Women, Cooking, and Body Image: A Slippery Slope

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn (Photo credit: baysmom3)

Tonight I started pondering about women and body image after I looked up “how to cook sweet corn” on ehow, and then a bit after that I queried to find out how many calories a cob of corn had.  My patience was waning, and I quickly gave up on my caloric question when one promising website slowed me down by mentioning about  giving me a free subscription when all I wanted was to answer one simple question and get on to my cooking.  However, as I looked through my pots and pans repeatedly, it dawned on my that I did not have the big cooking pot that ehow said that I would need to cook sweet corn.  Quite disappointing, and since I just cook for one, perhaps that is the reason I never noticed my lack of a big pot before.  All was not lost, however, because I wondered super important questions such as, “why do I need THREE Pyrex casserole dishes?”, and I also found a hidden plastic bag for steaming vegetables in the microwave.  However, the microwave felt like cheating when I was actually planning to cook ON THE STOVE the sweet corn that I purchased recently for 25 cents an ear.

I wish I could honestly say that I am a cook like Rachel Ray, but the honest truth is that when I was young my mom would try to get me to help cook dinner, but I often had my nose stuck in a book and was disinterested in doing the whole cooking thing.   Fast forward to today, and while I can go through spurts with cooking, more often than not I find it tedious when cooking solo, and often I cannot afford the staple ingredients that cooking requires.  Food prices have skyrocketed, and I find myself substituting convenience for healthy.  Honestly, I wish my budget was not as tight as it is, but with student loan bills that seem like I will be paying off until I am 70 (yes, of course I am being melodramatic), I can wish for more income to purchase fruits, vegetables, and healthy foods with low sodium.

Avril Lavigne + Rachel Ray

Society should not pigeon-hole women into having to be a “good cook” in order to be a “good female” or a “good wife.”  The old saying goes “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, but if that is true then I don’t really want to ponder about that.  Even in our progressive times, men are often seldom expected to cook for their wives (unless a grill is involved), but my step-dad cooks more often than my mom.  My mom is a decent to fair cook, but I have always thought it is great how her and my step-dad cook together or how sometimes he just cooks for her.  I like the idea of cooking together with a boyfriend or spouse.  It makes the whole cooking thing much more fun and is more egalitarian.

As far as body image goes, I must say that it completely FRUSTRATES me that the media and society tell women that they have to be stick thin in order to be considered attractive and beautiful.  That is one of the prime reasons that so many women struggle with eating disorders.  In the past week, I kept stumbling upon media that was harping on celebrity women who recently had a baby.  The articles were all centered around the women and their pregnancy weight that they have not lost, post-delivery.  The resulting message from the media seems to be that these women need to bounce right back to their previous lower weights, and they are viewed harshly if this is not the case.  I think that this is completely unfair.  Both society and the media in the United States unfairly thrust harmful expectations on women in terms of their weight and body image.  There is only one message that is heard loud and clear: to be beautiful means to be thin.  There are no exceptions.  These harsh expectations often cause women to struggle with low self-esteem and thoughts of only being valued for being thin or how they look in a bikini.

Finally, I want to end on a personal note.  Currently I am the heaviest weight that I have ever been, and it is a frustration for me.  I never struggled with my weight when I was younger nor did the whole diet thing.  Most of the women in my family (especially later in life) struggle with being overweight, and I have unhappily observed how I presently have a much harder time with my metabolism and losing weight than I did in my teens and twenties.  I have tried to make some lifestyle changes, but I know I need to do more.  Also, there are some sacrifices that I am not quite yet willing to make (i.e. giving up my soda- I seriously think that I could be addicted to the sugar and caffeine).  Regardless of society’s view of women’s body images and the resulting horrible pressure to be thin, I want to be happy with myself regardless of my weight while I work to be more fit and healthy.  Being healthy really is better than being thin, when you think about it.

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