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Learning the true Weight of our words

Written By Isabelle Lepine

The constantly evolving threads on twitter, reddit, Instagram and more had a run for their money when a certain high-profile star bragged about dropping 16 pounds to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s iconic Mr President dress at the met gala. Suddenly an influx of opinion and criticism flooded into the metaverse, with thumbs of fury pounding their tablet screens to get their point heard. The incident re-sparked a nation-wide conversation that had been supressed under the incorrect conclusion of completion: diet culture and body image.

With this in mind, playing out in debate form in our pocket devices, you can understand why Sainsbury’s Stylist magazine cover caught my attention post weekly shop. Titled ‘The Weight on our minds’, the cover, a collage of women’s nude bodies, I practically picked it up with my pinkie in desperation to uncover its insights. It held itself precariously in the nape of my neck in amongst the bags of shopping that shrouded my vision, as I attempted the search for my car. Inside, the featured articles did not disappoint, with a compilation of 100 women’s experiences and feelings on the taboo subject.

A provocative and honest collection of stories that incited a deep discomfort somewhere within me. With testimonies spotlighting the realities of equating the size of your body to your worth, from one woman accepting “verbal abuse in the streets everyday” to another explaining how muscle memory sucks in her tummy when she meets new people. I had always considered myself immune to body image struggles; counted myself as the ‘lucky one’ who loved food for the blissful experience it was and didn’t hate the bare image that stared back at me in the mirror with that natural post dinner bloat. But as my eyes glistened over with a light mist that we’ll call spring hay fever glow, I realised I too had been lying to myself about my outlook on body image.

Suddenly the frustrated tears I had spilled in countless changing rooms over my boobs not sitting right in ‘one size fits all’ bikinis, and jeans that I considered three times larger than my size not going past my thighs came rushing back. I thought of the expansive purple stretchmark roadmap that has littered my groin area for as long as I can remember, and obsessively checking, double checking, triple checking that the length of my shorts covered it before I left the house. Or how I would rather forego getting my arms out in the summer sun and instead submit to a sweat fest in a cardigan. Lest we forget the perils of chaffing, and how growing up the thought of my thighs touching was worse than the hunger of subsisting for the school day on only a yoghurt for breakfast.

I could, as I’m sure many of us could, continue on for an entire novel. The point, however, has been proven that despite my protestations, I too have been subconsciously impacted by the endless magazine stands promoting their fad diets for that ‘perfect summer body’ and buy into markets that sell the endless stream of products deemed to target my ‘problem areas’. But it extends further than that.

As a child I grew up in intense competitive sport, with my body on constant display and the subject of scrutiny in swimming costumes: never tall enough, strong enough, lean enough, slight enough. Whilst in one sense this pushed me to my limits, I also wholeheartedly believe it ingrained the idea that food is fuel. My difficulty was then when I took a step back from training, I had to fight against those lies that because I was no longer training, I didn’t deserve the food I had grown to love so much anymore.

I’ve seen this same attitude in my own mother: a sporty, active, and healthy woman who at her peak fitness both personally and biologically in a woman’s lifecycle, ran 40-mile ultra-marathons and trekked extreme landscapes for charity. For her young daughter, she was nothing short of a champion, for women, for food, for faith and a multitude of other elements in our lives and those around us. You can imagine my dismay as I learned recently that she too had experienced negative thoughts about herself and the way she looked, as a result of edging her way into the drastically unspoken and dutifully dreaded menopause.

Even today, sat snuggled in bed at night scrolling tiktok, we fail to realise how the plethora of information we’re inhaling could be negatively impacting our outlook. The most recent addition to the trend-tok – “that’s mid”. This new slang is simply a way of saying something is subpar, and the masses have taken to using it online as a way of degrading an opposing opinion. After a fair few days of seeing this, I caught myself using it, and with a sudden realisation of what I was actually implying, I tried to eat my words with so much ferocity I literally bit my tongue as they fell out my mouth. ‘Mid-size’ is how I would describe myself physically. I have never shopped in petite as an adult woman, and I don’t think I would comfortably describe myself as plus size either. In certain shops I am an 8 and in others I reach for a 14 with ease. I am mid. I’m not one to condemn a joke, and you may even catch me saying this particular trend in future. It was instead, the very simple reminder that our words have power and (ironically) weight behind them.

As humans, we are still very much in a stage of learning: unpicking the harmful lies we’ve told ourselves over the years. We’re reopening a period of redefinition for what it means to be womanly through conversation, and we’re seeing the reclamation of feminine power and beauty in media campaigns such as Sasha Pallari’s drop the filter. Much like a lot of us, I am still not immune to the impacts of the fad diet culture and ‘ideal summer body’ images, but I am more aware of it. It’s a really positive first start, but certainly not our end goal.

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