When I was a teenager, being thin was ‘in’ and the coveted look of many women was basically to be as skinny as possible. With popular celebrities sporting skeletal frames, the size zero trend was born and posed a great threat to the health of the impressionable people who strived to attain the aesthetic of the rich and famous.
I’d like to make it clear that there is nothing wrong with being naturally thin; if you are someone who struggles to gain weight or your body shape lacks curves that’s absolutely fine, and no one has a right to tell you otherwise. The problem with the size zero craze was that for many (most) women, this extreme level of skinniness is completely unattainable without virtually starving oneself. It was in the midst of this wave and the revolt against it that I first heard the term ‘curvy’ being used. It was basically the go-to word we adopted in society to mean ‘not skinny’ and not so much to do with actually having an hourglass silhouette.
Fast-forward to today and we have taken the meaning of ‘curvy’ to a whole new extreme. Celebrating and aspiring to having a curvy body is fantastic and much healthier, right? Er, well no, not necessarily. With the likes of the Kardashians and a barrage of Instagram influencers now infiltrating every area of modern life, we are constantly hit in the face with images of the new ideal body. The basic gist of this figure is to be very slim but still ‘thick’ (i.e. lean and curvy with just the ‘right’ amount of body fat). Big boobs, narrow waists, flat stomachs and perky, round bums are everywhere.
Now, unless you are extremely genetically blessed (and I mean Blessed with a capital B) the reality of having these perfectly proportioned hourglass figures naturally is as unrealistic, if not more so, as it is to be a size zero. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time these girls’ bodies look amazing– like Jessica Rabbit brought to life, oozing sex appeal. But, just because these girls are ‘curvy’ and carry a little (perfectly distributed) body fat, it does not mean that this is a more achievable body goal for the everyday woman.
First of all, so much of what we see is manipulated either with posing and angles or altered on Photoshop and Facetune, so the reality of what a lot of these women look like is not to be taken as gospel. Secondly, Insta-girls and your favourite celebrities will be following a strict, tailored diet and partaking in gruelling workouts to obtain this aesthetic, often working with the very best industry professionals. BUT, no matter how much you hit the gym or what you eat, you can’t build boobs, and given how slim a lot of these ladies are (and as someone who lost my boobs to the good fight of weight loss), the majority of the times you see a very lean yet curvy and busty model you can be fairly sure that she’s had a little help from a cosmetic surgeon.
Cosmetic surgery used to be something reserved only for the famous and the wealthy but now, it’s more readily available and with payment plans and cheap prices abroad, more and more every day people are undergoing surgery in a bid to attain the ‘perfect’ figure. From liposuction and tummy tucks, to boobs jobs and BBLs (Brazilian Butt Lifts) and packages available that encompass all these treatments at once, it’s more viable than ever before to buy your dream body and you can bet your bottom dollar that celebrities are more than wise to this. Some Z-list reality TV stars are open and honest about their procedures, oftentimes because they get free treatments in return for exposure. But the bigger, higher profile stars generally remain schtum about the work they’ve had done and we are expected to just buy the fact that they are naturally flawless- even if they’re in their 40s, have popped out four kids and still have the toned, taut bodies of a 19-year-old swimsuit model.
So, how does all this affect you? Well, massively, actually. It is no new theory that comparison is the thief of joy, but given the amount of time we all now spend scrolling through pictures of perfect body after perfect body, it is no wonder that we as a society are experiencing a mental health crisis. Comparing ourselves to what we see on social media can make us feel extremely inferior, with our normal bodies and our normal lives paling into mediocrity. But unless you become a dab hand at Photoshop or want to visit a surgeon and spend thousands of pounds, you must come to terms with the fact that most of the time, Instagram is not reality.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with having cosmetic surgery to enhance your body if it makes you feel better and you have made an informed and very carefully considered decision. What is somewhat wrong though is the lack of transparency and honesty from celebrities who perhaps have had surgeries but conceal it and go on to pedal useless ‘weight-loss’ products as if these are the route to achieving their bodies. It’s dishonest, misleading and leads to people not only wasting their money, but to developing unhealthy relationships with food, their bodies and falling deeper and deeper into diet culture as they hunt for the next quick fix.
More transparency and honesty online would no doubt do a lot to improve our penchant for comparison. Imagine: if celebrities and influencers were completely open and honest about the cosmetic procedures they’d undergone, their use of Photoshop, the diet they have to adhere to and the hours spent in the gym to maintain their flawless figures, instead of posting mirror selfies and showing us only the best sides of their lives, we’d probably come to a realisation that it’s OK that we, mere mortals, don’t perhaps have the time, money or means to look as incredible as they do. Maybe you wouldn’t feel so bad about yourself when you lose weight but still don’t have a flat tummy or hit the gym five times a week but still don’t have a huge peachy bum or try on a plunging dress to find your boobs don’t sit as high as your favourite influencer’s.
Happiness is not dependant on weight, body shape or dress size, no matter how firmly you may believe that your life would be better if you could just look like ‘X’ celebrity. If you want to lose weight/gain weight/alter your body shape for you, then fab, do it. But if you’re doing it to look like the girl on Instagram or because you think other aspects of your life will change when you look a certain way then you should re-evaluate your reasons for feeling this way, and maybe consider unfollowing the accounts that make you feel bad about yourself.
Here’s the thing – when you cook a really nice meal, you don’t instantly compare yourself to Gordon Ramsay and start feeling bad about your culinary efforts, so why, if you’re happy and comfortable in your life, would you compare your body to that of a model or celebrity who makes a living off of how they look? It’s such a cliché but if you can work on being happy by just being the best version of you and not a wannabe clone of someone else, especially based purely on aesthetics, you will set yourself free from so much negativity.
Finally – there is so much bad, bad, BAD diet and exercise advice out there nowadays. If you do want to lose weight or get in shape, you don’t need to ruin your life with complicated diet rules, new fads or shakes, teas and tablets. It is honestly as simple as consuming less calories that you burn. Use an online calculator to figure out your calorie deficit target. Focus on hitting these calories mainly from sources rich protein, carbs and fat. Enjoy ‘treats’ so you don’t go mad. Lift weights. Walk more. Drink more water. That’s it. So please, while you’re unfollowing all the people who make you feel down because of your body image, go ahead and unfollow anyone giving out ‘diet tips’ that are any more complicated than what I’ve just written. Because life is hard enough without having to try and live without bread.