How I Learned To Love My Body Without Falling For Media Hypes

I was a pudgy kid. I got teased for being fat. My parents raised me on hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and Little Debbie Snacks. I had trouble fitting into trendy clothes because they all ran small, and I would cry whenever I went up a pants size.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner3 min read
How I Learned To Love My Body Without Falling For Media Hypes

In middle school, my friends all wanted to be Pamela Anderson and all the guys drooled over Jenny McCarthy. But I was a sporty girl. Despite imbalanced nutrition at home, I raced as a swimmer for six years, played basketball with anyone who’d have me, and ran track in high school. 

My hips didn’t spread as far as the other girls’, and my breasts didn’t blow up like balloons when I matured. I didn’t fit any of the expectations that plagued the media, school, or elsewhere. It took me years to realize that very few women did and that everyone has their own body type which must be nurtured based on their specific needs.  

Finding Balance

My mom was always on a diet. I grew up trying SlimFast with her and eating NutriGrain Bars. For my eighth birthday all I wanted was a Buns Of Steel workout video, and I became one of the youngest members of Weight Watchers when my mom joined. 

Each of these trends didn’t work for my mom. They seemed to fail many women, but they did offer me a stronger sense of consciousness about my body, which had both positive and negative effects. I strongly desired to be healthy, but I couldn’t understand why my mother’s attempts failed. 

Over time I realized that the fit girls in my class ate carrots and celery at lunch. I always felt stronger and healthier during the summer when my dad packed the house with fruit and I spent hours swimming outside. Dancing was also a passion of mine, so I increased music time. 

Knowing and accepting that the female body has many shapes is important for women’s health and wellness.

Once I reached adulthood and got my own apartment, I learned to incorporate more fruits and veggies into my diet. Instead of weighing myself every day, I didn’t buy a scale; instead, I focused on making sure my clothes properly fit my body. Instead of pushing myself to get up early and follow workout videos, I took my dog for longer walks.

Swimming and hiking in the summer made me crave water and fresh raw ingredients. My body responded better, and I finally discovered my perfect figure. As a swimmer, I have broader shoulders, but a B cup. My waist to hips ratio isn’t as wide as the traditional hourglass ideal, but I had a friend who once commented that I rock “brick house legs.”  

Knowing and accepting that the female body has many shapes is important for women’s health and wellness. It gave me more confidence to care for myself. We can’t be truly healthy when working to attain unrealistic goals. 

From One Extreme to the Other

Unfortunately, as I was learning to care for myself and get my body in the shape it needs, society was shifting. Over the course of a couple of decades, the media focus went from “thin is in” to “big is beautiful.”

Magazines are now highlighting exceptionally obese women, heralding them for their bravery and style. Women who were once expected to be paper-thin waifs are now encouraged to pack on the pounds and don rolls and rolls of fat. 

Both obesity and skeleton bodies are dangerous and unsustainable. 

Neither of these extremes is healthy for anyone. The CDC displays a long list of health complications that are caused or increased due to obesity:

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Coronary Heart Disease

  • Gallbladder Disease

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Sleep Apnea

  • Mental Illness

  • Stroke

  • High Blood Pressure

  • Death

  • Many Cancers

  • Body Pain

But being underweight also comes with a list of severe health issues that women need to be aware of:

  • Anemia

  • Malnourishment

  • Osteoporosis

  • Decreased Immune Function

  • Fertility Issues

  • Lack of Energy

  • Hair Thinning

  • Dry Skin

  • Dental Issues

  • Increased Surgical Complications

Passing on Better Ideals

Now that I’m fit and trim, I have the same issue finding clothes that I did when I was a pudgy kid — nothing fits me properly. Only now all the clothes are too big. Most of what is stocked in-stores looks like a potato sack on me. Belts and online retailers have become my saviors. 

Larger women have scowled at me and said things like “You need to eat a cheeseburger.” I’ve now known both sides of being considered too fat and too skinny because women who champion the Body Positivity Movement are sometimes threatened by women who work hard to care for their figures. 

This concerns me not just as a woman, but also as a mother. I feel the need to give my daughters a better outlook. We openly discuss why I incorporate so many fresh fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts, and lean meats into our diet. We share our cravings and how to curb them by drinking more water or by allowing ourselves a few extra sweets at parties. 

We don’t want to be fat or skinny; we should always work to be fit and trim and find our own healthy figure.

I emphasize the philosophy that we don’t want to be fat or skinny; we should always work to be fit and trim and to find our own healthy figure. My eldest is tall and muscular. She hates being outside but has recently discovered a love of going to the gym and lifting weights with my husband. My youngest daughter is small and built like a bird. She has tons of energy and is always running around outside, and I have to remind her to eat so her ribs don’t stick out. 

There are no shortcuts in health. I’ve seen so many friends and family members lose weight and gain it back. My weight fluctuated like that when I followed media hypes, but none of it lasted. Once I forced myself to accept that vegetables are necessary and exercise doesn’t have to be like gym class, I was able to maintain good health. 

I look best when I’m 130 pounds and around a traditional size 6 or 8. This is probably due to my muscle mass and my love of sports. Regardless, learning this, accepting it, and working to maintain it have offered me happy self-love for over a decade now, and I know it will lead my body through my 40s and 50s as I age.  

Closing Thoughts

There’s a perfect figure for each woman, but it varies. I will never have the Marilyn Monroe shape, or anyone else’s. My body is my own and it has its own needs, just as every other woman’s does. 

Unrealistic expectations from both ends of the scale are bad for women’s health. Obesity and skeleton bodies are dangerous and unsustainable. It's time we accept that every woman has their own perfect figure and encourage healthy habits which allow us to better understand our unique biology.  

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