My Body, My Self 

mothers

I just spent the last two weeks in Paris eating French food, drinking French wine, and talking about life with French women. It just doesn’t get much better than that for me!

With all the discussion about body image and 'diet culture' in the United States, I was fascinated to learn that the average French woman doesn’t have the same issues around her body image and eating that we have here in America. While French society does put pressure on women to be thin, your average (not eating disordered) French woman does not diet and is not struggling with the emotional consequences of food restricting that so many American women experience. How could this be?

We all know physical appearance is just a part of who you are.  Clearly too much emphasis has been placed on appearance in today’s world. So, if appearance says little about your value as a person, what does say something about your character and value as a person to you?  How do you define yourself?  Is it in terms of being a loving mom?  A kind friend?  A competent athlete? Capable at your job? It is probably a combination of some of these things that make up how you define your whole person, your character and value.  

What is going on in a young girl's mind when she sees images of a Victoria Secret model that might cause her to internalize an unrealistic body standard? A girl forms her idea of who she will be from the women she encounters in her world. This is just how humans (and other mammals) work. A girl's mother will be her first role model for how to be a woman.

A hundred years ago a young girl might have had aunts, grandmothers and larger family living close by to add to the array of female role models she encountered in her world. In today's world, most of the women a girl encounters during her day are actually fake women. We have 5,000 ad images coming at us each day with pictures of women like the Victoria Secret models, according to the American Association of Advertising Agencies. The women in the ads aren't really real because they have spent hours in hair and make-up, trained like an Olympic athlete for the shoot, and the images have been digitally altered.