We're Changing The Way We Think About Body Image

by Charlene Flanagan

Body image, it's a loaded topic. Good or bad, we can't deny it has a huge impact on how society views women and how we (women) view ourselves. Before we dive into where we collectively stand today, let's take a moment to think about how far body image has come since the beginning of the 21st century alone.

Back in the early 2000s, models and actresses sported a super-thin look, a physique that was totally foreign to most of us. Waif-thin models like Kate Moss were known for the popular "heroin chic" look, which many young women dangerously tried to imitate.

Soon, the media began to catch on to women's dangerous eating behaviors. Christina Aguilera’s music video Beautiful encouraged women to be proud of their bodies, and to not be ashamed of who they are or how they look. In 2004 Dove launched the Campaign For Real Beauty celebrating women of diverse body types, sizes, ages and colors, in their underwear.

Flash forward to today, and things are a lot different, if not better. There is arguably more awareness than ever around dangerous eating disorders, compulsive over-exercising and fixation on a single body type as "ideal." More and more women are putting out messages of empowerment and embracing their bodies for what they are: an awesomely beautiful and powerful part of who we are.

Could it be that words like “fat” and “skinny” are finally being replaced with words like “healthy,” “strong,” and “fit” in everyday life?

Finally, Barbie Dolls Look Like Us!

Perhaps the biggest change came with Barbie, who is no longer available in just the tall, slender, straight-haired versions we all grew up with. Now, she’s a strong independent woman, more truly of the world, complete with a fuller figure, a shorter height, and darker hair. Finally, little girls can play with dolls that actually resemble themselves as well as the real women in their lives.

This whole thing got us thinking: If mindsets are changing, surely the way people view health and fitness may be too. Jacqueline Kelly, MS Sports Psychologist, personal trainer and registered psychotherapist says, “I am definitely seeing a change in the American woman's body image. Strong, fit and healthy—no matter how round that looks—is the new hot”.

Strong And Sexy, Not Weak And Skinny

Kelly believes the fitness industry is the biggest witness to this shift, as workouts are now focused on core training, muscle strengthening, and flexibility exercises that will help you age well. “The year 2016 is definitely seeing a push for healthier bodies and less extreme diets,” Kelly opines.

“Of course, there are always women who will use any tactic possible to achieve size zero, but that is no longer the norm. However, the media has played a part in this trend—with models and athletes looking healthier and even more full-figured.”

Celebrities like Lena Dunham, Demi Lovato, Chrissy Teigan, Mindy Kaling, Amy Schumer, Selena Gomez and so many others have used their popular status to publicly speak up against body shaming.

We're Eating Right For Our Bodies

People now want to eat healthier to keep lifestyle diseases at bay, take care of themselves, and load up on nutrition. Food is no longer viewed from simply a caloric point of view. The rise of organic products and superfoods are the biggest indicators of this change. 

Kelly believes, “Instead of crazy fasts and diet fads, eating habits are going more towards whole foods and whole grains while workouts are geared towards establishing a foundation of fitness rather than the extreme bathing-suit, boot camp drills.”

We're moving in the right direction. Today, when one puts up a picture that shows their stretch marks or flab, they are called brave and strong, which is good, but think of a world in which that kind of photograph invoked no reaction at all.

Just think, a world where we accept ourselves as we are—no labels required!

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