Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Body Love

This post is about body love.

Spending the past two months in Turkey means that all the hospitable Turkish people I meet are constantly feeding me. Have seconds, thirds, don't you eat more than that? Aren't you hungry? Turkish life revolves around food, and if you've got a guest, well, you pretty much feed them until they can't breathe properly. Food = love.

So yes, naturally I've put on a few pounds since arriving in the city of Delicious Buttery Börek (basically the Turkish hot pocket), where I've relished all the incredible food I've been able to eat.

And despite all the self-love mantras my friends and I say, and all the affirming literature I read, and though I try to avoid magazines with models who have had 20% of their body weight photoshopped off or something, I have to confess that I have not been loving my body lately. I've been obsessing over how "gross" I feel. Being out of my usual routine and typical diet has thrown me for a loop where I've ended up heaping salad onto my plate (salad? I hate salad.) and worrying about the tightness of my pants.

I suppose this is all a prime example of the power cultural beauty norms perpetuated by the media have over women and the way they view themselves. Instead of admiring my curvier body or my happy psychological state or acknowledging that it's okay for weight to fluctuate, I'm beating myself up. After recognizing these obsessive new behaviors I also realized that hating my body isn't making me any happier or healthier. Furthermore, I don't want to lose my enthusiasm for Turkish food, which is fucking delicious.

This article from Rookiemag really spoke to me because it doesn't chirp the same "U R BEAUTIFUL ALWAYS, AND STUFF" message that kind of loses it's meaning the more one hears it. Instead, it says: eat the fucking brownie if you want to, but if you do, you need to enjoy it.

The author writes: "Here I am making a vast and sweeping gender stereotype, but do you ever, ever hear dudes say “I just want a little bite” or “This is so bad, you guys, but I totally ate a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s last night”? No! Because it’s OK for men to eat! Men get hongray! Men need frozen dinners called “Hungry-Man”! Men need Manwich! Boys are allowed to grow into men, but “attractive” women in our culture are expected to stay at pretty much an eternal pre-adolescent weight. What’s society’s current ideal man look like? Fit. Big muscles. What’s society’s current ideal woman look like? Thin. Really thin. No hips. No belly. Hairless except for the head. Basically a 10-year-old girl with boobs added for sex appeal."

(Adele gives no fucks about what the world thinks of her figure. She's too busy being awesome.)

So yes, I'm all for eating healthy and taking care of myself. But no, I'm not okay with the double standard that women are held to where they must remain perpetually thin and feel guilty about enjoying food. Even if that brownie isn't as nourishing as some kale chips or whatever, the fact that it comes along with a blissed-out sugar high is sometimes JUST AS GOOD.

Physical and emotional health doesn't begin with a hateful relationship with food and our bodies. So next time I have a snack, I'm going to try to just enjoy it for what it is, no strings attached.

I know this isn't the most academic thing I've ever written, and I may not be using the right terminology. What I do know is that every woman (and man) is affected by negative body and gender norms in some way. My hope is that someone will read this and feel empowered and encouraged like I did. 


  1. Berit,

    I love this post and completely agree with you. Last year, I gained a few pounds and felt really self conscious for the longest time even though I knew the ideal image of beauty and weight is ridiculous and just screws with your head. And then working at a gym where everyone is always on a diet or training for a figure competition made me wake up and realize, I like cooking with butter and I like eating good food... and I can do that and still maintain a healthy lifestyle. I am glad you are enjoying your time and realizing this should not ruin your enjoyment of the, what I am sure is delicious, food there.

    Anyways.. thanks for this post, I definitely feel empowered and encouraged :)

  2. This is amazing B, thank you. And I'm enjoying a plate of delicious eggs over tortillas, while reading this. You know that shit's good.

  3. Woman you know I do! The response I've recieved from this post, both public and private, has reaffirmed that the toxic effects of the media and Western beauty ideals effect every woman of every body type and age.

    @Katie: The rice here is cooked in butter and it is out of this WORLD. You make a good point about striking a balance between nourishing your body without sacrificing enjoyment!


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