Nearly every time I ask someone why they choose to exercise or eat healthy I almost always hear the same response; I want to be skinny. From the echoes of the gym to the whispers in the dorm room I hear people all around me saying the same thing. I want to be skinny. I want to lose weight. I want to look good. What I rarely ever hear is: I want to be healthy.
Society force feeds individuals to strive for skinny and not healthy. The media tries to equate skinny to beauty, attracting a significant other, social acceptance and praise, and personal satisfaction. With these culturally embedded ideals, as exemplified in the infamous quote “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” spoken by supermodel Kate Moss, it is all too easy to become swept up in the obsession of skinny.
Physical and Mental Danger
This culturally accepted mentality of striving for skinny rather than healthy is not only wrong but dangerous. Choosing skinny as your motivation to diet and exercise can cause an unhealthy obsession with an image rather than a healthy journey towards a new life style. It can make you strive for a certain weight, measurement, or size which is often set by unrealistic and unhealthy cultural standards. The precursors to eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia is in fact a fear of gaining weight and a distorted sense of self-image which can both be caused when trying to fit into the outlandish societal ideals of being skinny.
Rather than exercising and dieting for the image of skinny you may see on the runway or on TV, try living an entire life style that is both physically and mentally healthy. Living day to day for an energized, strong, happy, and healthy body and mind will lead to much better outcomes of personal satisfaction and fulfillment rather than frustration and feelings of defeat or unworthiness.
Distorted Idea of Beauty
Society’s overflow of opinions on beauty has perniciously seeped into our subconscious and preempted us to live in an unhealthy way. Have you ever noticed when talk show hosts introduce celebrity guests they usually always precede the guest’s name with adjectives like beautiful or handsome? From the articles in magazines to the interviews on screen, society has become more interested in beauty routines than actual content.
America’s obsession with beauty, which has more and more become equated with skinny, has led to an illogical sense of priorities. Overvaluing physical beauty devalues the overwhelmingly more important facets of human life such as kindness, love, talent, intelligence, and moral character. Don’t strive for skinny, strive for a healthy sense of self and realize that you are so much more than your appearance. Whether you fit into society’s ideals of skinny or not, it’s important to take a step back and rethink how significant appearance alone truly is in the grand scheme of life. What is important is that we strive to live in a healthily conscious way.
So often people are taught to believe that if only they were skinny and beautiful they would be desired or able to get their dream man or woman. However, any relationship founded on physical attraction alone is not likely to be long lasting or healthy. The idea that once you are skinny and beautiful, then you’ll be worth something to someone else is incredibly pejorative for both the individual and the relationship. Self-worth does not come from a so called hot body, killer legs, or abs of steel. And healthy relationships aren’t dependent on how close the man and woman in a couple rank physically next to each other.
When you work out or eat healthy don’t do it for an imaginary boyfriend or girlfriend. Don’t do it for an acceptable number on a scale. Don’t do it because you think you will become skinny and that that will make all your problems go away. Do it so that you live a long life and see your grandchildren grow up. Do it so that you are able to run a marathon one day. Do it so that you can make it to your next class across campus on time without breaking a sweat. Do it so that you can find fun, joy, and passion in reaching your health goals and feel confident in yourself no matter what society tells you to feel about you and your body.
Change is nature. As quickly as the years roll by, so too do the changing perceptions of beauty in our society. Just a few years ago the size and weight of a woman on a magazine cover is guaranteed to be larger than a woman on a magazine cover today. And a few years ago that woman was labeled as skinny and beautiful just as she is also labeled today, despite the differences in appearance. Society’s opinion on what is skinny is as effervescent as the wind. No matter how much we may think we are going to be accepted by society today, the next day we may be rejected due to the usurpation of a new image we supposedly must work for.
The point is that this dogmatic ongoing change of what is acceptable in our society is completely unreliable. Instead of working for what society wants of you physically one day versus the next, live for a personal dream or goal which is steady and consistent in your journey to healthy living.
One of the most fatal lies which people can believe when striving for skinny and not healthy is that they will finally gain personal satisfaction. They think that once they are skinny then they will be happy. However, the truth is that this sort of satisfaction will never come. All too often people try to follow their unrealistic expectations of skinny, like for example wanting to look like a Victoria’s Secret model or a body builder. Although these goals can be obtainable for few, in reality most people will never be able to achieve this.
We are all born looking different. Thankfully, because how lackluster and boring would the world be if we all looked the same? We all look like ourselves so we should all strive to be the best version of ourselves instead of trying to look like someone else. No matter how hard you try you will always look the most like yourself compared to anyone else. When dreaming of skinny you become constantly disappointed of unmet ridiculous expectations. When living for healthy you are able to see your own personal growth and betterment over time.
Choose Healthy Not Skinny
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Well I disagree. The taste of healthy living tastes way better than the taste of society’s portrayal of skinny and beautiful. Being skinny changes as quickly as society adds a new measurement. But being healthy is long lasting. Don’t get caught up in society’s glorification of skinny, thin, and beautiful. Instead be aware of what the world is trying to make you believe, and have the courage and strength to decide for yourself what is truly beautiful and what life style is truly worth living.
*Article published originally on healthygrad.org.