As both a teenage girl and an avid foodie (the kind of foodie that eats a lot and thinks about food too much, rather than the kind of foodie that tries new things and dines out lavishly), the conflicts between food, nutrition, body image and self-love are all too real, and all to unwelcomed.
In a world where society projects a multitude of ‘ideal’ body standards for both women and men, it’s no wonder so many young adults and teenagers struggle with their confidence and the nurturing of love within and for themselves. Girls are expected not only to have the tiny waist, but to have the big bust, too – to have the big lips, prominent cheekbones, nice collarbones, slim thighs, toned legs, perfect glow, glossy hair, clear skin, no dark circles, muscular (but not too muscular) arms, and ‘flat abs’ – all without looking like we work out or monitor our food.
In film, too often the ‘ideal’ woman is both slender and sheik, yet down-to-earth and eats only hot dogs at the Basketball, eats a block of chocolate a day, and drinks way too much wine every night (though, magically, it doesn’t affect their physicality at all!) – as though being unhealthy and eating food like you don’t care about your body correlates with being cool and more attractive?
It’s a whirlwind of expectations, motivation, cravings, resentment, guilt and so much more, wherein our weight is both within and without of our control.
However, at the end of the day, what you eat really is up to you, and furthermore, really can control how you feel about yourself.
Personally, through trying to eat clean and monitor my nutrient consumption, I have found that my reasons for consciously eating ‘healthy’ foods have changed over time. While a few years ago, I may have increased my intake of fruits and vegetables with the goal of looking great – but this was unsustainable. The only reason I continue to eat clean and invest in fresh produce each week, is because the right foods make me feel good.
Yes, I feel more energized, awake, focused, satisfied, whole – but most importantly, I feel more confident. My physique hasn’t changed much, my skin remains problematic at times, my stomach is still miles away from those ‘flat abs’ – but through caring about my health rather than my appearance, I’ve come to subconsciously embrace the fact that, so long as I’m making healthy choices and eating in a way that enhances my energy, I am confident in me.
This dichotomy of food and appearance, and the common tensions between eating less and exercising more, not for your health, but for your aesthetics, exists only within your mind, and only because you let it. So long as you make decisions about your body based upon stereotypes of another’s (probably photo shopped) body, that negative undertone will always triumph. Always. Conversely, when your actions – diet, exercise, sleep, organization, focus – are motivated by a deeper goal for feeling healthy and exuding radiance; that is when your self-love and appreciation will arrive.
You are already there, physically – wherever you stand right now is exactly the right place to be.
Choose your foods wisely and enjoy the taste of whole foods and authentic, plant-based nutrition. In doing so, you are choosing to be you, and not the girl in the commercial; this is all the strength you will ever want, and ever need.