Most people would agree that the conditions of our society and the media are not conducive to having a healthy body or body image. On one hand, we have a problem in America with extreme obesity. Public figures like Michelle Obama have attempted to fight this by promoting healthy eating and regular exercise. On the other hand, we have a problem with warped body image, especially in women. Recent movements such as the Dove Real Beauty campaign have stepped in to promote the idea that women of all sizes and shapes are beautiful.
That all sounds great at a glance, but when you look closer it’s obvious we have a confusing and contradictory message being communicated to Americans: we want you to love yourself but just kidding, you’re actually overweight and need to get in shape.
So what are we to believe?
Obviously, both things are good. We want people to be healthy. We want people to love themselves as they are, also. So how do we encourage one without totally destroying the other?
I think we need to stop focusing so much on our bodies and focus more on our complete selves. In other words, self-love, not body love, is the answer.
If we could convince each American that she or he as a person is inherently and immeasurably valuable, imagine what we could do. We could not only decrease obesity and render the media’s warped messages about body image ineffective, we could decrease drug use and alcoholism, and do a slew of other things.
By convincing people that their self-worth is of the utmost importance, we could supercede this “beautiful vs obese” divide by helping people to see that yes, they are beautiful the way they are, but also giving them the empowerment to say, “I love myself enough to get healthy for (my kids, myself, my family…).” We could empower those that are actually at medical risk because of their obesity to change for the better while simultaneously loving themselves as is because frankly, while our bodies are part of who we are, they aren’t all of it.
Not to say that the Dove campaign and others are bad, but when we focus so much on body love, we ignore the fact that we are still focusing on our bodies.
I really like Oprah Winfrey’s comment on her own battle with her weight and self-image:
Here’s another thing this past year has been trying to teach me: I don’t have a weight problem—I have a self-care problem that manifests through weight. As my friend Marianne Williamson shared with me, “Your overweight self doesn’t stand before you craving food. She’s craving love.” Falling off the wagon isn’t a weight issue; it’s a love issue.
I think she’s completely right. It’s a love issue. Teaching Americans about the food pyramid until you’re blue in the face isn’t going to fix that.
Implementing such a campaign of self-love would be challenging at best. It would involve a complete overhaul of the media and of how we see ourselves. But when everything else seems to be failing, I think it’s something to consider. Isn’t it about time we started loving ourselves a little more?