Beauty Comes in All Sizes

I’m not sure when it started, but the media has been selling it to us for awhile: skinny is beautiful, not-skinny is… not. Maybe it started with Twiggy, the model who was skin-and-bones and now occasionally makes guest judging appearances on ANTM. Or maybe it was cultural backlash after Marilyn Monroe… I don’t know. But I do know one thing: until recently, I bought into it, and if it weren’t for Mad Men, I might never have really come out of being “culturally persuaded.”

Mad Men is many things. Immoral, racist, chauvinist, sexist, homophobic. It’s an exploration of the lives of immoral businessmen during the 1960’s — a time when it all seemed so innocent, but in reality was a den of bad behavior in secular, upscale company — where rounds of scotch with lunch, sexually harassing secretaries, and constant smoking accompanied general chauvinism and double standards. And while I do not recommend the series that managed to ensnare my attention over the weekend, it does have one thing going for it: an actress that is not a size zero.

To be honest, Joan’s first appearance shocked me. You see, I am a CW watcher. I am used to twenty-something bean poles who either have no figure at all or have had work done. But put a “real” woman on the screen and my first response, thanks to our culture and years of anorexic actresses, is, “She should lose a few pounds.” Shame on me! Ten minutes later I was eating my words, because even an idiot can see how beautiful Joan is. It was a risky move on the part of the casting department, the notion of escaping bean-pole land and putting in someone with curves… but it fits. The 1960’s were an era in which being curvy was attractive. Marilyn Monroe, from what I understand, was anywhere from a size 8 to a 14 at the peak of her career and while I certainly do not approve of her behavior or her photo shoots, it’s almost refreshing to think about a time when a size eight was considered “normal” and “attractive,” rather than the size 4 or 0 they are now shoving down our throats.

How did this happen?? I don’t know. Look at paintings from bygone eras and you will discover that curvy women have always been seen as attractive by men — most of the painters have captured this well, dating back hundreds of years. “Plump” women implied good fortune, prosperity, and happiness. Their ideal woman was plump because of what it represented — and there are rolls of belly fat on some paintings to prove it.

Now understand me, I believe we should take care of our bodies and do our best to maintain a healthy weight. We are, after all, temples of the Lord and He asks us to be good stewards of all we are given — including our bodies. But we are also made in His image and of great worth to Him. He created us, He gave us form, He knew what we would look like long before we were more than a tiny piece of tissue. He wants us to love who we are and in doing so, realize several things about ourselves: that we are beautiful in His eyes, and that not all of us have the same body type. And that’s okay! We are still desirable.

Much as I would like to, I can never look like Kristen Bell. There’s no way with my bone structure and build that I could ever be that thin and not look anorexic. (Look it? Heck, I would BE anorexic.) And I doubt someone curvier than me would look good wearing my size. It’s not to say that I won’t still struggle with a desire to look like her, or that I won’t see promos for the gorgeous size zero girls on Gossip Girl and think, “I need to lose ten pounds.” Maybe that’s true, or maybe I’m being too hard on myself. But I am who I am. God knew what I would look like and wants me to be “okay” with it. There are some things I can change — my hair color, the length of my fingernails, even my weight — but my bone structure is not something that can be altered.

Our society is sick, so why do we listen to it? Why have we allowed ourselves to become convinced that skinny is always best, no matter the potential consequences? There are seventeen year old girls out there (and much younger than that — fifteen? twelve?) starving themselves because they want to look like the skinny girls in magazines. It’s sad, but it’s also a way the enemy gets hold of us. If he can make us look away from God and examine ourselves too closely, he’s succeeded in distracting us from what matters most. In one fell swoop he creates a false god within us (the “perfect weight”) and makes us feel insecure and unwanted at the same time. True, we all laugh at that quote in The Devil Wears Prada when Emily says, “I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight!” … but it’s not really all that funny, is it? It can become our own little graven image, a quest for unattainable perfection.

So then, why do we do it? For ourselves? Doubtful. For guys? They would much rather prefer a healthy girl than a sickly-looking one. Just to live up to the world’s standard? Meh, the world isn’t worth it.

My philosophy is this: be healthy. If you are healthy and get exercise, you will find that perfect weight. It probably won’t be the same size as your best friend, but you’re unique. You’re you. And you’re beautiful.

6 Replies to “Beauty Comes in All Sizes”

  1. Beauty is such a subjective thing.
    I find myself most attracted to women like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicole DeBoer, and Mila Kunis.
    On the other hand, my best friend like to poke fun at me, saying I am just covering for the fact that I must like boys. Grrr. He likes women who are tall and curvy (like Marylin Monroe).

    The downside is we cannot do the male bonding “whoa she is hot” style discussions, as we just don’t get why the other is attracted to who he is attracted to.

    The upside is we make awesome wingmen for each other when trying to help each other find dates. Heh.

  2. To Anonymous:

    First, I applaud you for working so hard to maintain a decent weight. That shows a lot of determination, perseverance, and dedication, as well as self-control. It's awesome that you decided to solve your weight issue and took steps to improve your life! I always encourage everyone to maintain their weight through a healthy diet, but I also believe it is important to note the differences in body types. There is an enormous difference between a healthy slender body and an anorexic or bulimic body. Many actresses tend to be too thin, as do models. (Fortunately, the model I know is neither anorexic nor bulimic — and she's gorgeous at her “right” weight.)

    I believe in being beautiful and healthy for yourself, as well as in honor of God, rather than for the purpose of attracting men, but it has been my experience that most stable men would prefer a happy, confident girl who is the right size to an ultra-skinny one. I'm sure many more men admire Jessica Beil than Kiera Knightley for just that reason. =)

  3. I personally have found that most people who have a problem with skinny people usually need to lose a few pounds themselves and aren't willing to just admit they are too lazy to make it happen. I've been up and down with my weight for several years and it's all because I sat around and stuffed my face. I get tired of people who poke fun at actresses and models now that I've started an intense work out regimen. I know that they work their butts off (literally) to look the way they do. I actually admire them – it takes a lot more effort and self confidence and will power to be skinny then it does to be fat. True, everyone's “skinny” is different depending on your body type. For me, I'm small, so a 4 is a good size for me but for others a 4 would be anorexic. Beauty is what you make of it….and I know most guys would prefer a good skinny girl over a “meaty” one any day!

  4. Gosh that was a good post.
    Amen.
    I was talking with my sister the other day about all this…
    I happen to be one of those naturally high-metabolism size-6ers. Anyways. I can't tell you how much I like this post, dear. 🙂 Thanks for writing it.
    I'm one of your newer followers, ad when I saw the title in my dashboard, I had to click.

  5. I've just newly stumbled across your blog and bookmarked it for future ref :). This post is especially awesome.

    However, that actress in the picture still looks thin to me! If I were ever that trim and nicely shaped, I'd be over the moon.

  6. Excellent post, Charity. I agree with pretty much everything you said. . .

    Look at paintings from bygone eras and you will discover that curvy women have always been seen as attractive by men” – so true! That's one of the reasons why I love immersing myself in art and art history – it's the perfect antidote to the “skinny” message promoted through the media. Whether or not you have moral reservations about nudity in art, I think it's great to see beautiful women in art who are *large*! Plump, curvy women have been considered beautiful through most of history. Just look at almost any painting from the Renaissance through to the late 19th century – the women in these paintings have big boobs (REAL ones, not plastic ones, LOL!), big thighs, hips, rears, and (shock, horror!) big, sloping, bellies! I find this particularly reassuring, in an age where having a stomach is considered unhealthy and unattractive, with only a flat, rock-hard “sixpack” considered acceptable – even in women!

    I've battled with body image issues, especially the skinny-as-beautiful mindset, particularly as a younger teen. Right now, I am relatively content with my body shape, although occasionally I still find myself becoming dissatisfied with some part of my body or other.

    Strategies that I have found helpful in battling the skinny-virus:

    1. As I talked about above, immerse yourself in art! Borrow art books from the library, or read and look online. I'm convinced one of the best things any girl could do to help her grow to accept her body would be to read art books, rather than glossy magazines and celebrity/entertainment websites! If you're constantly digesting images of beautiful women of ALL shapes (especially curvy!) rather than stick-thin models and celebrities, it's going to help! Besides, it's fascinating to read about the lives of artists and the significance of their works.

    2. Be on the lookout for, and make a list of, larger, curvier female actresses and celebrities who you think are beautiful. Sometimes their body shape won't be that different from your own, and you can take note of their style and fashion choices for personal style inspiration. They'll usually be wearing clothes that flatter their body shape, but often I think it's their confidence and posture that makes the difference between “fat” and fabulous. It's in the way they carry themselves. (Now, if only I could just muster up some of that grace and confidence, LOL. . . slouching is not a good look if you've got curves, but I tend to do it a lot. . .)

    Christina Hendricks is a great example. A couple of my other favourites are Nigella Lawson (<3 her! :-) and Kate Winslet (especially 90s - early 2000s).

    If you can be as free and uninfluenced by popular culture as you can, then great. Men certainly don't prefer slim girls over curvy ones – it's we women who are so easily influenced. We put pressure on each other and pressure on ourselves. And I'm sure most men (not to mention God) wish we wouldn't.

    Sorry for rambling on for so long. . .

    Once again, great post. I've been really enjoying your blog recently.

    ~Elise

    PS – RE the art thing – there are some really great art websites around if you're in the mood for browsing. A few of my favourites:

    http://www.artrenewal.org/pages/search.php

    http://www.artmagick.com/

    http://www.wga.hu/

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