One thing I am really into at the moment is browsing Tumblr for inspiration. I compile images on mine and frequently go back to it to feed my brain.
As I was doing my usual daily crawl the other day, I stumbled upon a "thinspiration" blog.
In case you are not familiar with thinspiration sites, they are essentially collections of photographs of thin girls used as a motivation for dieting. A bit like sticking a photo of Cindy Crawford on your fridge to stop you from snacking... The photographs do not come from magazines, they are collected from other Tumblrs or popular style site LookBook.nu and they invariably show girls who look like they have just skin on their bones. While I can completely understand wanting to diet and exercise to achieve a healthier shape, I don't think aspiring to the mythical size 0 is a valid life choice (unless it is your natural body shape or size).
This discovery was quite serendipitous as I've been thinking about body image and size issues a lot, mostly because I spend most of my waking time looking at fashion related things, be it an online retailer's site, fashion blogs or magazines. When one spends too long immersed in the fashion industry, their perception of what a "normal" size is quickly becomes warped (please note the quotation marks around the word normal -- this is not a term I like to use). A girl was recently featured on The Sartorialist and her legs were described as "sturdy" -- this caused general online outrage because of the choice of word, but also because after spending a while working in the industry, Schuman's perspective on the female body is clearly tainted.
While perusing magazines, we are confronted with images of tall, thin and pretty 16-year-olds -- and in a way it makes sense: their bodies are blank canvases and the girls are trained to showcase the clothes in the best possible way. But you know at least we know every page has been heavily retouched. I don't read magazines to see the harsh reality of everyday life, I read them to be tricked into thinking the world is glossy and perfect.
I am 5'7 and a size UK12 (US8). I'm 32 and I've had a child, so I have stretch marks, a little tummy and my bum is definitely bigger than it was 5 years ago. But you know what, I am quite pleased with the way my body looks, even if I sometimes think "I could do with firmer abs". Somehow though after prolonged sessions looking at thinspiration sites, I could easily find myself feeling inadequate or "the wrong size" because the majority of "real life" bodies displayed on there seem to look increasingly like the unachievable standards set by fashion magazines.
The mere fact there are "thinspiration" blogs out there makes me feel a bit nervous. It looks as if young women are attempting to create a new norm for bodies. I don't believe it comes from magazines, it comes from us. We are constantly striving to be thinner, prettier, fitter while binge drinking at the weekend and eating crisps and ice cream. In my Twitter feed, there isn't a day where I don't read two antinomic tweets from the same person proclaiming "I had an amazing personal training session today, I feel so good" followed a couple of hours later by "Off to the pub! Mummy needs a few drinks to forget about the week!". We are our own worst enemies. We don't need thinspiration, we don't need to be protected from women in magazines, we just need to sort ourselves out and start thinking: what am I trying to achieve here? Do you want to feel healthier? Drink less, eat more greens, go to bed earlier, exercise regularly. Do you want to look nice in your clothes? Stop insisting on buying size 10 if you are more of a 12. And most of all... relax and stop being so hard on yourselves.
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