By: Ebony Taylor
In celebration of Everybody is Beautiful Week, I want to share my journey of accepting my body. Body confidence took me a while to conquer, and I still struggle with keeping it intact some days. With all the social media influence and diet culture being a trend, it’s hard to not compare yourself. It wasn’t until freshman year of college that I started to realize who I was apart from my insecurities. Attending a big university, there were people of every shape, size, and body type. They say college is where you find yourself and I would agree. Living on campus, I could choose who I wanted to be, what that person looked like, and how to make the new me happy. There are days when I can wear a fitted dress or crop top and feel the most confident. Then diet culture and social media can make me second guess myself.
For those not familiar with the term diet culture, the term refers to societal expectations that determine a person’s worth by valuing ‘thinness and attractiveness’ over emotional well-being. Diet culture focuses on calorie restriction, “good and bad” foods, and normalizes self-critical talk about oneself. According to UC San Diego Recreation, this toxic idealization and obsession with physical appearance can be a risk factor for body dysmorphia and eating disorders. I did not realize how much I used to talk bad about my body and how those comments left a feeling of imperfection.
The Freshman 15 (when attending MU, it was the Mizzou 22, yikes!) was something I experienced over time. Add bloating, inactivity for a short while, and then COVID’s “pandemic pounds”, I noticed I didn’t fit into the same clothes. Family members would point out that I was heavier or say things like, “that [outfit piece] used to fit looser, didn’t it?” Unconsciously, I was engaging in diet-culture behavior. I didn’t realize at first that I was avoiding going to the gym or participating in group workouts because I felt I didn’t have the “right appearance”.
Social media constantly portrays what girls and women “should” look like. On Instagram, I couldn’t scroll for five minutes without seeing a post about restrictive eating or pictures of women modeling body types that didn’t portray the average woman. That’s when I knew I had to change my habits, leading to me deleting all my social media. I cannot express the feeling of that weight being removed. No more filtering photos. No more wasting time finding the “perfect” picture to post. I focused on accepting my body the way it was while learning healthier habits that were achievable for me, not what others’ claim works on everyone else.
So, for my journey and others walking their own, this last week of February is a reminder to focus on you and your body, listen to your body, and treat it kindly. If you came to the Every Body is Beautiful Information Table event, the Women’s Center partnered with other campus organizations, worked together to bring awareness to body image, body positivity, and eating disorders because every body is, indeed, beautiful. Take care of it because you only have one.