In the 1970s, the fashion magazine industry took off, and with it came the idealization of the tan, curly-haired, impossibly skinny bombshell.
With this newly developed beauty standard, the concept of dieting found its way into popular culture and mainstream marketing in the form of lotions, potions and magic diet pills.
Since the ’70s, dieting has been advertised and perceived as a way to manipulate and outsmart the body. This aspect of the fitness industry has been intrinsically based off of the notion that the body is something that needs to be tricked in order to achieve its goals.
In reality, this kind of thinking can be damaging, not only to one’s psyche but also to one’s sense of self worth. The human body is wonderfully intricate, and it's inherently designed to keep us in a stable and healthy place. Once one realizes it is more effective to work with one’s body instead of against it, multitudes of doors are opened up for achievement, progress and gratitude.
I can confess I was one who bought into the whole “tricking-your-body” rhetoric. To make matters worse, a lot of the aspects I was fixated on couldn’t be changed by strategic eating and endless cardio. They were structural.
I have a 29-inch waist and a nearly 41-inch hip circumference. I have struggled with the sizes of my hips and thighs since I hit puberty.
For a long time, I perceived the swell of my hips, the protrusion of my leg muscles and the boxy structure of my shoulders as a problem that needed to be solved using any means necessary.
It wasn’t until about a year ago that I realized I had been working against my body, and that to see any real results I would have to learn to work with it.
Gratitude is potent, and while it is advantageous to set personal betterment goals, being grateful for all of the wonderful things the body can do is a firm and healthy foundation for new goals.
The body is smart, and it tries so hard to keep us working in optimal condition. When we starve ourselves or punish our bodies for natural functions like cravings or musculo-skeletal structures, we work against ourselves.
When I get frustrated over my figure, I try to take a moment to thank my body for all that it does — for all its strength, endurance and solidity. I say to myself in the mirror, “I appreciate everything you do, and I know you are just doing your job.”
Patience is a virtue, especially when you want to better yourself in any way, shape or form.
This graciousness toward the body should be integrated in all aspects of fitness, especially in one's relationship with food. Food is not the enemy of fitness goals, and if a stressful day has you wrist deep in a bag of potato chips, that’s OK. Cravings are the body’s reaction to certain stimuli, and, more often than not, they are a result of a particular nutritional need or deficiency.
If one breaks a diet as a result of a craving, the world will not end. Enjoy the indulgence and hop back on the train the next day.
Acknowledging parts of your body that you are proud of and happy with provides a sense of understanding between one’s mind and physical self. Instead of scrutinizing a flaw or the length of time it takes to change a feature, take a breath and think about everything you have to be grateful for.
Thankfully, it seems like our culture is moving away from the malnourished trends of the ’70s and ’80s. Dieting is rebranding as a way of eating that sustains a healthy and wholesome lifestyle. And with that, we can stop looking at our bodies with frustration and disdain, and instead view them as strong, functioning, beautiful works of art.