A WEIGHTY MATTER
Weight is a characteristic of the body. It is not a behavior. You can’t tell by looking at a person how much or how little that person eats. You can’t tell from a person’s weight whether he or she is physically active or not. And you can’t tell from a person’s weight how healthy that person is.
Body image is how we feel about our bodies. For many people today it is a big issue that affects how they think and feel about themselves as a person. Unfortunately health has become a moral issue. It’s like only “good” people work out at the gym and are obsessed with their own health, while “bad” people let themselves go and don’t care. I don’t think so, and this is not always the case. I go to the gym and/or the pool every day and exercise, yet I still get judged by others unfairly. Many times those of us who struggle with the issue of weight, there may be underlying reasons why this is a problem, be it medical, genetic or other cause and people that see or know you don’t take the time to find things out. They just pre-judge and far too often come to the wrong conclusion.
With a positive or healthy body image you feel comfortable and confident in your body, have a generally true perception of your size and shape, and understand that physical appearance does not define your character and value (as the saying goes) DO NOT BE DECEIVED BY APPEARENCES, BEAUTY COME FROM WITHIN. You accept your unique body and don’t spend as much time worrying about food, weight or calories. But on the other hand, those that have a negative body image continually compare their bodies to others, feel shame, anxiety and self-consciousness about their bodies, and may have a distorted perception of their shape and size. A poor body image can lead to unhappiness, emotional distress, low self-esteem, dieting, anxiety, depression, obsession with weight loss, and a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder.
When you look in the mirror, do you like what you see? Is your body image positive or negative? If your answer is negative, you are not alone. Women today are under much pressure to measure up to a certain social and cultural ideal of beauty, which can lead to poor body image. We are constantly bombarded with Barbie-like doll images. By presenting an ideal that is so difficult to achieve and maintain the cosmetic and diet product industries are assured of growth and profits. It’s no accident that youth is increasingly promoted, along with thinness, as essential criteria for beauty. The message we’re hearing tends to be that “all women need to lose weight” and that the natural aging process is a “disastrous” fate for women. Many even have family and/or friends that apparently influence your body image with positive and negative comments. The negative really doesn’t help at all. We all need more positive comments and influences.
Very few women possess the genetics to naturally produce the ultra-long, thin body type so widely promoted, and when they do, it isn’t usually accompanied by large breasts. Moreover, there are limits to how little body fat a woman can possess and still have normal hormonal functioning. Below a certain level of body fat and dietary fat, a woman’s body cannot produce the estrogen needed for ovulation and menstruation. The same thing goes for 6-pack abs and the “ripped” look being promoted to men; the ability to have very defined abdominal muscles is genetically endowed, and the hyper-muscled physique of action figures and male fitness models is impossible to achieve without illegal anabolic steroids. It is a sad commentary that daily we are told that these unattainable bodies are normal, desirable, and achievable. We compare ourselves to these ideals and feel displeased with our bodies for being so different, and when we fail to make ourselves over in the image of these ideals, we feel even worse because we can’t seem to succeed at something so supposedly straightforward.
The media is a powerful conduit for transmission and reinforcement of cultural beliefs and values, and while it may not be exclusively responsible for determining the standards for physical attractiveness, it makes escaping frequent exposure to these images and attitudes almost impossible. Advertising, in particular, creates a seductive and toxic mix of messages for men and women. Unfortunately these images certainly contribute to the body-hatred and to some of the resulting eating problems, which range from bulimia to compulsive overeating, to simply being obsessed with controlling one’s appetite. Advertising does promote abusive and abnormal attitudes about eating, drinking, and thinness. It thus provides fertile soil for these obsessions to take root in and creates a climate of denial in which these diseases flourish.
Intolerance of body diversity has a lot to do with the meaning of size and shape in our culture. Being thin and/or muscular has become associated with being “hard-working, successful, popular, beautiful, strong, and self-disciplined.” Being “fat” is associated with being “lazy, ignorant, hated, ugly, weak, and lacking in will-power.” As a result, “fat” isn’t a description like tall or redhead – it’s an indication of moral character: fat is bad. Size prejudice is absorbed at a very young age; children as young as five have ascribed negative characteristics to silhouettes of fatter children. In part, this is because size prejudice is also widely reinforced; media, friends, family, and even well-respected health professionals can echo the message that fatness is inherently wrong and dangerous, thereby exacerbating the pressure to control our bodies.
Although advertising, the most powerful arm of the mass media, is all around us, many of us believe we are immune from its effects. This mistaken belief is one of the reasons it is so effective. The average American sees three thousand ads per day. Almost all commercial media aimed at women are supported by advertising revenue from the fashion, beauty, diet, and food industries, and their survival depends on their ability to please their sponsors. In trying to understand the media’s objectification of women and how it makes us feel, it can help to think of the camera lens as a white male eye. Have you noticed that the covers of many women’s and men’s magazines are almost always female as well as thin and beautiful? The media eye, in its many different forms, objectifies all of us. When you’re in an intimate moment with your partner, do you imagine what you look like from the outside rather than focus on the sensations that you feel inside?
When you walk down the sidewalk, are you thinking about how you appear – about how big your butt looks – instead of thinking about the beauty or stimuli around you? Self-objectification can lead to feeling self-conscious and humiliated, and it can make us believe that our bodies exist only for the pleasure of others. Weight should not be a measure of self-worth. Your self-worth is your view of yourself as a total person— how you treat others; how you treat yourself; the contributions you make to your family, your friends, your community, and society in general. Your weight is just your weight. We are not to blame for something science doesn’t fully understand, and that society is not always correct about this. Just because we have a cultural obsession with thinness doesn’t make it right. Like human beings, societies are imperfect and make mistakes.
One should always develop a personal style that states: “I like me!” How you feel about yourself is reflected in the way you carry yourself, your grooming, your clothes, your smile, the way you speak. Remember to always dress comfortably as well. I know this may sound silly, but comfortable, properly fitting clothes will improve your whole mental outlook. Tight clothes will make you feel miserable and unhappy. And above all, surround yourself with positive, supportive people. If they’re not, tell them that you’ve stopped measuring your self-worth on the basis of your weight and you hope they’ll follow suit. If they won’t, then basically show them the door, they are not helping you at all, but there are plenty of people who will. One should put weight in its proper perspective and focus on what is really important in life. Do you want to be remembered for the shape of your body or for the shape of your character and soul?
In looking through the pages of most any magazine, one will be presented with extremely airbrushed images of “skinny” models that are being touted as the norm, and gives us a narrow idea of what beauty is all about. There are a few trade magazines that do cater and use “plus” models, but those are few and far between.
We are constantly bombarded by these types of advertising images every single day, so it’s no wonder that we consciously and unconsciously take onboard and internalize these advertised messages and distorting our view of societies expectations. The pressure of body image is not just experienced by women; it is increasingly becoming part of men’s reality now also. Unfortunately this results in a distorted self-image as well as reduced self-esteem and reduced confidence which do not help keeping a positive impact on the individual.
Advertisers make huge amounts of money from creating these flawless images and the question is ethically, shouldn’t we bring some truth and honesty into the advertising? These images are part of the reason why so many women create their own personal insecurities about their body and it’s these insecurities that help to sell more beauty products, more slimming products, fashion, clothes etc. How would it be to change your thinking to become empowered to make a choice to buy something rather than because of a pain driven by insecurity? We are exposed to ads full of fake, manipulated, images that have been digitally enhanced to slim down thighs, flatten stomachs, whiten teeth, plump up breasts, make skin look flawless and make hair look thicker and shinier. Advertisers should do their part and get a wider range of body shapes and sizes to be represented in the media. Undoubtedly, the advertisers are making huge amounts of money from what they are doing so the chances of them making a change are debatable and highly unlikely.
By taking responsibility for how you feel about yourself, that is the true key to empowerment because you now free to gain new insights, take on board new learnings, new strategies that you can utilize for you. So you enjoy being you and love who you are.