June 18, 2013

Screw the Beauty Ideal: Live for Bliss & Health. ~ Andrea Rose Caluori

Growing up as a woman, there is so much pressure to look a certain way.

The media, celebrities, and fashion runways all give us unrealistic ideas of what it means to be healthy and beautiful.

So many times I have listened to conversations about eyelash growers, eyelash extensions, hair dye, hair straighteners, fake hair, fake nails, gel nails, restricting undergarments, six inch heels, strange face creams, chemical peels, and the (often botched) botox, face lift, or other surgical ‘enhancement’. Why are so many women interested in injecting, slathering, lengthening, and continuously grooming themselves? What are these synthetic adjustments supposed to enhance?

It’s all for an ideal, but what exactly is this ideal? By nature it is an ideal that is equated with perfection. I’d like to know who determines this notion of perfection and why us women should live our lives based on someone else’s idea of perfection.

Instead of spending copious amounts of money, time, effort, and interest in improving your appearance for the sake of an alien standard, why not improve yourself through self-acceptance and joy in your beauty?

I know, we hear this a lot. And it almost always leads us to the next points: weight and body image.

Countless times I’ve read statements such as: “embrace your body at any size”, “be happy with your curves”, “enjoy the voluptuous you”, blah, blah, blah. While it is obvious that the ideal is to be “thin,” I question what this ideal really is about, and how it tends to bring out that annoying sympathetic tone of “You’re curvy, embrace it!”

How about we forget about the thin/fat paradigm for a second; what is thin?  Thin as what? And why thin?

If you free yourself from ludicrous standards, you get to set your own that work for you.

Our society is plagued with the tendency to see in terms of dualities “fat or skinny” “black or white” “rich or poor.” We need to break this habit in order to understand that terms like “ideal weight” are absurd.

Your body, my friends, is an outstanding vehicle that allows you to live life sensually! Eat mindfully the plants you need, drink good water and indulge in your coffee/chocolate. Eat for health. Enjoy your food for what it gives you, not for what it takes away. Move around outdoors; humble yourself inside.

Don’t stress over how much food, how many workouts you do, or what size dress you can fit into.

Ditch the “weight-loss” mentality and throw out the celebrity cut-out on your wall. Stop comparing yourself and be grateful that you can move, touch, taste, see and laugh. Embrace the health your body gives you; eat because it’s delicious and wholesome; run or walk because you can, not because you think you have to.

Live in these moments for what they give you presently—not for how they take away your body’s bliss of being.

You define your beauty and love. No one else can do that.

I know how hard it is. I have struggled with the same issue for years until one evening, at dinner, my dad and I talked about my aunt who passed away a few years ago.

My aunt was a nature lover, would have loved to live on a farm in New England rather than our hometown of The Bronx, visited the New York Botanical Gardens and Bronx Zoo frequently, was a vegetarian, cared for love birds, and owned books on backpacking and hiking. She was extremely obese and died of a sudden heart attack in her early fifties.

During our conversation, my father mentioned he was going through my aunt’s things and came across a diet book with a note inside, where she had listed some goals that she had associated with weight loss: kayaking, hiking, feeling confident, etc. They didn’t have anything to do with appearance, or with being a certain size. They were goals about health: movement, mental self-confidence, stability.

I was deeply moved as I read her list—not only because she would never get to do them, but because I have done them and they were meaningful activities for me.

I came away from that conversation with many emotions. I was ashamed of myself for having been hard on my body’s appearance; after all, had it not allowed me to row a canoe? Hike up tall mountains? Dance salsa? Engage in yoga? Run six miles? That experience changed the way I view the body that carries me.

Every time I wonder whether I’m the appropriate size or considered beautiful, I think back to my aunt’s goals and remind myself that I possess the health and body to do the things my aunt could never do. I can move!

I realized that my movement, my body, my vegan lifestyle and love of the outdoors are things that give me confidence. Hiking in the woods, canoeing on a lake and dancing allow my natural self to root itself in the world and through the world. These are things that make me happy. These are things that allow me to embrace my present for what it offers me.

By contrast, the superficial ‘enhancements’ (fake eyelashes, a smaller waist, new clothes, hair extensions) actually make me feel ashamed of my natural self!

It is our bliss that fulfills our life, not the standards with which we judge ourselves negatively.

Since then, I refuse to support magazines that tell me what to buy, or how to think, be or look. I exercise because I love being active, not because I have to.

I cook vegan recipes, knit, spend beautiful time with my partner and relish in the body I love because it takes me throughout life doing the things that I love doing.

It’s that simple.


Andrea Rose Caluori is a Bronx native and transplant to New England. Thanks to some great educators and outdoors enthusiasts in the Bronx and Massachusetts Andrea has discovered a love for the New England landscape, local farms, hiking, canoeing and all things/creatures outside. When she is not studying for her graduate degree Andrea practices mindfulness daily through vegan cooking, poetry, dance, hiking, yoga, running, and fiber arts.


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Assistant Ed: Renée Picard/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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