“Learn to love yourself,” they say, “and everything else will fall into place.” But how the heck do we do that? We can’t just spin around, three times chanting “I love myself, I love myself, I love myself,” and voilà, we now think we’re the most awesome people in the world. It doesn’t work like that.
“You look so skinny!”
For more than a decade, I longed to hear those words. The only one who said them to me was my grannie, but it wasn’t a compliment. To her, if you don’t have a lot of meat on your bones, you’re not well. But, to everyone else, I was never skinny enough.
I was very active as a child. Running, cycling, rollerblading, volleyball… Every day brought endless opportunities to run around somewhere with my friends and move my body. I didn’t care about how I looked, how red my face became and how my messy my hair got. All that exercise was so much fun. I loved it.
But, when I hit puberty, something changed. Exercise became a chore. Something I had to do to slim my fat thighs and waist and get rid of the cellulite that had quickly become to take over my body. Something I had to do alone, because I was ashamed to let other people see how awful I looked all huffed and puffed.
I went through days when I would really push myself. No pain, no gain, right? My body wasn’t tired, just lazy, right? I could do an extra mile of running, or ten more push-ups, right? And so I did. And, afterwards, I would feel so awful. Both physically and mentally drained.
Summer is my favourite time of the year. It’s a time of warmth and fun. The days are getting longer and the nights warmer. The sun is shining and nature is blooming. Life’s hectic pace slows down, and we can enjoy quite afternoons with our friends around a barbecue, romantic late night walks with our significant other, and fun vacations at the beach.
But, for a long time, summer, for me, has also been a time of anxiety. The reason? The C-word. Cellulite. That dimply thing that appears uninvited on our things and bottoms and refuses to go away ever, leaving us feeling ugly and worthless. I was so ashamed of it.
I tried to hide it the best I could. Summers in Italy can be torrid, but I still only wore full-length jeans. No shorts and miniskirts for me. And swimsuits, especially bikinis, were out of the question. Although Senigallia looks out to a beautiful, clear sea, I rarely went to the beach. Whenever my friends dragged me there, I was covered from head to foot, too worried about making sure no one saw my dimply skin and too hot under all those clothes, to really enjoy myself.
In the meantime, I tried everything I could think of to get rid of it. I performed massages on my things and bum. Rubbed coffee ground on my skin (all those teen mags swore caffeine was a great treatment for cellulite). Spent a fortune on cellulite creams that promised to reduce it by a fortnight but never delivered (but at least my skin was so soft!). All the while, bemoaning the fact I couldn’t afford those expensive cosmetic treatments celebrities have access to. If something costs you an arm and a leg, it must work, right?
Well, not really. In 2008, a team of scientists reviewed all the current available treatments for cellulite and the results showed what we all already know but refuse to admit: “Cellulite, a skin surface change that is nearly ubiquitous in women, is a condition that remains elusive to treatment. In fact, no treatment is completely successful as none are more than mildly and temporarily effective.” Yep, nothing works. Even those outrageously expensive lasers only provide temporary results.
And yet, we still splurge on them. Or on creams we know are useless, but hey, you never know until you try them right? I too, every time I see a new cellulite cream on the shelves of Boots hope that it may be different from the rest and do something for real for a change. Then, reality sets in, and I leave the shop empty-ended (well, actually I usually leave with some makeup, or shampoo, but the cellulite cream stays on the shelf). I’d rather use my money for something that really works (like aforementioned makeup and shampoo).
But the desire to get rid of cellulite is still there. How could it not when we are bombarded every single day by a thousand images of beautiful women who aren’t apparently, plagued with it. If they can get rid of it, surely we can too. We just have to eat only green food for a month, take seaweed baths twice a week for 20 minutes, or soak the affected area in baby oil and and use a hand vacuum to smooth the area (yes, someone really tried that one, but it made things worse!).
But that’s not how celebrity and models have really gotten rid of their cellulite, is it? Nope, they purposefully pose in positions that hide their orange peel skin, under bright lights that help smooth everything out. And if a few dimples are still evident, no worries. They are just airbrushed away. No one will know. Until some space-invading paparazzi takes a picture of a celebrity enjoying a day at the beach. Then the tabloids have a field day showing us how much a celeb has let herself go.
The message is clear: cellulite is bad. If you have it, you’re disgusting, lazy, and you’ll never find love. But it’s not true. The media wants us to believe that crap, so that the beauty, diet, and fitness industries that finance it can sell us their remedies for cellulite, even if we (and they) all know they don’t work.
The truth is that cellulite is normal. It is the body’s natural way of storing fat. According to the Mayo Clinic: “Cellulite is caused by fibrous connective cords that tether the skin to the underlying muscle, with the fat lying between. As the fat cells accumulate, they push up against the skin, while the long, tough cords are pulling down. This creates an uneven surface or dimpling.”
You know what that means? It means that cellulite is not an illness. It’s a normal condition that doesn’t need to be cured. It means that cellulite is not caused by a bad diet or laziness. It occurs regardless of who you are and what you do. Celebrity or working mum, vegetarian or fast food lover, fitness fanatic or couch potato, you are going to get cellulite. Only about 10% of women don’t, which means they are the “freaks” (I say this in the best possible way; no offence).
It also means that we all have been hating ourselves for nothing. That ugly flaw is no flaw at all. The flaw is in the media and in the way it portrays women’s bodies. The media, diet, fitness, and beauty industries love to turn perfectly fine and normal things, like cellulite and wrinkles, into ugly, unforgivable flaws. Whenever they do so, they make a truckload of money.
We, on the other hand, are stuck hating ourselves. Our insecurities and feelings of worthlessness stay with us for years, sometimes forever, causing us to avoid wearing short dresses and doing fun things, and ruining our relationships with our significant others.
It’s time to stop. Stop hating our cellulite. Stop loathing our bodies. Stop hiding behind layers of clothing. Stop staying at home on sunny days because we are embarrassed of what people may think of our dimply thighs (nobody is looking at them, trust me). Stop wasting our money on treatments that don’t work. Stop complaining about it and teaching our daughters to do the same. Stop letting our cellulite control our self-worth.
We are not our cellulite. Each one of us is an amazing and beautiful person who happens to have cellulite. And that’s fine. It’s ok. It really is. It may not feel like it now, but you can make your peace with your cellulite too. I did. Although I still wish sometimes that someone created a cream that removed the chicken bumps for good, I don’t hate myself and my body because of my cellulite anymore.
I never thought I’d get there but I did. Getting the facts straight (ie. cellulite is a normal female characteristic turned into something awful by an industry that profits by it) rather than the myths propagated by the media (cellulite is an illness that only affects the lazy) helped me accept my cellulite. Consuming media that makes me feel good about myself, surrounding myself with positive people, focusing more on inner beauty, and enjoying the moment contributed too.
Now I can rock miniskirts, go to the beach, and do a lot of stuff that before I refused to do because I felt too ashamed and self-conscious. My cellulite is still there for everyone to see, but I don’t care about it anymore. I don’t even remember that it’s there. Its just not important anymore. And it is so liberating.
Accepting cellulite as part of your body means freedom. It frees you, and those around you too. It gives your daughter, your family, and your friends a positive example to look up to. It shows them that you can have cellulite and be beautiful, sexy, confident, loved, and worthy.
So, own it with pride and confidence.
How do you feel about your cellulite?
I have always loved weddings. Two people, lucky enough to have found each other in this mad, crazy world, pledge to love, honour, and support each other, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, for the rest of their lives. They share their joy and commitment in a beautiful ceremony in front of all their loved ones. Everyone gets to dress up, eat well, and have fun.
Weddings are truly magical. But, in the past 15 years, they also got nasty. At least for the bride. I remember, when I was a child, brides-to-be talked about how much they loved their fiancé, the delicious foods they planned to serve to their guests, the beautiful location they had chosen for the reception, and all the other myriad details that make planning a wedding both exciting and stressful.
No one talked about weight. No one, regardless of what size they were, ever even thought they had to lose weight for their big day. They just chose a dress that flattered their body type and that was that. Now every bride, regardless of what size they are, goes on a wedding diet.
Brides-to-be wake up earlier to go to the gym everyday, go on strict diets free of carbs, sugars, fats, and whatever else the diet industry has decided to demonize that year, and, if that doesn’t work, even resort to dangerous diet pills or other drastic and harmful “lose weight fast” programmes some internet guru is selling.
So, what’s changed? What’s prompting women to put their health at risk at what should be the happiest time of their lives? Well, around 2000, the diet, fitness, beauty, and media industries, knowing there’s always a lot of money to be made in promoting unrealistic ideals of beauty, created this new “flaw”. Exploiting the natural desire every bride feels to look her best on her wedding day, these industries have started promoting their own ideal of wedding beauty: thin and flawless.
All of a sudden, bridal magazines featured weight loss and plastic surgery ads, workouts tips to make you lose the last few pounds quickly, the newest cleansing juice to detox, and lists of bloating foods to avoid. TV shows like Bridalplasty and Shedding For The Wedding, where brides-to-be go through hell to win a plastic surgery makeover or lose a few pounds for their big days, started appearing on our TV screens. Fitness and diet experts began creating weight loss programmes aimed at brides-to-be.
Their goal, supposedly is to help brides wow their groom at the altar. Never mind he was already wowed or he wouldn’t have proposed at all. But, if you go on a wedding diet, there’s a real chance your fiancé may seriously regret popping the question. Your fiancé fell in love with you the way you are. He doesn’t need, nor wants, you to change to please him. He’s pleased when you are well and happy. And diets get in the way of that.
Trying to achieving an unrealistic beauty ideal is stressful and tiring. Dieting deprives your body of the important nutrients it needs (yes, your body needs some carbs, sugar, and healthy fats too to function properly). It takes away the pleasure of eating, which makes you cranky. It leaves you feeling hungry and tired almost all of the time.
It darkens your mood and prevents you from making the best decisions. Planning a wedding is stressful enough as it is. It is even more so on an empty stomach. And it can wreak havoc on your sex life too. It’s difficult to get in the mood and enjoy yourself when you are concentrating on all your “flaws”, wondering what your fiancé may think of them, sure he dislikes them as much as you do (he doesn’t, or he wouldn’t be with you, trust me).
Wedding diets make the bride miserable. And they make the groom miserable. No wonder men often ask their fiancées to stop dieting. And yet, they are ignored. Brides want to look good on their big day. And they want to look good in the wedding pictures. Those are forever. A permanent reminder of how good they looked on that day.
Problem is,they’ll never look like that again. If you need to go on a strict diet and workout regime to maintain a certain weight, then that’s just simply not the ideal weight for you. Nothing you do will ever change that. But, every time you look at those photos, you’ll wish something could.
So, basically, in the months before your wedding you starved yourself, woke up way too early to exercise, and drank disgusting detox juices just so that you could feel good about yourself on your wedding day and hate yourself for the rest of your life, wishing you could fit at least once more into your bridal dress. Where’s the sense in that?
There is none. Dieting, unless it is for health reasons and under medical supervision, makes no sense. It makes even less sense when you are getting married. Because that’s the time where the lies of the diet, beauty, fitness, and media industries are revealed. They tell us that we need to look thin and perfect to be loved, and yet, there you are, about to marry the love of your life. So, enjoy it!
It’s that joy that will make you look your best on your wedding day. Have you noticed that the best wedding shots aren’t those that are perfectly orchestrated? That the most beautiful brides aren’t necessarily the thinnest? No, the most beautiful wedding pictures show brides caught unaware, with that huge smile on their faces and twinkle in their eyes.
You won’t get that if you are worrying about the little underarm fat you haven’t managed to get rid of in time for the wedding. You won’t get that by starving yourself, munching only on salads and drinking only lemon water. You won’t get that by running for miles. You won’t get that by shedding two dress sizes to fit into a tiny gown.
No, that “I’m-marrying-my-soulmate” glow that makes every bride look radiant and beautiful only emanates from within when you are fully enjoying your big day, celebrating the love you and your husband share, together with your friends and family.
So, say not to wedding diets, and reclaim your wedding for the joyous celebration of love and commitment it is supposed to be. And enjoy every moment of it.
What do you think of wedding diets? Have you gone on one or are planning to? Or do you think we should ditch them and just enjoy our big day too?
I have already talked about why I’ve stopped reading women’s magazines. They promote an unrealistic idea of beauty that damages women’s self-confidence, often even encouraging dangerous behaviours that harm our health in a futile effort to fit into ever narrowing standards of attractiveness.
But there’s one type of magazine that is even more dangerous. I’m talking about fitness magazines. Women’s magazines are, after all, considered a light, frivolous read. They tell readers what’s in style and give them advice that’s often ridiculous, hoping they’ll buy what’s advertised in their glossy pages.
Although harmful, especially to younger women who haven’t fully developed their ability to think critically, we know better than believing their every word. But fitness magazines are different. They are supposed to be more “serious” reading. Their mission is to make us all healthier. But do they?
Nope. Just a glance at their covers clearly shows that these magazine promote a warped idea of health. One that has very little to do with well-being and ability, and a lot with sexiness and thinness.
“Fat-proof your life – Research-backed tips to eat smart and stay trim”, “Shed two sizes – the 4 week workout plan”, and “Why lifting weights =a killer body”, are just some of the teasers that have recently appeared on the covers of some of the most popular fitness magazines, next to images of scantily-clad, super photoshopped models and celebrities posing in passive, not active, positions. The emphasis is clearly on looks.
The articles inside are only slightly better. They are peppered with words like “sexy”, “slimmer” and “gorgeous” that have nothing to do with health. They often offer misleading diet information, demonize certain foods and drinks, perpetuate fitness myths, and suggest dangerous, quick, and drastic weight loss plans that could seriously damage our health, not improve it. In particularly vulnerable individuals, they may even trigger an eating disorder.
Even in the features that contain serious and proper health and fitness information, the focus is on physical attractiveness. We are supposed to work out, lift weights and eat healthy to have a gorgeous, fat-free, thin body that will attract male attention, not to improve our health and well-being and live an active, full, long life.
The images that accompany these articles rarely focus on fitness too. Even when they show women engaging in physical activities, they are usually wearing tiny outfits and posing in such a way, with their breasts exposed and bums sticking out, to leave nothing to the imagination. The body is always shown as an object, not an instrument. Again, the emphasis is on sexiness, not health.
Fitness magazines have created, and are normalizing, a new definition of health, one that equates health with thinness and attractiveness, and that sexualizes women’s bodies, perpetuating the harmful belief that they exist only to please men. That’s an oppressive, dangerous idea. It’s even more dangerous when it is presented under the disguise of “health”.
This warped idea of fitness doesn’t just hurt women. It hurts men. It hurts children. It hurts all of society. When women focus their energy on achieving a distorted idea of health, spending ever longer hours in the gym or following diets that deprive them of important nutrients, making them feel tired and depleted all the time, they don’t have time to pursue their career or influence politics.
They’re unable to take care of themselves and their loved ones, and make a significant contribution to their community and society. They’re disempowered. And they can become ill. Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are just some of the dangerous problems that have been linked to body dissatisfaction. When women are disempowered and ill, everyone suffers.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If you too have a problem with the misleading idea of health promoted by fitness magazines, don’t buy them. Tell your friends why they shouldn’t either. But if you, or they, enjoy them and don’t want to give them up, don’t.
But read them critically. Be aware of how these magazines are spreading dangerous ideas to make a quick buck. When you learn to recognize the nasty, negative messages they are promoting, you’ll be able to enjoy your favourite magazine without falling for them.
What do you think of fitness magazines? Do they hurt or improve our health? Do you read them?