I’ll bet you 72 billion dollars that you shouldn’t feel good about your body. This isn’t my money talking; it’s the worth of the U.S. weight loss market. This industry is saying you can never be thin enough, toned enough, or eat “clean” enough, nor is your workout program refined enough. We are conditioned to think that nothing we do on our own is good enough: we need the newest gadgets, equipment, and diet plans. Rather than pay into a never-ending system, let’s look at two misconceptions about the human body, and two self-improvement hacks that cost nothing but your own effort.
Let’s tackle the adult version of the monster under your bed. Its name is BMI, and it uses your height and weight to determine whether you are normal, overweight, or obese. The CDC has an online calculator if you’d like to see where you fit in. One of the problems with BMI is that it doesn’t consider body composition. The calculation can’t tell the difference between muscle and adipose tissue (a.k.a. fat, that may or may not affect health negatively, depending on the type). Actor Dwayne Johnson’s measurements designate him as obese, but people don’t look at him and think he needs to lay off the carbs. As of 2012, Beyonce and Jennifer Love Hewitt had “normal” BMIs of 21 and 21.9, respectively, yet different body shapes and composition. BMI is just a number that doesn’t necessarily tell us if we’re healthy, much less if we look attractive by society’s standards.
This is the point where some people acknowledge that the numbers might lie, but what about our clothes? If we are thinner and fitter, won’t we look cuter in our clothes? The answer is no. Celebrities don’t have ideal bodies that are made for clothes; clothes are made to be ideal for celebrities’ bodies. If you can afford alterations, or have some basic skill with a sewing machine, you, too, can look as if your clothes are tailor made for you – because that’s exactly what they are. It’s not diet and exercise; it’s needle and thread.
Knowing the truth about BMI and clothing won’t undo a lifetime of conditioning through advertising. Telling you not to be bothered is as helpful as telling a depressed person to cheer up. So what can you do to feel better about yourself? For starters, take a break from social media. It’s easy to forget that we only see what people want us to see. Take, for example, the northwest corner of my living room. It’s open to natural light, which makes for great selfies. That area is the most (read: only) organized area of my entire home, and does not represent how I actually live.
Take the time you once spent criticizing yourself, and redirect it into kindness. Many studies have shown a connection between kindness and well-being. In seeking ways to be kind to others, we start to notice the kindness around us. We notice that we are receiving what we put out. Our attention shifts to the good things we have, instead of a physical goal that is out of reach.
You are not just good enough: you are enough. Your value cannot be encompassed by numbers, especially not the ones that originate from a scale.