By Jenny Ostermiller
As much as I would like to say that this kind of thing is an isolated incident, I recognize through my work as a school counselor and my experiences as a woman who doesn’t live in a cave devoid of media influences that this is typical. I would venture to guess that most women (and the majority of men) can quickly list off all of the physical flaws they possess – muffin top, cellulite, too much junk in the trunk, thunder thighs – the list goes on and on. Most of us have tried some kind of diet or exercise regimen to remedy our issues. Most of us fail. A 10-day juice cleanse rarely leads to one feeling good about themselves in the long term. But again and again, we hop on the treadmill of diet advice and exercise fads hoping that the next big trend will lead to a romping on the beach in a tiny bikini, America’s Next Top Model style.
So how do we, as human beings, and especially women, regain the right to feel good about our bodies? Is there a magic pill or workout move that can solve all of our diet and size woes? My answer is an empathetic no. There is no magic. There is no quick fix. However, there is hope.
My own experience in the last year has taught me that when we eat healthful, nutritious food we can transform how we feel about our bodies and how we feel in general. My own journey this year saw what some would consider a radical change in the way I eat and view food. For me, adopting whole foods and a plant-based diet (with no animal products or added oil) has helped me to understand and appreciate the gift of a healthy body and mind in a way that I couldn’t imagine before. By fueling my body with real foods that haven’t been processed or refined beyond recognition, I have finally developed a relationship with my body that I am happy with. I no longer look in the mirror seeking flaws. Rather, I understand that taking care of myself leads to a host of physical and emotional benefits, including feeling good about how I look in my skinny jeans. The best thing we can do for ourselves or as parents and role models to children is to seek out good health and stop looking for quick fixes. By truly nourishing ourselves with our food rather than chasing a certain size through, we can’t help but change the way we view our bodies.
Jenny Ostermiller is in her fifth year as the middle school counselor at the American International School of Guangzhou. She has 16 years of experience in education working in a number of schools in the United States, Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates and China.
Urban Family thanks the South China International School Counselors’ Network, a group of over 40 school counselors from 12 international schools in Dongguan, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Nanjing. SCISCN provides an opportunity for the sharing of ideas and professional development, and promoting mental health care to the expat and local communities. Every issue of Urban Family will feature an article written by the SCISCN.