Thursday, December 21, 2006

Our Bodies, Our Ideas of Our Bodies

I was fascinated to read in Women's Wear Daily that fashionistas are now having some models' photos retouched to make them look heavier. In the wake of the Madrid revolt, where models with BMIs under 18 were not allowed to walk the runway, this seems like more of a good thing. And I definitely applaud the demystification of anorexia chic.

There's certainly nothing chic about anorexia, as I have reason to know all too well.

Still, I can't help feeling like this misses the point on a number of levels. If these models are so thin that readers of Allure don't want to look at them, then they need food and professional help, not an airbrushed photo. The problem isn't in our perception--it's in their realities.

The current politically correct (and highly ironic) focus on too-thin models is just one more manifestation of our compulsion to make our bodies conform to a culturally defined weight, look, shape, or style. That, right there, is the problem--and it isn't going to be fixed with an airbrush, any more than it's going to be fixed with the next great diet or exercise regime.

The human body comes with a marvelous ability to regulate its own appetites. Then we muck it all up with our ideas of what it should look like.

In the ideal world, all kids would be raised to eat when they're hungry and stop eating when they're not hungry, just as wise woman and nutritionist Ellyn Satter writes in her books. We would learn from an early age to value our connection with our hunger and feelings of fullness.

Though we don't, alas, live in the ideal world, we can still nurture our own interior connection with our bodies, our hunger, and ourselves. We can begin to accept the fact that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, that while one person might be healthy at size 4, another might be just fine at size 16. We can learn to value health over faddish or slavish notions of appearance.

I'll lift a fork to that.

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