NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
A lot of attention is given to celebrities who have enviable figures. We’ve all seen the magazine articles with such titles as “The Hottest Hollywood Bodies,” “Body after Baby,” and a multitude of other stories chronicling celebrity weight loss and the body ideals showcased by the stars. Similarly, many of us know “real people” with amazing physiques and we may compare our own bodies to theirs and find ourselves coming up short. Seeing beautiful bodies can either motivate us or deflate our spirits, depending upon our mindsets and how we feel about our chances of achieving our body goals.
Choosing the Right Role Models
While it can be helpful to have body role models, it is even better to have body image role models, especially for those of us who are working to rehabilitate a negative body concept. This post will highlight a few of my personal body image role models and show what I have learned from the women in my life who embody healthy attitudes toward their bodies.
Role Model #1 – Healthy Habits, No Obsession
For much of my twenties and thirties, I found it exceedingly rare to meet a woman who didn’t continuously expound upon her diet and weight loss pursuits. As someone who was desperately trying to overcome a deadly eating disorder, it was not healthy for me to engage in such discourse. This is why I found it so refreshing to find one friend who didn’t waste a single moment disparaging her body or discussing her battles with weight and food. She didn’t have to make an effort to avoid such talk; it simply didn’t occur to her to worry about these things.
My friend embraced her body for what it was, ate what she wanted when she was hungry, and went about her life. Yes, it helped that she was naturally slim, enjoyed exercise and outdoor activities, and had grown up eating natural, healthy food. However, as she gained weight in her late thirties and early forties (as can often be the case), she continued to love and accept her body and treat it with honor and respect.
I am grateful to this friend for being a body image role model to me for close to twenty years. She showed me an alternate way of thinking and behaving in regards to body image, and it was healthy for me to spend time with someone who refrained from negative body talk and obsessive diet and exercise activities.
I remember shopping for clothes with her on a number of occasions. When she would try on garments that didn’t fit, she didn’t blame her body, as is common for women to do. She either grabbed the next size up or decided that the particular clothing style didn’t suit her and moved on to something else. She knew that she was just fine the way she was and it was just a matter of finding the right brand and style for her body. In short, the clothes were wrong (for her), not her body. A powerful distinction that is important to remember!
Role Model #2 – Body Freedom
Another body image role model is a relative who has fluctuated in weight quite a bit over the years. She has vacillated between having a tight, taut figure and being dramatically overweight, and I never know how she will look when I see her. However, no matter what she weighs, she has never expressed any feelings of shame toward her body. This woman has no problem getting changed in front of others and will proudly strut around in the buff regardless of whether she’s thin or heavy. She has a freedom around her body that I truly envy and greatly admire.
My confident relative doesn’t make her weight mean anything about herself as a person. She knows that she is intelligent, capable, lovable, and fabulous no matter where the needle on the scale may fall. She doesn’t let her body image dictate her self-image. Who she is consists of infinitely more than what she weighs. I aspire to be more like her in this regard and I honor her for what she’s taught me about body pride over the years.
Role Model #3 – Confident, Curvy Woman
I have a new friend who is also a body role model for me. This woman is beautifully curvy with a figure similar to the wonderful Christina Hendricks, who I wrote about last month. She proudly showcases her curves in body conscious clothing that makes the statement, “I love my body and enjoy showing it off.” Her outfits are always beautifully put together and give off a powerfully confident “bombshell” vibe.
I already admired this woman, but then I learned that she used to be sixty pounds heavier. Amazingly, it was when she started to accept her body, take more pride in her appearance, and dress the body she had, that she was able to drop the excess weight. I could tell her story, but she chronicles it so beautifully herself HERE that I will let you read it for yourselves. Of note is that she reveals both her highest weight and her current weight in her article. There is absolutely no shame attached to either number for her. I aspire to be more like this amazing (and young!) woman. That she was able to overcome her body image issues at such a young age is a tribute to both her strength and fortitude.
In closing, I would like to recap the lessons I have learned from the three body image role models I briefly introduced above. These three magnificent women have taught me the following:
- There is so much more to life than dieting and weight loss.
- All bodies are worthy of love and acceptance.
- Take pride in your body regardless of its shape and size.
- It is normal and natural for our bodies to change as we age.
- Dress for the body you have, not the body you wish you had.
- If clothes don’t fit you, your body isn’t bad or wrong!
- Your body image should not dictate your self-image. You are not your weight or shape!
- We all have positive body attributes that are worthy of showing off.
The list could go on and on, but the items above capture the most powerful lessons I’ve learned from my personal body image role models.
The Best Role Models…
When you look around for role models related to your body, I encourage you to search for those who will help you to feel better about your body instead of worse. I urge you to find those women in your life who embody body love and acceptance and who can help you to develop those same desirable qualities. We can all find bodies to admire and envy, but the real growth and empowerment comes from emulating those who can push you toward the ultimate prize, true body image rehab!