A chip is just a chip

In an attempt to find some words… I thought I’d share this tonight.

Today I made a quick trip to the grocery store, and while I was wandering the aisles, I passed by a young girl standing by the refrigerators, declaring happily to her mother, “We need milk!” She was so joyous about it that I laughed a little.

Her mother was bent over by an end-of-aisle shelf, grabbing a few containers of I’m not even sure what but I think it was kind of junk food related. She looked up at me from her contorted position and I was still smiling about her daughter, but for some reason I think she thought I was chuckling about what she was buying (or how much of it). She did this kind of sheepish half-laugh and said quickly, “It’s for a cookout!

And she said it as if she needed to apologize or explain to me why she was buying chips.

I smiled and nodded and kept on going, but as I walked away, all I could feel was sad. Because here was this slender, attractive middle-aged woman, dressed in a very well put together fashion; yet she still somehow felt like she had to explain herself and her food choices to me, a complete stranger. As if there was something to be ashamed of. As if she needed to say, “I don’t eat all of this myself. Really. I swear. Please don’t think of me as a pig. Or someone with bulimia.”

Now, I am certainly not one to judge about buying junk food for any reason, but I know what it feels like to worry about what other people think when they see me grabbing something like that off a shelf. There’s a self-consciousness that floods over me, like I need to hide my choices, like I’m going to be judged or ridiculed or shamed for what’s in my cart.

It’s so silly, when you think about it. Who gives a damn what you buy? It’s YOUR CHOICE. Whether it’s an excessive amount of fruit, frozen broccoli, doughnuts or potato chips, it’s no one’s business but your own. And you certainly don’t have to explain yourself or apologize for it.

Maybe you’re having a party. Maybe you just like potato chips on occasion. How would I know? IT DOESN’T MATTER. Or, it shouldn’t matter.

It makes me so weary that women feel this way, that they have to apologize for having any sort of appetite for anything. Like having a healthy appetite says you’re unladylike or gross or overindulgent or gluttonous.

Why can’t putting chips into your cart simply mean, “Sometimes I like potato chips”? What’s wrong with that?

It just makes me tired and sad.

Stop being so damn hard on yourself!

Before I get into the whole song and dance about what steps I’m taking to take better care of myself, what has worked, where things have faltered on occasion, and start talking about that on a semi-regular basis, I want to explain a few things.

Today’s focus involves a ‘get up on the proverbial soapbox’ moment, to explain a piece of why this topic of body image and better health (physical and emotional) has become increasingly important to me.

For one thing, this is something I continue to work on every day, this inner mental tug-of-war between loathing and loving. It’s something I’ve struggled with since I was a kid.

However, I’m finding that sometimes my surroundings are at odds with what I’m trying to do to build up that positivity within.

I’m currently taking classes, working toward an associate’s degree in web design, and one of the classes I took last year was all about media and how things are presented in the media. My final project for the class involved a paper about how advertising often uses false images of women (doctored by programs like Photoshop) to the point that we desire to live up to an image that doesn’t really exist because it was made by computer software.

My research has found that eating disorder associations and the American Medical Association state that only about 5% of the female population is of the ‘model’ or ‘supermodel’ size. Five percent! That means 95% of us are something entirely different, and we’re not being properly represented.

Genetics have given the 5% long limbs and small hips and breasts, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that… that is their size and body type.

The problem is that the majority of the media does not present any other type of size or shape, so we grow up seeing this model size as if that is what we are all supposed to be, when in truth we are all individuals and there are far more sizes and shapes out there than we are shown.

There are things that we can do to shape ourselves, but some things we cannot change. How are we supposed to grow up with a healthy image of our bodies when we think there’s something wrong with us because ads and TV and film and media tell us that we’re all supposed to look like this one size and shape? Not to mention, it’s pretty damn boring to think we’re all supposed to be clones of one another, this single ‘perfect’ size and shape. It’s just not right. Sometimes I wish we could get the media to understand this and alter their approach. Some companies have taken baby steps, but it’s not enough.

Those of us who are working to lose weight are trying to get healthier and stronger and leaner, but perhaps we also have to come to be better friends with our own bodies. We can take care of ourselves and work to be our strongest and healthiest selves, but at the same time understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with us. Even when we whittle away the fat and tone ourselves, what lies underneath is our own individual shape and size.

Some of us have curves, some of us are more narrow or straight in body shape, some of us are tall, some of us are short. I wish we could all learn to appreciate and love those shapes, whatever they are, and eventually understand and see that the world is made up of so many shapes and sizes and they are all wonderful and beautiful and powerful and strong.

Perhaps when we all learn this, we will stop being so hard on each other and on ourselves, trying to be something we are not, and instead we will be able to look in the mirror and say, “I like what I see. I like how I look. I like who I am. I’m taking care of myself and being my best self.”

Your thoughts?