January 23, 2018
One Woman's Weight Gain Is Another Woman's Weight Goal.
Words: K2RAH Photography: Flora Maclean
Last month a fitness lifestyle website used an image of me, without either the photographer (Flora Maclean) or my permission, to promote a blog post on a dieting trend. The implication was that doing this specific diet would ultimately enable the person to end up with a figure like the one in the photo; mine.
First of all, I've never fasted or dieted for weight loss in my entire life!
Apart from the obvious misleading implication, this bothers me for several reasons, and is a reminder of something I’ve been frustrated by since I was a teenager.
I want to make it clear from the jump that this is not a woe-is-me, pity party type of post. It's something that is in the back of my mind and I'm reminded of now more than ever via social media.
There arguably seems to be an everlasting western societal skew towards being slim or skinny as the ultimate '#weightgoals'. There is a deep misconception that it equals happy and healthy, and that "being skinny solves all of your problems". This bias persists even as the fashion world has taken steps to include and showcase curvy body types, but there is still a dominant preference of slim bodies as being more attractive.
I've had the same physique since I was a kid - tall, slim, athletic. That was all good when I was 8, 9 and 10 years old playing football in the playground, having weekly swimming lessons and going to contemporary dance classes. I'm not even sure I was aware of how my body compared to other kids'; I was a tomboy and very content.
Fast forward to secondary school when at puberty your girl friends are all developing breasts and bootys and their figures are filling out, much to the delight of the boys you fancy; but you've been friend-zoned because your chest is basically as flat as an ironing board.
My dual heritage is both African and Caribbean, and my parents are from two countries where being voluptuous, curvy and 'thick' is much more desirable to males than being slim, let alone skinny! I became acutely aware of this as a teen, and spent a lot of time fantasising about putting on weight and for my figure to fill out. I rarely wore skirts because I thought my legs were too skinny and didn't want to draw any attention to them.
I also learned at that age that real weight gain was not an achievable goal for me. I had (and still have) a very healthy appetite and also a very fast metabolism which makes it somewhat of a challenge to gain weight naturally. As I moved into my late teens and early twenties, I was surrounded by young women who were desperate to lose weight and would tell me all the time how "lucky" I was to be "so skinny". My own unique insecurities were dismissed because people couldn't relate having a slim physique to body hang-ups and as dramatic as it sounds, it was isolating. So seeing an image of me being used to promote weight loss most definitely adds insult to injury.
Businesses capitalise on the fashion and media narrative of 'slim as beautiful' and rely on women being in a constant state of weight-related unhappiness to offer one quick fix after the next, proclaiming to bring us one step closer to confidence and fulfilment.
Kate Moss famously said "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels", and while being slimmer may in some cases bring happiness, this narrative isn't true for everyone.
Rarely, if ever, is the focus on those who are naturally slender and equally as insecure and self-conscious because they're just as unhappy with their bodies as the rest. There is a mythical 'ideal weight' and a finger wagging attitude of 'don't complain' if you are naturally that size already. I tried to explain this to my cousin and she laughed (endearingly) because she absolutely cannot fathom being slim as ever being the source of an issue, and I know she's not alone in holding that view.
Thankfully I've become much more comfortable in my own skin through a combination of learning self-acceptance and self-appreciation, and practical things like dressing and wearing clothes that boost my self-esteem. I also try to stay mindful of the content I consume in social media, and will block and delete mercilessly to protect my peace of mind.
Ultimately, how we feel about ourselves is subjective and body confidence will come from different places for each of us, but as the person in that photo I know for sure that everything presented online isn't always what it seems. There is simply no universal ideal weight, or generic body type to aspire to. Feeling good about yourself and secure in who you are is a personal reckoning. My advice? Do you.
Images taken by Flora Maclean for Dazed and Confused x Huawei 'Reveal the real you'.
**Publication removed photo on Flora's request.**