It's a phrase that abounds on the *cough* Daily Mail showbiz pages (I only ever accidentally spend several minutes reading those articles, of course), and also used in association with a lot of vintage and pinup discussions or Facebook posts, et cetera. It seems to mean a particular type of woman - one with an undefined but nonetheless significant amount of flesh. Christina Hendricks is real, but Victoria Beckham is not, apparently.
Let me make one thing completely clear.
All women are 'real'. It's a very ridiculous thing to say that by virtue of anatomy, which is very often out of our control to some extent, one woman is somehow more womanly than another. The above picture is absolutely ridiculous. I prefer this one.
Why the media keep recycling the stupid phrase, which is then picked up and echoed by those thoughtless enough to use it to belittle thin ladies, is beyond me. I know, I know, the general idea is to encourage the media to show pictures of unairbrushed flesh, with its blotches, marks and all; rather than a photoshopped vision of unreality. But it's now extended to people deciding that those who are lacking in those important but painfully vague 'curves' are somehow less than those that do have them. But unless we're Kryton from Red Dwarf, we all have curves. Some have a greater degree of curvature. Some have 'too much', apparently. And even that is a bone of contention, as illustrated recently by Karl Lagerfeld declaring Adele to be 'too fat', and the justified outrage that ensued.You're only 'too fat' when you feel yourself to be so, or if it's preventing you from doing things, threatening your health, or making you miserable. Similarly Kate Moss I think once said, 'Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels'. Well if you're weak from hunger and can't function properly, that probably feels pretty rubbish. I often look at some of the painfully thin celebs out there (Angelia Jolie is one), and wonder how they manage. But it doesn't occur to me to judge her appearance and think she is less of a woman.
I read yesterday, and with some interest, ReeRee Rockette's fab post about thighs, and her desire that we should all love ourselves the way we are. We're all different, and we should be fostering a positive body image, and I wholeheartedly agree. BUT. I don't really agree with the theory of working on loving yourself just the way you are, if there are parts of you that make you utterly miserable, and that are within your power to change.
Yep.. I'm about to evangelise about my new healthy lifestyle again... you have been warned!
There are parts of my body that I dislike. I think my calves are horrible, wide and stocky. I like my slender ankles, and I think they're ruined by my calves. Running has not made a difference to how I feel, as while they haven't changed got smaller or bigger, but they have become even more muscly. I know I'm not alone in this, world Ironman Champion triathlete Chrissie Wellington also hates her calves. But could she has broken so many records without their sheer power? Probably not. There are lots of bits of my body that I've never been a big fan of - always thought my legs too short, torso too long, thighs too wobbly, tummy too flabby, bum either too big or too flat depending on my weight (it's the first thing to disappear when I lose weight). You get the picture. Bits I have always quite liked include my collarbones, upper arms and waist to hip ratio. Overall, I always felt I was B minus, could try harder. Especially as I approached 30 last year, single, unfit and slightly depressed. I felt like my face looked haggard, lined and older than my years due to eating badly and weight loss (the heartbreak diet), my limbs were skinny yet flabby, the other dislikes listed above making themselves known and overriding the likes.
My first public Lycra photo! This was 8 months or so ago...
time to do a new one and show you what's changed!
time to do a new one and show you what's changed!
And then I plunged myself into training for a half marathon and watched everything change before my eyes. Nearly one year on, I can wholeheartedly say I am really proud of my body. Nay, chuffed with it. Not just because of how it looks as ultimately it's not *that* different* - though it's leaner, toned and my skin is better - but because of what it can DO. It can run for 10 miles and still get stuff done (whether I can say the same next weekend after a half marathon followed by the Ric Rac Club, we shall see...). It can dance to swing all night, it can cycle, it can carry me everywhere. Exercise has had a positive effect on both my physical body and my mind. Exercise can make you smaller, or it can make you bigger and more powerful. It's flipped a switch so that I focus on the good bits and not the other bits. It therefore makes me feel a bit sad to hear that people 'loathe' bits of them, when it's absolutely in their power to do something about it. It takes only 21 days to form a habit, whether that's exercise or diet. 21 days is nothing when you've hated your body for years, or even a whole lifetime.
I'm all for learning to love yourself, but if it's in your power to change something that is making your life miserable, then do it. Just do it. Not tomorrow, or next week, or when work's calmed down, or you've finished that box of chocs. I'm not telling you all to take up running, but to make positive changes towards your own happiness in yourself. One step at a time.
Make this the year that you do everything in your power to make yourself the happiest you've ever been. And then treat yourself to something fabulous for being so gosh darned 'real'. And by real I mean awesome.