Having been travelling for almost a month now, I have been actively learning about and experiencing the beauty of other cultures; the food, the language, the landscapes, the people, as all travellers aspire to do. In particular it has opened my eyes to the limited presence of certain body-types within the media.
I, and most women are exposed daily to the harmful body trends that dominate social media, particularly Instagram. Instagram undoubtedly withholds the potency to destroy a woman’s confidence if she does not equate herself with the figures that take centre-stage on the 'explore' page. This is becoming increasingly the case with guys as well. Undeniably, it is crucial to celebrate girls of all body shapes - whether they are skinny, fit, toned, curvy, or bigger - and yet ultimately the body types we are exposed to are often limited, and personally all I see on my Instagram feed are smaller women who are glorified by their large following because of their size and shape. This has somehow become the new norm, the most sought for body shape by young women. Where are the curvier women - why do they not uphold the same social media presence? All body types should be celebrated and embraced equally.
Furthermore being at this spot in Lake Como, without access to social media and surrounded by masses of Italians, has made me focus on how women’s body shapes are inexplicably varied. Not one is the same. For every one toned, skinny, insta-perfect girl I see, there are almost 10 women that are bigger, curvier, wider, pear-shaped, or cellulite-covered. This has really normalised the variety of women’s bodies for me. When we focus on and aspire for the standard of beauty more often portrayed in the media, we lose touch of who we are and how we should treat ourselves. Personally, it has taken being in a different country for me to even observe how many body shapes exist and to remind me that not everyone is naturally slim. Not everyone who wears a bikini has a toned stomach, big boobs, a big bum and tiny legs; bodies cannot be confined to these certain categories.
Being absorbed into different cultures has also changed my attitude towards food. In Italy for example, I have been eating a largely carb-based diet. Why wouldn’t I when I can get the best pizza and pasta in the world? Many health-experts, fitness gurus and Instagram models would regard these foods as ‘bad’, and ‘unhealthy’ when actually I have found myself looking forward to every meal and more immersed with the local people and cuisine than I would be if I ate a salad. Of course, a balanced diet is incredibly important in staying healthy but treating yourself should not be discouraged, otherwise an obsession with avoiding carbs and calories presents the danger of the manifestation of eating-disorders.
I refuse to spend my life worrying about my weight, if I will look good in a bikini and how I should burn off the amazing food I have eaten; life is too short. The majority of women on Instagram who make money out of their petite size and appearance are representative of something unrealistic rather than reality. We do not even know if they are content with their life as our size does not equate to happiness. However we do know that a lot of them have access to personal trainers, fake tan, free clothes in return for an Instagram promotion and even plastic surgery.
My point is that experiencing new cultures can create a distance between yourself and the lifestyle encouraged by a lot of women on Instagram. It provides you with a broader outlook into the female body by normalising the great individuality, uniqueness and beauty of each shape. Women should not be led to believe that our worth and value in society is based on our appearance, which would be an incredibly vacuous existence, but who we are as human beings.
So - as a solution, I encourage women (and men!) to follow a variety of style-personalities with different body-types (but an unquestionable self-love) to make your feed more diverse. Here are just a few to get you started: enjoy!
And for even more body-posi content, check out my blog The Health Diary!
Title quote: Sarah Lee