5 Life-Changing Revelations About Women and Body Image

Seriously feel-good stuff you need to know now.

Three women wearing polka dot swimwear
(Image credit: ModCloth)

Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the prettiest, skinniest, happiest most confused of them all? When it comes to body image, we all are—but thankfully the world is becoming a more body-positive place every day.

Case in point: the recent Women & Body Image: Making It Fit event in New York City, where Marie Claire senior features editor Whitney Joiner led a panel of honest, candid, and seriously insightful speakers.

Women on stage at Whitney Joiner's body image event.

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Marie Claire's Whitney Joiner with CeCe Olisa, creator of the blog Plus Size Princess; Rebecca Eisenbery, trend editor at Upworthy; Helen Rosner, features editor at Eater; Taryn Fixel, founder of Ingredient1; and Julie Sygiel, founder of Dear Kate

Here, the awesome stuff they revealed.

Revelation #1: Labels are for clothing, not your body.

Honestly, who cares what number's on the inside of your waist band? Sizing varies so widely by clothing company that it's no metric for...anything, really. And then there are the other labels we encounter constantly—plus, pear, petite, and the list goes on. Julie Sygiel, founder and chief officer of Dear Kate, expressed at the panel that for the longest time the nickname "small girl" defined her. And when it no longer applied, she felt unsettled. "We use what we call 'non traditional' models," Sygiel says of the ad campaigns and web stories her company produces now. "We tried calling them 'real women' but everyone's body is real and valid."

Revelation #2: The one body-confidence annoyance that unites us? Being sized up by men.

No matter what we look like, wherever we go, the male gaze follows. And it's annoying. "The thing women have in common is that they are gazed upon by men," Helen Rosner, features editor at Eater, points out. "The commodification of the female body is what it is." Men see our bodies but don't always know—or care—how we feel about them. Sooo...what's the female version of dad bod? Can we make that a cool cultural thing now?

Revelation #3: Everyone is someone else's goal.

Hey, we all do it—that knee-jerk "wow I wish I had her *insert desired body part here*" thought. Which is a good reminder that everybody has something someone else wants. CeCe Olisa, creator of Plus Size Princess, encourages women "to stop the shame and own who we are." It's time to let the envy go—or at least relish the fact that other people are envying you.

Revelation #4: All-kale-all-the-time doesn't always work.

"People see food in different ways: 1) what makes me feel good? 2) what will happen if I eat that? and 3) will it bring pleasure to eat that?" Taryn Fixel, founder of Ingredient 1, explains. So who's to say we can't have our salad with a side of cupcake? It's all about being healthy and happy, and listening to what our bodies want and need.

Revelation #5: Your body—and your health—are nobody else's business.

"Who are we to determine who's healthy?" Joiner's final question to the panelists emphasized the greatest confusion in our culture today: Why do we care so much about other people's physiques? "We don't ask Kate Upton what her blood pressure is, but plus size women have to answer a list of questions," Plus Size Princess's Olisa says. 

Revelation #6: You shouldn't *have* to feel beautiful.

Eater editor Rosner brings the whole thing home with an excellent point: "It's okay to not feel beautiful. But it's not okay to feel valueless."