Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Crushing weight myths - 1

Why are we conditioned to thinking that thinner is hotter when in actual fact most men like women with a bit of curve that a 40kg flat chested women can never have? Is there much point in wearing revealing clothes if all you are revealing is skin, bones and an empty starving stomach?

A wild debate that reverberated in my college days was about inside beauty vs outside beauty. And although everyone had an opinion and most (for reasons of looking like balanced, kind human beings, probably) chose inner above outer, one of my friends said he could never be with a fat woman. That for him beauty was all about extreme skinny-ness i.e. how paper model thin could you be. He confessed/ reiterated that it was all to do with media throwing thinness as the quality for women to behold at him. I disagreed because most successful actresses, be it in Bollywood or Hollywood, were curvaceous rather than anorexic – the difference is not slight. And that while it was not wrong to look after your weight and be healthy there were far more important character building things in the world than thinness. We agreed to disagree. Of course times change attitudes and the woman he fell in love with had love handles much like the rest of womankind. It was her smile, her kindness and spark that were the star attractions. He broke free of the preconceptions he grew up with, not an easy task for anyone I imagine.

A while ago I met another college acquaintance at a reunion of sorts and he was terribly excited about his forthcoming wedding. Not being very tall or well built himself he was thrilled that the bride his parents had found for him was also not very tall and quite thin to boot. How thin was the mystery that was solved when we first saw this bird like creature he had married. As skinny as a teenager, not more that 38kgs, she picked at her food lest she put on weight and looked at us (a gaggle of hAlthy girls) with shock while we gorged on kebabs and laughed into our drinks reminiscing about the horrid hostel food that forced us into become connoisseurs of Maggie. She looked unhappy and out of place and no matter what we talked about she always tried to bring health into the conversation, and how being thin was best for the body, and how salad and water were king. We never bonded.

My problem is not really with choice. Or thin people. People choose to be thin for a multitude of reasons – most of them noble and health conscious, yet many misguided and vain. Some people have health issues that prevent them from putting on weight. And yes beauty does lie in the beholder and love can be blind. People are free to choose what they think they like and can live with. And there is nothing wrong with being thin, healthy and well groomed. Similarly there is nothing wrong with being curvy, plump, healthy and well groomed. Nothing is mutually exclusive and no two people are identical in thought and looks. But be assured that your inner beauty ain’t going to shine through when all you can think about is how you look. There is definitely something wrong with being 40kgs because you have starved yourself to that weight.

My problem is with the idea that thin = hot, which is blatantly untrue. If you took 10 men and asked them to pick the hottest woman from a line up most would probably not pick the thinnest but the curviest, the one with the twinkling eyes or the sunniest smile. Hotness is a quality, a state of mind, a connection between the carrier of style, a way to hold yourself, a confidence and the eyes of a beholder. Thinness does not make hottest. Period. So stop thinking, saying or behaving as if it does because no matter whether you realise it or claim otherwise that is what you are perpetuating. Bad body image. That nobody, girl or boy, man or woman, should have to buy into believing is true.

12 comments:

  1. Hallelujah!At last! My sentiments exactly---and you've put them across so well!I totally agree that one must work towards losing unhealthy fat, but working towards size zero in exclusion to all else, is abnormal!And I have felt uncomfortable helping myself to a sweet under the disdainful eyes of said size-zero's!

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  2. Media enhances and controls stereotypes of beauty. Can you imagine Madhubala winning a beauty contest today? She wouldn't qualify on the vital stats category.

    I think health is the main thing. I am ok with people who are fat and healthy, but there definitely is enough data to prove that there's merit in attempting to stay within your height/weight limits to live a healthier longer life. The same applies to the skinny ones too. If you are depriving your body essential nutrients in order to stick to a particular size, you aren't doing yourselves any favors.

    As far as the male perception of beauty goes, I am going to hold my silence and watch the remaining comments on this post :)

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  3. Loved it - this was like my common sense giving me a good telling off while I avoided mirrors and despaired at the size of my ass.

    Being healthy is important, but beauty is in the mind :) We all just need to remember that.

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  4. This made me feel distinctly unsexy.
    :( because I weigh around, um, 40 kg.

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  6. And then some people are thin, not by choice or by effort. Yet, while some can look like unhealthy bags of bones, others can carry off their shape with grace and ease.:) It's really not about being thin or fat, is it? It's about how healthy, and how comfortable YOU are with your own shape. Others' shapes cease to matter then.
    :)

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  7. LAK: Thanks. Nothing wrong with being thin or healthy, but certainly something wrong with being size 0!

    Parth: Yes, but in her time Madhubala was a beauty - case in point. Now that just isn't thin enough. And its not the media to blame - its also to do with what people think/ attitude towards body image - they feed each other in a way. Male perceptions can and are often quite healthy - its often women who push the image and perpetuate the bad attitude.

    Silvara: Its your smile thats the attractive bit - go for feeling confident and happy with what you have, while working towards good health, not extreme thin-ness.

    Ra: Well, its only ever a an issue if your 40kg is self imposed by a restrictive diet - which I doubt your is. Its attitude all round - yours, your partners etc. And at the end of the day beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder - all I reiterate is that thin is not always hot, not that it cannot ever be, just not exclusively the domain of anorexically thin people.

    Shimmering Mercury: At a certain weight no one can carry off things with style and grace. I'm making the distinction between thin and anorexic and the fact that thin does not always mean hot. Which is not to say thin cannot be hot - it is grace, inner beauty and attitude that casts a certain light on how people carry themselves. Some people are fat yet way healthier than a load of thin people - and that gives the confidence in ones own body image. And I have every confidence in my own shape which is far from thin - but I do have problems with people spouting the fact that they can/ were only be hot if they are skinny-minnie's of around 40kgs.

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  8. As a parent I find myself very conscious of how we discuss health in our house. It starts at a young age and as parents we need to call out the media’s depiction of beauty. I was speechless when Brazil called for the resignation of their local beauty queen because she had “packed on” 15 pounds. (In her “before” picture she could have inadvertently stabbed someone with her ribcage). It’s important that my son AND daughter see the craziness of it all. I won’t make an argument for obesity however you can be physically healthy without feeling like you have to look like a skeleton.

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  9. No, it's not self-imposed. No thin is not always hot, it never has been for me. I don't know about men, but I always think women with curves are more attractive. I feel touchy about my own weight becuase people (even strangers who may not know me too well) are always commenting on it.

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  10. Couldn't agree with you more. Surely it's about being healthy rather than fat/thin? Drives me mad when people assume I am thin because I don't eat! I lose weight faster than I gain it and that's just how part of my family, and therefore I, am built. Mind you body shapes go in and out of fashion. At one stage curvy shapes were in and it'll come back. Another reason not to be a slave to fashion...

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  11. That explains the sudden spike in traffic. Thank you :) i am suitably chuffed.
    Regarding the weighty issues of weight,I am all for being healthy regardless of shape.As S says you need something to hold onto, although I have enough for about 10 people to hold onto, but thats a different story.

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