayal of how women should look in a world not based in reality. With the perfect makeup, studio lighting, calculated camera angles, tailored clothing and computer “touch ups,” we could all look glamorous in the magazine pictures too. But we don’t walk around on sets with hair stylists, makeup artists and wardrobe assistants. Our friends and family don’t look at us through specialized camera lenses and computer software. We move around in harsh sunlight, florescent lighting, wind, rain, and snow. We live in the real world. When we are conditioned to shun that world for the fantasy of Hollywood, we suffer real consequences as a result.
From an early age, we are indoctrinated to believe that skinny is beautiful and beautiful is happy. The more insecure that product advertisements keep women, the more women feel the need to buy these products to look good, gain self esteem and be loved. This is marketing 101 and it is a multibillion-dollar business.
It is a mistake to think that skinny people are loved more. Nothing could be further from the truth. If that was the case, no Hollywood husband would cheat on his skinny and beautiful wife. The Beverly Hills psychiatrist’s offices would be empty, instead of filled with models, celebrities, and female athletes on a daily basis. Even though we may know this on a rational level, the skinny obsession still persists.
Being skinny does not equate to being healthier either. Often, women end up using misguided and extreme means to become skinny. These can be downright deadly. Women continue to die of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia every day. Chronic and exhaustive exercise routines to drop weight are also dangerous. Extreme and aggressive exercise can cause more harm than good, especially if you are already stressed with your kids, work and other real-life issues. Extensive and prolonged exercise can actually cause gland deterioration, cell damage and a flood of free radicals (which promote premature aging). Vital minerals like potassium and magnesium are used up with this type of exercise, leading to poor heart and nerve functioning. Once the damage has been done, there is not enough anti-aging cream on the market to stop the decades of premature wrinkles to come. Keep in mind, we do not have plastic surgery for our insides. Do you really want to look like a 28-year-old and be 70 on the inside?
Starvation diets are equally as dangerous. Limiting quality calories is a huge mistake. Diets should be rich with foods that are low in fat, but packed with all the nutrients the body needs to stay fit. Berries, vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, lentils, sprouts, wild rice, brown rice, greens and some nuts and seeds are all excellent for the body – so much so that anti aging experts regularly recommend these nutrient-rich foods to help us feel younger, healthier and naturally vibrant. These foods are packed with phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals, which help fight disease at the cellular level, enhance the immune system and fight premature signs of aging. When you give your brain healthy carbohydrates and proper fats, you will improve brain function and improve moods. Nature was right all along; feeding the body naturally beats any pill or procedure. Period.
Quick-fix dieting stimulants are just as detrimental to our overall health. These stimulate the “fight or flight” response in the body, which causes a rise in blood pressure, hyper-stimulates the adrenal glands and signals a cortisol release. Cortisol is a hormone that has been implicated as a reason belly fat is almost impossible to get rid of, and it is also detrimental to the hippocampus (the part of the brain that is responsible for memory). Short-term, false energy spikes from these stimulants are just as quickly followed by devastating fatigue and weakness. These processes are basically exhausting you, your cellular energy and adrenals, not to mention speeding up the production of wrinkles. The traditional road to “skinny” is not necessarily healthy.
Psychologically, constant preoccupation with one’s weight causes damage that can last a lifetime. Being addicted to the perfect image causes the realization that you are not that perfect image. This causes emotional discomfort and pain that can be used as an excuse for failures in life. I hear so many women say, “If I was skinnier, I would have gotten that better job, husband, boyfriend, etc. (fill in the blank).” Therefore, to be constantly seeking that goal, by whatever means possible, we give ourselves the illusion that some day, things will be better. But what decides that you are better? Is it what the scale says? Is it the number on your jeans? These self-measuring systems rob you of your serenity and take away quality time from you, your family and your life.
Unfortunately, the business of keeping women insecure has become a very profitable one. Hair products offering more body, shine, bounce, glow, thickness and richer color lure us in every day. Skin products offering softness, youth, moisture and wrinkle reduction bombard usconstantly. Magazines, commercials and advertisements and their before and after pictures fool women into buying the fantastical illusion of the “Perfect Woman.” But it is just that – an illusion. We cannot all conform to the perfect cover model image. We are all to different.
The fact is, these divisions between fantasy and reality become very cloudy in a society with little emphasis on individuality. Think back to your graduation. At the commencement speech we were told to go out into the world and express our individual selves. However, we were told this while all wearing identical caps and gowns. Society pays lip service to one thing while modeling something entirely different.
When a child looks at his mother, he does not see her weight, her wrinkles or her grey hair. A child looks at his mother with unconditional love and awe for the nurturing and care she provides. He sees her warmth and is nourished by her affection. These are the eyes that women need to cultivate for themselves. Men also need to be educated on how women should be treated: with respect, dignity, fairness and decency. Women need to see themselves with the unconditional eyes of a child. Then they will find the strength to be real and healthy regardless of what society, the scale or your jeans say. We need to sell ourselves on our own humanity. We need to embrace reality and reach for health, well being, joy and peace. I look forward to the day when a woman says to me, “I am looking to get stronger, fitter, and more energetic!”