By Shalini Wickramatilake
“She looks anorexic.” Whenever I hear that type of statement, I get angry. Most people tend to visualize someone suffering from anorexia nervosa as gaunt with protruding bones. However, anorexia doesn’t look one particular way; individuals of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, genders, and ages can have a restrictive eating disorder. Similarly, larger bodies are often associated with excessive eating, perhaps even gluttony and laziness. These associations have caused stigmas in both cases, perpetuating the belief that what someone looks like is the direct result of their values and lifestyle.
Labeling a body as “thin” or “hot” can be an indirect expression of jealousy. Women are faced with immense pressure to look a certain way, and for most of our lives, we have been told that our appearances matter more than anything else. Oftentimes when women compliment other females, they are disingenuous, simply reciting the lines they’re expected to say: “you look so pretty!” or “have you lost weight? You look so skinny!” We are quick to comment on how someone looks; appearance is often the first thing that is mentioned upon greeting a friend. Considering how poorly we usually think of our own bodies, it’s likely that we perceive most other bodies we see as better than our own. Positively labeling someone else’s body is often a manifestation of our disappointment in our own.
When describing bodies as thin, fat, healthy, athletic, apple-shaped, curvy, ugly, or beautiful, what’s the point? Is body type pertinent when describing a human being? A body is a vessel and a tool; it is not a representation of who we are as individuals. Describing a body serves little purpose, as it doesn’t adequately convey the attributes of a person that hold any significance. The focus needs to shift away from bodies, and towards characteristics that actually matter.
Our bodies are capable of so much, and we should be grateful for all that they enable us to do. We must learn to stop judging or being jealous of others because of their bodies. My body can jump and walk and play, and allows me to work, write, cook, clean, and do a myriad of other things; who cares about what it looks like? And why should I waste a second of my life thinking about other people’s bodies? We are lovers, givers, artists, creators, thinkers, readers, athletes, nurturers, and explorers, and we wouldn’t be any of those things without our bodies. Those are the labels that describe who we really are, and those are the labels that actually matter.