American Body Image

Unfortunately, there have been two trending stories over the last two weeks that have shined a negative light on American body image. Last week, full figured model Ashley Graham was slammed by former Sports Illustrated model Cheryl Tiegs for “glamorizing” unhealthy habits with her recent Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover. Graham’s cover marked the first time that a plus size model had been featured on the cover of the magazine. Tiegs said that she didn’t think it was “healthy in the long run” to put a full figured woman on the cover. Graham received an incredibly positive response from the public for celebrating her curves, but Tiegs went against the grain. After a public backlash, Tiegs tried to cover up her initial negative comments, but the damage had been done. Today, Laura Prepon, star of the mega successful series “Orange is the New Black,” opened up about the fact that she has suffered from poor body image throughout her life. Specifically, she copped to using hormone injections, because she was “so desperate to make herself look a certain way.” Both of these stories made me very sad and reminded me of how impactful body image is within our society.

Ashley Graham busted beauty standards wide open with her SI cover.

Ashley Graham busted beauty standards wide open with her SI cover.

On the positive side, both Graham and Prepon gathered healthy insights from their negative experiences. Graham responded to Tiegs’ criticism by saying that “There are too many people thinking they can look at a girl my size and say that we are unhealthy…you can’t, only my doctor can!” I found this message incredibly inspiring. At the end of the day, your health should be determined by your doctor, but more than that, it should be determined by you! You are in charge of your body. Reflecting back on her past struggles with self esteem, Prepon applauded her OITNB castmates for their positive body image. Being around such confident women inspired Prepon to embrace her body, feel good in her own skin, and overcome her insecurities. We should all hope to have such an uplifting work environment! It’s incredibly important to surround yourself with people that lift you up.

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Laura Prepon found strength in her confident OINTB castmates.

Reflecting on these two stories, I can’t help but think of how much body image has affected me over the course of my life. I was incredibly fortunate to grow up in a household where I was made to feel beautiful, no matter what size I was. From a young age, I was taught that beauty comes from within. It’s more important to be a good person on the inside than superficially “pretty” on the outside. More than that, I have always been taught to embrace my flaws; it’s okay to be different. Even when I was a chubby marshmallow during puberty, my mother and grandmother always made me feel like I was worthy of love. Yes, I had moments of thinking I was “fat.” We’re all human. But, my support system always gave me the encouragement to snap back into place and regain a healthy frame of mind. With a surplus of non-judgmental love, I grew into the confident adult I am today. Sadly, over the years, I’ve realized that not everyone is as lucky.

Since middle school, I have seen many friends cope with eating disorders. It hurts me tremendously to see people I love struggle to love themselves. After diagnosing the problem, I can only imagine how hard it is to rewire your brain and detach from negative habits. American culture circles around superficial standards of beauty that dictate what we should weigh, what clothes we should wear, what haircut we should have, etc. It’s overwhelming for me, and I have a solid foundation of self esteem. For those with eating disorders, the toxic noise must be unbearable. We can all use positive encouragement to properly respect and celebrate our bodies. On that note, here is a list of uplifting body image quotes to help you realize your true self worth and feel your best:

1. “You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” -Amy Bloom

2. “There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” -Steve Maraboli

3. “This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself. The next time you look into the mirror, try to let go of the story line that says you’re too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose too big; just look into the mirror and see your face. When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you, without judgment, and that is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world.”- Oprah Winfrey

4. “Freedom from obsession is not about something you do; it’s about knowing who you are. It’s about recognizing what sustains you and what exhausts you. What you love and what you think you love because you believe you can’t have it.”-Geneen Roth

5. “The more I like me, the less I want to pretend to be other people.”-Jamie Lee Curtis

6. “Pretty much everyone I know, no matter what size, is trying some system. Even when someone gets to looking like she should be so proud of herself, instead she’s like, ‘I could be another three pounds less; I could be a little taller and have bigger lips.’ Where does it end? You just have to say, ‘It’s pretty damn good. I am right here at the moment and I’m OK with it. I’ve got other things to think about.”-Melissa McCarthy

7. “I’ve learned that if you’re too skinny, they’ll say something about it. If you’re not skinny enough, they’ll say something about it. I just try to feel good in my own skin as much as I can.”-Jennifer Love Hewitt

8. “You’re a human being, you live once and life is wonderful, so eat the damn red velvet cupcake.”-Emma Stone

*Though a lot of these quotes are from women, members of both sexes struggle with body image. Men tend to keep their issues more under wraps. Society too often dictates that men who speak out on sensitive issues are “weak.” This is not the case! We all deserve love and acceptance.




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