Updated: Oct 9, 2020
And why that's okay.
When I was stuck in my eating disorder, I often longed to look like supermodels, bodybuilders, or professional athletes. I thought if I could just look like that, I would be happy. I put all my focus on trying to get their "body" or their "look." An image of the perfect Renae began to form in my head. The more I struggled, the more unattainable that image became. I moved the goalposts, so I couldn't ever possibly reach them. Until one day, I realized I would never make it.
It was discouraging because I had been striving for this "goal" for a long time. After three years of wanting, I didn't surrender easily. Every skipped meal, every refusal of dessert was now a wasted sacrifice, but the more I learned about health and body size, the more I realized I would never look like that.
I will never look like that - the perfect image in my head. And neither will you. That perception is impossible to obtain and let me explain why.
First, there are certain traits that some people have because of genetics. Do you covet Chris Pine's icy blue eyes? Every model's long, toned legs? Sofia Vergara's curves? Well, those are genetic; you couldn't have them even if you did everything they did.
Have you ever watched an interviewer ask celebrities how they got their glowing skin or flat tummy? Whatever the personality tells you, it's not the whole truth. Jennifer Aniston might say her skin is a result of this product or routine, but that's how she maintains her complexion, not how she GOT her flawless appearance. The truth is, she was born with it.
Second, the dedication it takes to look like that isn't possible for the average person. Do you know how long it takes to prepare for a bodybuilding show? A year. And that's for a person who is already in shape. If the average, size twelve women wanted to do a show, it might take two or three years to prepare.
This year of preparation entails a strict eating and workout plan, in which you have to forgo most relationships, work, and fun to stick too. Depending on the person and the program, a woman might eat 800 calories and preform 45 minutes of cardio every day. And it's not the fun calories; I'm talking about salmon and green beans for every meal.
Do you want to be in incredible shape? Quit your day job.
Do you know how long it takes a model to get ready for a bikini photoshoot? Six to eight weeks. Yes, a size zero, six-foot woman needs two months to prepare for someone to take a picture of her in a swimsuit. These preparations not only include diet and exercise, but hair removal, beauty treatments, etc.
Considering that amount of time and planning, you aren't going to do it if you don't want it badly. You aren't going to make that commitment. When I realized what I had to do to get the body I was coveting, I threw in the towel. There was no way I was giving up every dessert from now until eternity for a jean size.
Let's dive a little deeper into this point. Don't get discouraged, because looking like a model takes that much dedication. You can still be in shape by working out and eating well - never give up on that! My point is that the body type isn't necessarily natural or healthy, especially considering the means to obtain that standard.
One problem with that body type is the unhealthy amount of body fat. The body needs a certain amount of adipose tissue, which varies depending on sex and age. Body fat is used for temperature regulation, energy, vitamin absorption, hormone production, and organ protection.
The healthy range is what this chart labels "Fitness." For women who exercise regularly and eat well, this body fat percentage is the optimal range. Women between 19 and 29 should have 19 to 22% body fat; women between 30 and 39, 20 to 24%; women between 40 and 49, 23 to 27%; women 50 and above, 27 to 31%.
Many models and professional athletes have too little body fat, below 19%. That is considered unhealthy and has certain health risks. Individuals without enough body fat percentage are usually cold, moody, hungry, and sluggish. They risk vitamin deficiency and heart problems.
That's not to say everyone who is naturally thin has medical issues (not everyone has anorexia!), but having a little fat is healthy. Your body needs to function, and it can do that better at the right body fat percentage!
I suggest you check out Stephanie Buttermore! She has a great video on how she "recovered" from her bodybuilding show.
Third, some people have an army of professionals to help them. The problem with a magazine cover is you don't know what went into that single shot. Let's say it's Ariana Grande. Ariana had a professional hairstylist, professional makeup artist, and professional wardrobe person to get her ready. Did I say professional enough? People PAID someone to make her look good. And these aren't people off the street; they do this as a career.
Side note: How awesome is it that we live in an age where you can paint people's faces for a living? *Mind blown*
On top of all those professionals, there are more professionals. A photographer to catch the best angle and lighting for Ariana, editors at the magazine to select the best photo of thousands, and graphic designers to airbrush the picture and pick the perfect layout. This one picture of Ariana Grande took days of work and thousands of dollars to produce.
Do you have an army of professionals, let along the money to pay them? No.
Do you have four hours every morning to get your hair and makeup done? No.
Do you have a spread in the hottest fashion magazine? No.
AND THAT'S OKAY! You don't need any of it. You don't need someone else to make you look beautiful. You don't need to spend that much money on your appearance. Life is more than the way you present yourself.
Do you know what the beauty of this is (no pun intended)? No one is asking you to look like a magazine cover. No one is asking you to pull out your six-pack. No one cares that you don't have a flat tummy or tan arms. You are putting that pressure on yourself, and it's unnecessary.
People, women especially, are their worst critic. We tend to beat ourselves up for the smallest flaws. It's about time we stop looking down on ourselves and start focusing on building ourselves up. It's not about anyone else but you. As soon as you figure out how to love yourself, you can help others do it as well. Bur, for now, work on being your best cheerleader, not your worst critic.
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