By Hannah Eko
When I was 23 years old, about six years ago now, I decided that I wanted to revolutionize the way I took care of my body and heal my body image. I soon found out about Golda Poretsky who is a holistic body wellness coach. One of the assignments she suggests for her clients is what she has dubbed a Media Diet.
Basically, one abstains from images that trigger body comparison and self-loathing. Fashion magazines, television commercials, and certain media programming are the biggest shame culprits but social media is increasingly becoming this way too.
For years, I would get this tight feeling in my chest when I looked at certain fashion magazines. I was a magazine lover for most of my teen years. It all started with the director of my after school program taking a liking to me. She would bring me all her old magazines. YM. Seventeen. CosmoGurl. Teen Vogue. Teen People (as you can see, I am a child of the 90s for sure.)
I loved my magazines but combine my non-critical look at them, my early desires to be a model, and shaky teenage self-esteem and it was a recipe for disaster.
For years I also felt incredibly stupid for admitting how much these images triggered me. I was an otherwise very capable and smart woman. I didn’t sit in corners lamenting my existence or try anything extreme to change my appearance. I felt even more pathetic when I’d hear other women and girls proclaim that these images didn’t bother them. They knew their worth without question. I slowly became ashamed of my shame.
As I got older, I became more media literate. I learned those who believe they are least sensitive to media’s images are often the most vulnerable I learned increasingly to trust the signals of my body even when my intellect was screaming about how pitiable I was. Sometimes our bodies know more than we give them credit for. And then Golda introduced me to the media diet.
I discovered a new world of beauty. I always felt alone for considering beauty to be a continual circle instead of a hierarchical ladder, but here were people who believed the same thing. In Golda’s guide, her list primarily pertains to escaping the thinness as best paradigm, but as a black woman I had to seek out other replacements.
I still read fashion magazines every so often but it is a rare occurrence. I pretty much only frequent body positive fashion blogs and fitness sites. That telltale feeling in my chest is definitely not the bother it used to be.
There are times though, when the shame of taking part in media diets starts to get at me. C’mon, Hannah. You’re almost 30 years old. But, I now know the sheer economic power of the beauty and diet industry*:
- $38 billion hair industry
- $33 billion diet industry
- $24 billion skin care industry
- $18 billion makeup industry
- $15 billion perfume industry
- $13 billion cosmetic surgery industry
I know the far reaches of white supremacy into the psyche and how this still colors how all people across the world define today.
I live in a great world. One where I can see dark skinned women as Pretty Period, read about everyday stories of beauty, shop at body positive and socially conscious brands (and here), and see how a variety of people define personal style.
So, if you’re feeling the negative effects of these narrow ideals of beauty (which are pretty much designed to keep you occupied, dissatisfied with a credit card attached to your hand), I suggest you go on your own Media Diet. You’ll probably end up losing pounds of hateful energy.
*From I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough" by Brene Brown
Hannah Eko was crowned Miss Tall International 2014 and is the goodwill ambassador of Tall Clubs International. She currently lives in Brooklyn and is a graduate of Penn State's Community and Economic Development program. Hannah loves Great Danes, Wonder Woman, and walking around cities with her headphones on. She blogs at hanabonanza.com.