<> A Pretty Woman's Plea to Diet Culture

A Pretty Woman's Plea to Diet Culture

food and body image May 17, 2018

I’ve always been pretty. Sure, I had the awkward braces-and-acne phase like any adolescent. My awkwardness was more short-lived than others, though. And fortunately, I’ve never thought I was ugly. I’ve also never had the societal and cultural pressures to change parts of myself that I had no control over… until I realized what little control I had over my weight.

While I’ve always been pretty, I’ve also never felt thin enough. A competitive gymnast growing up, I related my body with a score. I literally would be given a numerical value based on what I looked like. We could say that the score came from how my body performed certain acrobatics and routines, but when you see enough girls with smaller bodies score higher with poor form, you realize the fallacy. And there began the belief that the size and shape of my body determined my self-worth.

It didn’t matter that I was a straight A honors student, an accomplished athlete, a gifted musician, a spiritually grounded person, a service-oriented individual, or a hard worker.  If I couldn’t manipulate my body into the ideal standard, I was still unworthy in the eyes of society.

I assumed for more than a decade that I could change my body if I just tried hard enough. It was not until reading countless body-positive books, research and resources that I realize just how truly “set” my “set point weight” was. Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon is probably the most pronounced resource.

Many have spoken out about the injustices of diet culture. They label diet culture as the oppressive means in which we as a society attempt to homogenize beings. So they include racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and other injustices within diet culture and claim we must be fighting all of these oppressions because they are all intertwined.

I’m not writing to compete with this notion, and I fully identify my privilege as a “pretty” woman. Nonetheless, when you work to uncouple your self-worth with what you look like, it is nearly impossible with the onslaught of “you’re so beautiful’s” and “I love your smile’s.” Each time we give and receive compliments purely based on aesthetics without also recognizing the person underneath the aesthetics, we continue to reinforce societal standard that all we are worth is what we look like. And also, that “pretty” women are assuaged by superficial compliments. (How many times have you felt pretty just because someone told you?... Think on that.)

To date, I spend the majority of my day in service to others. As an Army wife, mother, doctor, psychiatrist, and online entrepreneur, my life is largely spent serving others.  My brand’s message is helping women find meaning and identity beyond the details of life. I can’t help but feel somewhat inauthentic each time I receive a compliment about my looks. I can’t help but think, can they not comment on anything else about me?

I’m also… outspoken, bold, courageous, spiritually mature, driven, disciplined, intelligent, funny and athletic. I’m a Christian, a mother, an Army wife, author and a business owner. I stand up for my beliefs, defend the underdog, speak up for the silenced, and live true to my integrity.

My body is fleeting. Even my “pretty” looks will fade. My soul is all that will stand the test of time. I will strive to chisel my soul into the diamond that I aspire to be rather than chisel my muscles into an elusive state of perfection. I’m worth more than my body. I am more than just “pretty.”

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