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Body Image

One rainy night my senior year I attended a women’s forum on campus, a discussion of women’s rights issues led by a thoughtful, highly articulate all-female panel of three students, a professor, a coach, and a faculty member. The panel discussed topics like maternity leave, body image, birth control, and more.

Among the major issues tackled was that of eating disorders. The panel pointed out that disordered eating applies to nearly all women. Women are so pressured to be thin, we’re more likely than men to monitor what we eat and exercise excessively. The coach addressed the issue of female athletes and body image. “You have to know when to pull back,” she said, referring to the amount of exercise women athletes get, particularly in the weight room. Competitive girls have to be careful not to lift too much, lest they take on a manly appearance. They also must be careful to not over-eat or under-eat. As an athlete who participated in weight-training, I could relate to the fear of looking too bulky–I had gained ten pounds of muscle just in my first few weeks as a year-round swimmer.

Later that week I saw a photograph online featuring three girls of ascending size, and the caption read:

Women’s ideal size: 6

Men’s ideal size: 10

National Average: 12

I was surprised at those numbers (if men’s ideal is 10, I should probably hit up the nearest Krispy Kreme, and quick!). It was revealing and comforting to learn that the average girl is not the model on the cover of Cosmo. Regardless, I don’t care what society, men, or other women consider the ideal size for a woman. I love working out and I love eating; I plan to do plenty of both, regardless if people think I’m too skinny, too muscular, or too fat. Women must understand that we all have different body types—and that’s not something that can be easily altered. I believe that if you eat right, exercise, and maintain a healthy BMI, dress size shouldn’t be a topic of great stress in your life.

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