The Fifty Minute Hour

Thoughts on therapy and life

Thin or fat, do I have to choose?


Do we have to choose

Do we have to choose

Anxiety and depression might be the biggest sources of mental dis-ease in the UK, but this statistic obscures the fact that body image issues now seem to be a part of what most clients bring, regardless of their presenting issue. Hand on heart, how many women1 do you know who eat what they want, exercise moderately and are happy with how they look? And I don’t mean this in a Gwen Stefani kind of way – the US singer recently told Marie Claire that she wasn’t really working out much at the moment, whilst showing off the kind of flat and toned stomach you only get from a large number of daily stomach crunches. That’s not body acceptance, that’s fibbing.

The perfect body now is sold to us as something we should all aspire to, and increasingly the means to get it are within our grasp. It starts innocuously enough with hair extensions, perhaps takes in a bit of Botox and the latest diet; before you know it you’re onto major food restriction and extreme exercise, from which it’s a downward slope to cosmetic surgery and eating disorders. Not surprising then that hospital admissions for eating disorders have risen by 50% in the last decade, and that cosmetic surgery has risen at an annual rate of 5 – 6%  since 2009.

Thankfully, there is I think, a growing resistance, with campaigns such as anybody  which challenges the way women are expected to look, and Big Beautiful Wellness, a movement which celebrates women in their entirety and preaches good health rather than one size. I really welcome initiatives like these because it gives a voice and support to any girl or woman who doesn’t look like, feel like or want to be the accepted norm of femininity.

But, my question is, does it have to be so partisan? It seems to me that there are increasingly two kinds of women; the accepted norm, which is thin, young and feminine, and the disregarded – fatter, older and somehow perceived as less womanly.  Personally, I’m done with diets, obsessional exercising and shoes I can’t walk in, but I don’t want to make a political statement about it, I just want to be me.  Is there space for women to just be who they are in this new body conscious and body political society? And can we guide our daughters into adolescence and beyond without making them choose sides?

1 I know that it’s not just women and that charities such as Men Get Eating Disorders Too exist for a reason, but women have been dealing with this for longer and thus pushing into onto our daughters as well.


Author: Johanna Sartori BA MBACP Accred.

Finding my way through life, and travelling with those on the same journey

2 thoughts on “Thin or fat, do I have to choose?

  1. Interesting topic. My mum always told me that women actually dress for other women, not for men. I think from that I realised I didn’t want to really take part in it all and wanted to be natural in my looks. I rebelled against the makeup wearing bullies at school, refusing to do myself up for other women to criticise my makeup or clothes. I still had body issues until an antidepressant I was put on made me go from a size 14 to a size 6 in a few weeks. It was so sudden that I felt I’d woken up in a different body one morning. I had to go out and buy new clothes, and it was then that I realised that the clothes in the shops still didn’t fit or look right on my body, whether I’m overweight or stick thin. I looked in the changing room mirror and realised how ill I looked and that thin isn’t beautiful. I’m unhappy with being overweight at the moment since a big flare-up of ME a year ago but it’s not a massive issue anymore, though obviously I am working on changing my diet to manage ME. For me though, not for anyone else. Guess what, my mum was talking sense!

  2. Thanks Emily; you’re absolutely right, healthy is the best look of all, regardless of what shape that comes in, society makes it hard to remember that I think.

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