Americans are fat.
The French are skinny.
As I read blogs about life in France, Korea, or anywhere other than America for that matter, one topic seems to keep coming up. Women and body image. “How do the French stay so skinny?!” “Why are Americans so overweight?”. It makes me sad. Because according to stereotypical standards, I, at 5’0 and 140lbs, am practically obese.
This post has been on my mind for weeks now. I just didn’t know how to approach it…or how to write about such a sensitive subject. But at some point I just had to make the plunge.
Most people wouldn’t guess that I weigh 140lbs (this is attributed to too much junk in the trunk). But every time I step on the scale at the gym, that number haunts me. What are all of those Parisian girls going to think of me? Will they snicker? Will I even fit into anything in Europe? Then starts the wave of guilt, the shame of gaining over 40lbs in the course of a few months.
When I was in college, I was confidence personified. I knew I was the baddest bitch. I got into clubs for free, one bat of the eyelashes and free drinks were sent my way. I could wear anything I wanted. I knew I was smart, funny, and fabulous. The world was mine. What’s the difference now?
Suffering from depression and emotional eating caused a weight gain that not only affected my physical weight, but my mental one as well. My confidence plummeted. I was no longer the girl who could light up the room. I traded my heels and skirts for sweats and baggy shirts. I didn’t feel good about myself at all. After going to a therapist and finally getting my life in order, I started to work out again. I lost 12lbs and regained some of my confidence back. Then I booked my ticket to Europe, and the pressure to be thin was bigger than ever. It was about being thin for Paris, being thin for London, not wanting to be thought of as the “fat American”.
As a woman who has been trying to lose weight for almost the past year, I’ve realized that I’ve been going about the process completely wrong. I’ve been focusing on how I’ll be perceived in other countries, what people will think about me. I haven’t been trying to lose the weight for ME. It’s not about the stereotypes, or the preconceived notions of what French women look like, or what they will think of me as an American.
Women, in all countries, cities, provinces, towns, islands, come in different shapes and sizes. There is no country where every single woman is a perfect, long legged, size 2. And there never will be. Women have short legs, long torsos, big feet, small waists, big hips, round bellies, skinny legs, and everything in between. All sizes are beautiful, despite what the media wants us to believe. One of the hottest models out right now is the GORGEOUS Tara Lynn. In the April 2010 French Elle magazine, she was not only given her own 20 page spread of French Elle, but the cover as well. It’s sort of sad that’s so groundbreaking in this day and age, but at least there are magazines willing to put non-stereotypical models on the cover.
So yes, I do still have a weight loss goal. And yes, I do still work out daily and eat balanced meals. But I’m doing it for me and my health. In reality, my BMI is too high, and I do want to be the healthiest me possible. Plus working out and eating right just make me feel great.
Be confident. Travel and be bold. Make eye contact and flip your hair. And do it for you.
You, and I, owe it to ourselves.
photos via Elle France