The Thinness Ideal

This afternoon I sat down at the table with my lovingly and thoughtfully prepared lunch and turned on the TV (not the best way to eat mindfully!). I turned on the Science channel to watch a show called “Wonders of the Universe” and was soon crying into my veggie wrap as I watched the sea turtles burying their eggs in the sands off the coast of Costa Rica. There’s something wonderful about the cycle of life that always moves me. As I was sighing and collecting myself so I could start to clear the table, a commercial for Nutrisystem came on and I sat back down, my previous awe vanishing instantly. There was Marie Osmond promoting the diet that changed her life “for the better”. She talked about how “easy” it was and how much “choice” she had and how she can now fit into a costume she hasn’t worn since she was 19. In the bottom right hand corner was the Nutrisystem hotline: 888-844-THIN. And therein lies the primary message of the diet industry — Thinness is ideal. Never mind the recent research that suggests that being slightly overweight is actually a protective factor against many diseases. Or the emerging recognition by many individuals and health care professionals that physical health comes in all shapes and sizes. For several decades now, we have been sold the idea (and boy, do we spend a lot of money on it) that thinness is to be revered more than all else. Forget organizational skills or good manners or even hard work…these pale in comparison to being thin. At least, that’s what we’re told and sold.

Although I’ve mentioned this before, it seems important to reiterate: In her recent book, “The Religion of Thinness“, author Michelle Lelwica, ThD writes in detail about the thinness ideal in America and gives us some concrete ways we can start to chip away at this ideal. First, we have to be mindful of it and start to become critical of it. Take note of those commercials for products that seem to be selling you happiness (coverup cream, hair dye, beauty products, diets, exercise programs, foods of all kinds). Recognize (the rather cynical reality) that the sole intention of these companies is to get you to spend money on their product. They will promise you anything, as long as you buy. But just ask anyone who has ever bounced from diet to diet or spent hours in a gym trying to look a certain way — happiness can’t be bought and inner peace is not found by losing weight. The next thing we have to do is start to get in touch with our own bodies in a mindful way — noticing and observing the many wonderful things our bodies do for us daily. Every breath we take is a reminder of the power and beauty of the body.

In my own journey away from Binge-Eating Disorder, I had to become more critical of the messages I was internalizing. I had to start writing and following my own messages: “I am worthy of love — not because I look at certain way or even because I did something to deserve it, but just because I am me.” In addition, I had to spend time appreciating my body in new ways. I still struggle sometimes, but I can always tell myself, “I am worthy of love”.

What can you do today to reject the thinness ideal?

Peace, joy, and health,




2 thoughts on “The Thinness Ideal

  1. Karen says:

    I find it funny that thin is to equal healthy. I always felt the most healthy when I was pregnant, and not even close to thin. I ate right, was in tune with my body, exercised for the enjoyment of it, took vitamins, and slept when I was tired (even if there were things to do). Maybe if the focus was more on feeling good, instead of just looking good, people would feel more encouraged.

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