The Fight Must Go On

I’m going through the grocery store check-out lane and as I’m waiting for my turn in line, my eyes wander. I see Extra gum, Snickers Bars, batteries, Chap Stick, Pepsi, and 14 different magazines. My eyes gravitate to the cover of Women’s Health, and I pick it up. The title reads Women’s Health. I look at this and think to myself, “I’m a woman. I’m concerned about my health. This must contain information I need.” My eyes then drift to the image of Sophia Vergara. Standing there. Beautiful. Flawless. And now apparently a beacon of health. Then I scan the text surrounding her. BIKINI READY in 10 days! Shrink Your Belly, Butt, & Thighs! I find myself wondering wanting to know more about the link between looking good in a bikini & my health. Cutest Denim Cutoffs... Huh. My doctor just told me to get more sleep and take a multivitamin.

This magazine cover is just one of thousands of advertisements we see every day that convince us that the key to health and happiness is beauty. Well, actually not just beauty. PERFECTION. I see my food items start to move down the conveyor belt out of the corner of my eye. With a sigh, I set the magazine back on the rack. I don’t look like Sophia Vergara, my thighs don’t have a gap like hers do, I would not look as good as she does in that shirt, I don’t have cute denim cutoffs hanging in my closet, and I’m DEFINITELY not bikini ready. This sequence of thoughts happens quicker than I can say Women’s Health. And it happens mostly without my knowing. I conclude, “I’m not perfect. Not even close.” So many women go through this. Everyday.

These feelings of inadequacy weigh heavily on us. They drive the way we feel about ourselves and impact our self-concept, the way we define ourselves as human beings. Too much value is placed on appearance in our society. It’s no wonder the rate of development of new cases of eating disorders has been on a steep incline over the past few decades.

Day in and day out, I see remarkable young women striving to alter the way they see themselves in the mirror and feel in their bodies. I see them practicing self-compassion and learning new ways to cope with their emotions rather than turning to their eating disorders. I see them learning to challenge the cruel voices of their eating disorders that convince them that they’re never good enough. Amongst a laundry list of inner demons, I see them fighting against culture’s rigid standards of beauty and focusing their energy on their health. Not 5 pounds lighter, bikini ready health; rather health in mind, body, and spirit. Like all of us, these young women still have to walk through that check-out lane at the grocery store. They still have to wait in line, and they still catch glimpses of those magazine covers containing photo-shopped images and messages that challenge all of the hard work that they are doing in recovery. They’re up against a lot. All of us involved in this fight – those who see the lies behind the air-brushed images of celebrities in advertisements and challenge the concept that beauty is the key to health and happiness – are up against a lot. But the fight must go on.

Jessica L. Betts, MS, RD, LD

Residential Coordinator, Thalia House