I see food shaming all over my newsfeed. People everywhere are blaming things like ice cream, cake, beer, and cheeseburgers for their problems. “I’ve gone two weeks without sweets,” my coworker told me, right after I read a post online about how one of my friends “resisted the temptation of ice cream” today. Are we creating a culture where we bash anyone who eats some French fries every once in a while, or is it just me?
I’m starting to become concerned that we’re unhealthily obsessed with food all over social media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about healthy eating. I think limiting your portions, eating healthy, and exercising are imperative to your overall health. I try to eat nutritious foods and exercise portion control. But when I really need ice cream, you better believe I’m not going to make myself suffer miserably through the craving. What kind of message are we putting out there when we tell someone that you have to be victorious over junk food? When we obsess over our workouts and our weight loss results every day, what are we saying to young girls reading our posts who aren’t as successful in their efforts? I know that we all mean well and that many people have been inspired by others’ successes. But the adolescent mind that’s still inside of me starts thinking, “If I eat anything unhealthy ever, or if I don’t work out for four hours every day, or if I don’t drink these shakes for at least one meal a day, then there must be something wrong with me. I don’t even have a six pack. God, look how fat I am.”
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t make it to the gym once a day. And I’m definitely not the kind of person who could ever consider a shake as a meal—I intend to chew all of my meals until I don’t have teeth to do so anymore. I know that these programs and their online presence help people get healthy and better themselves, and I love that about them. I just can’t help but wonder if we couldn’t be just as successful in teaching young people to be healthy through positive body image. We need to show each other how to love and respect our bodies. Instead of posting images of ourselves with ripped abs drinking protein shakes every day to gain even more muscle, maybe we should be sharing images of healthy, happy people whose body image or weight is not the focus of their overall health.
The most important message I want to deliver here is that you shouldn’t be ashamed of eating ice cream. (Maybe just don’t make a habit of eating it five times a day.) Do what feels best and healthiest for you and your body. Don’t be so obsessed with posting pictures of what you see on the scale. We can demonstrate through social media that all of our bodies are beautiful, six pack or not. Just think of what we could do for our collective health in mind, body, and soul if we were taught to respect and love ourselves.
I challenge you to post a picture of yourself that makes you feel good even if you didn’t meet your fitness goals today. Maybe it’s a picture of you eating ice cream—who knows. Never forget that there is always something to love about yourself, whether or not you indulged in a scoop.
Mary E. Nolte hails from the steel city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She loves immersing herself other languages and cultures, nature walks, reading a good book, and furry animals that she can talk to in funny voices. She kind of speaks Spanish, is obsessed with all things Irish, and can usually be found hanging out with her feline, Vincent Van Cat. Her greatest aspiration is to become a Great American Writer. You can contact her via e-mail at email@example.com or follow her cat Vincent on Instagram @vinnyvancat.