In no way does this article mean to say there aren’t healthy portrayals of body image in the media, healthy ways to lose weight portrayed in the media or within diet and exercise books. This article is meant to portray the widespread problem of fixing things quickly and for superficial results.
As summer is fast approaching for students across the country, there’s both a sense of relief that the school year is over and a sense of stress as the best season creeps closer. Worrying about summer jobs, housing near summer jobs if you’re not living at home, your salary, and overall job stress is hard, but what I find most challenging is the need to feel thin enough for the upcoming summer months.
Summer is the warmest and most fun season, but it can also easily be the most stressful season for anyone who suffers from body image issues. Main stream media has begun to include all body types in modeling and advertisement campaigns, but yet there’s a sense of not feeling good enough still lingering in the air. Over the past several weeks, I’ve gotten many nervous “7 weeks until bikini time,” “4 weeks until bikini season,” “2 weeks until I have to be in a bikini,” “I’m not going to the beach or any pool parties this summer” texts from several different friends. How did a time once filled with nothing but joy turn into this doom of “will my body be good enough”? America has grown increasingly more hostile towards body image over the past 50 years. Diets, exercise crazes, and the media’s portrayal of the ‘ideal body’ has been a major contributor to women and young girls, as well as men, believing their natural body shape is not acceptable. Children today often look up to other child actors, or what is portrayed as a child actor, and think, “why doesn’t my body look like that? Aren’t we the same age?” Growing up is hard enough, but growing up with the image of an 18 year old playing the age of a 14 year old on tv is incredibly difficult for viewers to see and it doesn’t stop there; as we get older, we look to magazines, fashion instagrams, influencers, and other media outlets to see what the latest trends are, but most importantly, we look to see what we should look like.
When the average representation of what the perfect figure for women looks like turns out to be an incredibly thin, curve free model, it’s hard for women who are not born with this body type to accept that how they look is more than okay. With the media’s power over our gaze, lots of women then turn to diet and exercise to try and fit into society’s ideal figure. With crazy diets telling us to do things like eating half of the calories we burn every day, only drinking water, lemon, and maple syrup for 7 days as all our meals, only eating when you feel like you’re going to pass out, and so on and so forth, the health of women and the sustainability of these ridiculous diets start to become a real concern. The exercise world can, in turn, be no better; certain workout plans believe that cardio, and lots of it, are the only way women will get thin, or the plans start in an advanced stage and the customer, in turn, cannot keep us as they are beginners, so the plan is ultimately dropped. Failed diets and failed exercise routines lead us to feel even worse than when we started. Thus, the vicious cycle of never feeling good enough is born. So how do we move away from these feelings of self doubt and self hate as a society? How do we better inform viewers and consumers that all body types are acceptable? I’ll be back with more on this next week.