When I Watch Too Much Reality TV, I Hate My Body – and I Don’t Think I’m Alone
I am repulsive. It’s a thought that’s been stuck in my brain for longer than I’d care to admit.
It’s niggling at me every day. My thoughts are dominated by what I will eat and how I will then move my body, an endless bargaining between the pleasure of food and booze, and a model of attractiveness I long ago failed to meet. Then, when I inevitably do make the wrong choice, when I fail to eat brown instead of white rice, or, oh heavens, have a coke, I am wracked by guilt.
I am convinced there was a moment in time when I didn’t feel this way, but I have no memory of it. I am convinced — and there are photos that prove it — that there was a time when I was small, a size 6. I don’t remember gaining the weight, I don’t remember how my habits or my body changed. Maybe it was birth control, maybe it was drinking too much, maybe it’s genetic. But I do remember the sinking feeling of packing another dress away for charity, because it wouldn’t zip anymore. I remember trying to articulate why I was still attractive to the men I dated, even as I copped to my failure — “I have a bit of a tummy . . .”
It feels like my dissatisfaction has peaked from the steady accumulation of signals that say that I am not enough.
Watching the same body type crop up on every show over and over and over again — especially dating shows, the reality TV watcher’s bread and butter — has convinced me, however errantly, that there’s something wrong with my body. It’s undesirable. It’s not worthy of love. Or, if I was in the right space to seek it, no one would want it anyway.
Take The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Love Island . . . Everyone fits into the same model of attractiveness (thinness). It would be unthinkable for a Bachie man to like, shock horror, a size 12. There are comments that some of the women are “curvy” because they have breasts or hips, and then at the same time, people guess that the very thin women have struggled with an eating disorder — and that’s wrong too.
Anything that deviates from the small woman norm on a reality dating show is deemed “unhealthy” (see the comments about Liz on her first season of Married at First Sight), despite the average dress size for an Australian woman being a size 14 to 16, according to ABS data. It drills in an idea about what is and is not a desirable woman’s body to people watching at home, and to me, on the edge of a breakdown because I’ve just watched three seasons one after the other of stunning, thin people finding each other.
I can’t just blame reality TV. It’s a whole culture of thinness that’s consuming me, and seemingly everyone else. It’s the endless news articles about Adele and Rebel Wilson’s bodies, people applauding their efforts to become more like a beauty ideal. It’s scrolling through my News app for work and being bombarded by stories about all the many ways I could be losing weight easily if I only worked hard enough. It’s the language we use in day-to-day conversations, “You look like you lost weight”, “I’m trying to be good.” As though a number on a scale denotes goodness.
But it’s all a lie — ripped men will f*ck curvy women, thinness and goodness is a false equivalence, my body is not either worthy or unworthy, attractive or not.
There is nothing wrong with feeling good in your body, with finding the ways healthy eating and exercise can make you feel strong and mentally well. What is wrong is becoming fixated, unbalanced, unable to divorce aesthetics from wellness, and seeing those images being reinforced over and over by the people deemed worthy of finding love on TV.
I am trying to be kinder to myself.
originally posted on POPSUGAR Fitness