Welcome back to Diary of a Disabled Feminist; this is the second part of three in the mini-series. You can find last week’s post here.
Despite the recent efforts to include “plus-size” women in modelling, women are still bombarded with unrealistic beauty standards. The “prettiest” models are still the thin ones, & Photoshop is used to turn every roll into a simple crease, whatever size the model is. As an expert on the human body, this frustrates me beyond belief.
I am a nutritionist. My mum is a nutritionist. I grew up knowing about body image & the media, & even with that knowledge it was still hard not to fall foul of wanting a flat stomach. I was extremely active & ate approximately 1,800 kcal daily, so I was actually fairly skinny but not unhealthy with it. Then the meningitis happened, I burned far less energy every day but consumed the same, & unsurprisingly I…expanded. Today my stomach is certainly not flat, but now also bares six scars courtesy of two abdominal surgeries.
On the whole I have a relatively healthy diet; it would be hypocritical of me not to. According to the media, this means I should have the perfect figure, but that’s not how science works. I have a healthy Body Mass Index (and yes, I am more than aware of the limitations of this measurement given I have a degree in it), but I still have rolls. I still bloat when my period approaches, & my breasts aren’t perfectly symmetrical. My thighs still do the sploot when I sit down, & they’re cellulite central. I even have stretch marks as some of the changes from puberty were that sudden that my skin literally stretched. Also, when I don’t have the energy to shave which is quite often, my leg hair gets impressively long.
While there are definite health benefits to having a BMI within a particular range, those who fall outside of that range still deserve to feel confident in their own skin. Frequently I see comments on social media stating that plus-size celebrities are promoting obesity & an unhealthy lifestyle. Of course, I have only ever seen these comments in relation to women in the limelight like Lizzo (#queen), & never about male celebrities like Jack Black or John Goodman, suggesting that double-standards are distinctly at play here. These people also seem to forget that the stick thin “heroin-chic” models of the 90’s were hardly presenting a healthy lifestyle.
Being disabled has taught me the hard way that whatever you do, your body will find a way to do its own thing, including both function & form. I could waste energy fighting that, or I could learn to work with it. I don’t love everything about how my body looks, but I find that it’s important to highlight what I like as much as what I dislike. I have pretty eyes (that don’t work). I have curvy legs (that don’t work). I have decent boobs (which, as of yet, I’ve not had the chance to test if they work). If I could simultaneously be deemed too thin & too fat during school (yes, this happened) then someone will always feel entitled to critique your appearance. Often, these people are only taking shots at your appearance because your personality can’t be insulted.