by Cassie Byard Women’s Director at Veritas Life Adventures
When I was in the second grade my teacher had our class make our own personalized greeting cards. With my incredibly insightful 7-year-old wisdom, I selected my card’s cover: a magazine advertisement with a picture of Garfield looking disapprovingly at the image of his backside in a full-length mirror. The caption read: “You know it’s time to go on a diet when you start getting dimples in the wrong cheeks.” I had no idea what it meant, but I thought it was brilliant. And then, years later, my 13-year-old, 85-pound self suddenly looked in the mirror and saw that I had dimples in “the wrong cheeks.”
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think a lot of people have a certain idea about what “healthy” people should look like. The truth is, there is no perfect standard for what a healthy person should look like. There is no perfect standard of what a person “should” look like period. A friend of mine frequently pokes my stomach to see if my abs are doing any better at revealing their existence (they’re not). She has to poke past a little barrier of squish to find them. Another friend has poked my belly only to declare, “Your stomach is too hard.” A woman should be soft, she implies. So which is it? Is my tummy too soft or too hard?
Think about it. If I ask you to imagine a person with a “perfect body,” what image comes to your mind? I’m going to venture a guess that the person you imagine is young, muscular, toned, maybe tan* and in a swimsuit? We (or maybe it’s just me) have been trained by society to associate these traits with perfection and health. But is that reality?
The moment we demand to our bodies, “I should look like that,” or “This area needs some work,” we are giving illegitimate authority to a body-shaming culture that declares itself the legislator of standards.
In my last blog I “confessed” to having love handles and cellulite. Someone commented that they disagreed with my assessment, as though to quell my presumed low image of self. But the idea that I might (or should) feel bad about my body because it fails to live up to society’s ideal is the very idea I am trying to counter. It is okay that I have love handles and cellulite. Could I “get rid” of these traits? With lots of VERY dedicated (arguably obsessive) work, possibly. MAYBE. But the point I’m trying to make is that if I am pursuing health and not a certain body, then I don’t need to worry about love handles or cellulite. What my body looks like is not the point of the journey of health.
Am I saying we should throw discipline to the wind and accept whatever happens to our bodies as a result? Absolutely not. Nor am I saying it’s bad to have six-pack abs. But the reality is that most people cannot (and, I could argue, should not) sustain the kind of lifestyle necessary to achieve and maintain society’s idea of a “bikini body.” Sometimes the pursuit of the “perfect body” distracts from the pursuit of health.
When we invite you on the journey to health with Veritas, we are not talking about pursuing a certain body image. I have cellulite. I am not going to work on changing that. But I am going to strive for physical strength and endurance, nutritional balance, and spiritual and emotional stability.
That is Veritas. That is truth. Seek it with us.
*The fact that I (and many others) tend to default to Caucasian imagery is a topic worth addressing. This book does a great job at it.