Today, I came across another interesting article about diet, culture, and the rapidly-changing face of the modeling industry…and of women in general.

(Please note, this article I’ve linked to may be NSFW because of semi-nudity and suggestive posing.)

These articles always interest me, as someone who spent a great deal of her life working in the entertainment industry, and frankly, living in a world where eating disorders were normal. In fact, amongst working models, actors, dancers, and other professional entertainers, it’s much easier to maintain the weight you strive to maintain because virtually everyone is on a diet that’s no-carb, no-sugar, no-meat, or, in some cases, no food. I learned in my teenage years from a group of ballet dancers that the best way to maintain weight is through eating nothing but an apple, a slice of cheese, a Diet Coke, and Reese’s PB Cups throughout the day..plus water, but not too much, to avoid bloating. If you live in New York, you’re constantly walking, jogging, or running everywhere, and are often too busy to even notice that food is literally everywhere, but you don’t eat it. Whether you’re working or not, you’ll attend a lot of social events, most of which involve drinking excessively…and, somehow, unless you’re chugging beer, the calories from a night of vodka tonics are less than if you’d stayed home eating a plate of pasta. In the world of performance and illusion, nobody wants to see a beautiful woman or a perfectly-sculpted guy shoveling food down like it’s going out of style.



Model Charlotte Carter, banned from catwalk for being a size 0.

In the real world, it’s harder. Food is everywhere, and people eat it, and it’s usually not healthy. Cooking takes time, and if you live in a city like mine, not having a car you spend 90 minutes a day sitting in is kind of like being an alien from another planet. Only about half of the neighbourhoods/suburbs are even slightly pedestrian-friendly. There are dog parks, but you have to drive your pooch in your car to get there, rather than go for a jog around the Central Park perimeter.

There has to be a balance, a happy medium, and most people don’t seem to find it. While I’m all for women feeling comfortable with their bodies and wanting to be accepted in all shapes and sizes, looking *healthy* should be the primary consideration in judging attractiveness.

 

 

The average model, at a size 2/4.

 

Personally, I’ve always struggled with body image. I’m a petite girl, barely 5 feet, and most grown women my size are shaped to be lovely pixies their entire lives, with tiny, delicate bone structure and no need for muscle tone, much less curves of any sort. However, I’m simply not shaped like that. I’m a girl that should have a size 4 body structure, but also has plus-size curves. Whether I like it or not, I’m Kim Kardashian. That’s just how I happen to be shaped, despite my petite size (and yes, everything is real.)

 

 

Somewhere along the line, I learned to deal with it. I even learned to embrace my lack of stature and my curves as something that made me unique. I wasn’t fat. I wasn’t skinny. I was just a healthy-looking, normal girl.

Then I got sick, and due to medication and sitting on my butt for 6 months, everything plumped up and filled out. I feel like a helium balloon, and would give anything to get rid of the 23 pounds that have joined my body. For a petite girl, that’s a sizable weight gain, enough to put me in the category of an unhealthy weight for my size. And since I gained the weight due to being unhealthy…I don’t like what looks back at me in the mirror. I see the excess flab on parts of my body that weren’t there previously, and horrible stretch marks that make me think I’ll never take my clothes off with the light on again, and that I may end up seeking cosmetic treatment when all is said and done, and the extra weight is gone.

Because I don’t like what I look like “plus sized”, it’s hard for me not to project that on to the model posing. Yes, she’s absolutely beautiful. Yes, the average American woman is a size 12-14. But clearly, she has extra deposits of fat on her body that I have learned, from personal experience, that only show up when you weigh more than is appropriate for your bone structure. Is the “plus sized” model a beautiful, normal woman? Yes. But is it healthy? Should we just accept that these days, we’re all a little chunkier than we should be?

 

 

I don’t know. Americans are living shorter life-spans than ever before, and it’s estimated that within less than a generation, three-quarters of us will be clinically obese. I understand that this model is portraying what most of us look like. But personally, when I look at the extra weight I’m carrying around on my own body, I’m inspired to want to get rid of it, not to embrace it. Because it isn’t healthy, and it isn’t attractive. It isn’t how I, as a person, am ideally designed to look. I’m proud of my curves, but I’m not proud of excess fat deposits that keep my dresses from zipping. In fact, I feel ashamed that I allowed illness and medication to defeat me, and to wreak havoc on my body.

On the other side of the scale, we’re all aware that the average woman is not a size 2. I have friends who are, and whenever were out in public, these girls get hit on by virtually every guy in existence. A real-life version of what’s being portrayed in magazines is rare, and therefore, infinitely more attractive than what’s typically seen. That’s why guys still fantasize about the size 2 models selling us virtually everything. Women who are perfectly normal and healthy are undergoing extreme measures to look like this, so they too can be seen as what they imagine is universally desirable.

 

 

I think, if the modeling world is going to make a change for the better, it needs to reflect reality. It needs to reflect people at an ideal body weight, people who are comfortable with themselves not because they are beautiful, but because they have healthy and strong bodies.

It takes illness to point out that a healthy and strong body is, in fact, one of the most attractive things. Any time you mistreat it…with too much food, or not enough…you’re not going to look as good as someone who has learned to maintain their ideal body weight for their build, bone structure, muscle tone, and level of curviness.

I personally don’t think the average American woman should strive to look like either of the models featured in this article….but if she does happen to look like one or the other, she shouldn’t feel any insecurity about that, either. Unless you suffer from disordered eating and body-image issues (and many Americans do, even if they do not engage in actively negative food-related behaviours, there are still some very disordered perceptions.), looking healthy for your unique being should be enough to make you feel good about yourself. And when you feel good about yourself and take care of your body, you can afford to put away the scale, perhaps for life. Some women look their best at 110 lbs, some at 150, some at 200. Despite what we’re ingrained to think, the number on the scale or on the clothes you wear has absolutely no relation to how attractive you look or feel.

 



Average American woman, at a size 14.

 

When I’m again at the point where I look at myself and see a healthy, fit person, I’m planning to follow my own advice, and ditch the scale. I did not own a scale for 5 or 6 years, and it was also the period of my life when I was happiest with myself, and I neither noticeably gained nor lost more than the same 5 pounds.

Unfortunately, that self-improvement endeavour may take the majority of 2012 to complete. Even without medicine and illness slowing me down, I won’t be reaching my goal weight until Dragon*Con (“We recommend you lose 0.8 lbs per week?” I think I ate a salad that was 0.8 lbs the other week. *lol*)

 

Pop sensation Adele, beautiful at size 16.

 

What I would not do, at this point in my life, is pose naked in a magazine to portray the average flaws of the average woman. So I give kudos for major self-confidence to women of all shapes and sizes to do that, and to be real enough to be photographed without makeup. I think it’s going to take awhile for the rest of us to catch up with being that comfortable with ourselves. ;)

Writing for a living means I am far less chatty on my blog, which is ironic, seeing as I finally got around to re-claiming my domain and reconnecting with my great love of emotional exhibitionism.

This week, I signed a new client, which is good news. Even better, it’s the first client I’ve encountered who actually wanted to pay me more than I was asking, simply because he thought I should be asking for more.

It’s a good rule of life to live by, really. If you go through life undervaluing yourself, and expecting others to undervalue you in the same way, you’ll never know what you’re capable of. I have a tendency to do this, because I get too comfortable in the familiar, too frightened of losing what’s important to me. I hang on to jobs that don’t pay as well as they should, relationships that don’t work, friendships that bring me more aggravation than happiness, even when I know I deserve better.

I’m not sure if it’s really that I undervalue myself; after all, some might tell you I value myself a bit too much. Yet, there is some part of me that is not only unwilling to give up on things that don’t quite work, but wants to cling to them, even when it is to my detriment.

And, so, it’s eye-opening to me when a perfect stranger appreciates the value of something I do, and asks me why I am not asking for more. I don’t have an answer to that, other than to look at myself and my life, and say, “Well, I guess that’s definitely something I do.”

It *is* something I do. Really, though, it probably shouldn’t be.