It was a few weeks ago. I found myself sitting in a little restaurant, the walls covered with retro advertisements and old Coca Cola signs from the 50’s.
I sat there, sipping my drink and waiting on my food, when the thighs of a bright and smiling girl with bouncy curls on a poster on the wall caught my eye. She wore a yellow pleated mini skirt, and was leaning back, holding her Coke. Her thighs were prominent in the picture and they were so … uh, normal sized. She wasn’t fat, or chubby, but her rosy cheeks glowed. She looked healthy and hearty. I couldn’t stop staring at her. It just seemed so weird to see a model about my size, not rail thin, on the wall.
I spent more time starting at the rosy cheeked girl with a huge smile on the Coca Cola poster than I did eating my food. How different from the models that are held up today as the perfection of beauty, I mourned to myself. The models from fifty years ago weighed far more than the stars of today. They weren't fat; they were healthy weights, with some curves, and actual flesh on their bones!
Angelina Jolie, thin limbs, gaunt and hollow face. Our culture has adjusted to thinking this is as good as beauty gets! Every magazine and billboard shouts out that sharp and stark cheek bones are more beautiful than gently rounded cheeks, legs are more beautiful with nothing but bone, and waists are most beautiful when they are impossibly small.
This is what our girls try to be. They starve themselves, live on diet sodas, protein shakes, low-calorie fillers… binge and purge because of the array of food set before them hourly. …Always feeling fat and ugly and hoping to catch a guy’s attention by getting as skinny as their friends. Size 4 jeans have almost become a status symbol.
Growing up in a culture that values an almost starved look (one that most people cannot obtain in a healthy way) carries over into motherhood.
A few months ago, I was visiting with a pregnant doula client and her husband. This beautiful woman who I’ll call Grace [details changed to protect her identity] is slender – 10-20 pounds underweight, and half-way through her pregnancy weighs less than she should as a non-pregnant person.
Grace was talking about her baby’s movement. I asked if I could touch her belly and feel the baby. She smiled and said, “Of course. He’s right here.” As I laid my hand on her nearly flat stomach (yes, she was half way through her second trimester!), she grimaced and said, “Sorry, there’s a huge blob of fat there. You’ll just have to ignore it.” Then she turned away and looked embarrassed.
Of course, I said something positive back to her about her body, but as I left I wondered how many other pregnant mothers feel the same way about their bodies, not because there is any truth to the way they feel, but because our culture makes them feel that way.
How many women feel like Grace? How many women are starving their babies for fear of “getting fat”?
I’m not advocating obesity or being overweight or gaining a huge amount while pregnant, or pigging out, or…
I’m advocating that women feel pressure to be healthy, not skinny!