Letter To The Editor

It Is Time To Change The Dialogue: Examining Society’s Health, Exercise And Beauty Standards

Posted

Today is the day I start eating clean. Keto diet. Five-minute fat-burning ab workout. No carbs for the rest of the week. Why did I eat that? I cannot have dessert ever again. I feel like I am going to pass out. Lettuce. No, I need to run one more mile. Skip breakfast. How many calories was that? Ew, look at my stomach. Go to the gym! Whole 30. I need to lose weight. I have been eating so badly. Hacks for easy weight loss. Come on, you need to work hard to get what you want! This is exhausting. And the list continues.

We hear these things all the time, but since when did fat become bad? When did something that people need to survive become the enemy? When did food, a source of fuel, start to require precise mathematical calculations? When was it decided to make a single body type and a model for how the rest of the world should look?

It is not uncommon to see posts on social media about losing weight, eating healthy and working out to get a toned body. Society has made all of these things appear desirable. People, especially teens and young women, believe if they have a flat stomach, big booty, eat only healthy foods and work out all the time, they are applauded and perfect according to society’s standards.

Meanwhile, under-eating, diets and hours in the gym have become common; all of these things lead to unhealthy relationships with both food and exercise. People have been looking at eating and exercise in the wrong way. Shifting perspectives can lead to a healthier and happier life.

Moral values have been attached to food items, as they are labeled either “good” or “bad.” There are bad connotations associated with foods such as brownies, ice cream and chips. It is important to remember that both apples and chips are simply food items. Eating one food item over another does not make someone a better or worse person. Not only is food fuel, but food is used to celebrate. Desserts and other treats are consumed during various parties and celebrations, and it is a shame to cut such items out of one’s diet because they are considered “unhealthy.” In fact, eating healthy entails eating a variety of foods, eating intuitively, and having balance. The body knows what it wants.

When it comes to exercise, there are so many benefits, but these benefits may have gotten blurred. While many people view exercise as a way to lose weight, get toned and “work off” food they have eaten, these are not the true benefits of exercise. First, food does not need to be worked off or earned. Second, exercise has so many benefits that are not related to appearance at all. Exercise releases endorphins, which create positive feelings throughout the body, relieve stress, improve sleep, boost productivity and much more. Exercise, whether it be lifting weights, running, walking, dancing, swimming, or any other form of movement that is enjoyable, should be done for the feel-good benefits and not those that are focused on changing one’s physical appearance.

It is understandable that millions of people would fall into society’s trap and conform to society’s rules to get a desirable body and lifestyle. These ideas are everywhere, but that does not make them right. Society’s standards are unattainable. If every person ate and exercised the same, they would all look different. Every person is built differently and made the way that is best and healthiest for them. Trying to change one’s natural composition is unnatural and demeaning. Shifting our thoughts to focus on what our bodies do for us and what we do for our bodies will help increase internal satisfaction.

It is time to change the dialogue.

I cannot wait to try that cake; it looks delicious! Thirty-minute Zumba to boost your mood. I can eat pizza and salad and still be healthy. Energizing yoga. The best hype-up songs for running. I like myself the way that I am! I love feeling strong. Ditch the diet. I do not need to change. My body is perfect the way it is. Having two desserts does not make me a bad person. I will honor what my body wants. I am made in a way that is right for me. Each person is unique. I am so happy!

Madeleine Stern
Broadneck High student
Publisher of the blog “Real and Relatable”

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