Body image: What we're exposed to isn't reality
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 01:01
This is week three on Weight Watchers: 152 pounds — five pounds down.
This week the flu came upon me like a bad date at a four-course meal. There was no end in sight with a fever of 101, vomiting and clammy hands.
Weight Watchers took a back seat. My life was taken over by six-hour naps and Netflix. While watching bad sitcoms and the entire series of the West Wing, I realized these beautiful women are supposed to be the norm. Society expects us to have perfect hair, straight pearly white teeth and double-D breasts.
Sure, with the evolution of American beauty we are exposed to several types of women on the screen. No longer does the busty, blue-eyed, blond rule the airwaves. These women may have different ethnicities but all of them look perfect.
For men it’s no better. After watching hours of mindless sitcoms I learned to be a “man” you need to have a six pack, be at least 6-feet-tall and be able to win in a back-alley fight. You can’t cry unless a parent or your best friend dies in battle. And unless you’re extremely attractive and are paid millions for your job as an artist, you best be keeping your “sensitive side” on the down low.
Fitness magazines, nutrition guides and even the Biggest Loser show us glossy images of how we can achieve perfection at home. If you eat a single piece of organic fish a day, followed by 45 minutes of cardio and have a live-in pilates master, you too can look perfect No one’s going to do that. That’s not healthy living; it’s hardly living.
Our society discusses body image a lot — the images we see and how it affects our mental health. The National Institute of Media and the Family studied the relationship between body image and fifth graders. Researchers showed 10-year-olds a clip from the TV show “Friends” and a “Britney Spears” music video. After watching the video fifth graders told researchers they felt dissatisfied with their bodies. The numbers get worse. The same study showed that by the time a girl is 17, she is 78 percent more likely to be unhappy with their body.
I lost weight this week. Yay. To be honest I feel like I cheated. I lived off a diet of blue Gatorade and chicken noodle soup, with a 50-50 chance of keeping it down. I didn’t exercise, or move for that matter. I didn’t eat my daily caloric intake. I didn’t log my food. I was a big, giant, healthy living fail.
That’s OK. Sometimes you’re going to be a big fail.
Each week I present you with some pretty depressing statistics. This week I would like to bring you a dose of reality, as well.
I’ll probably lose weight. I’ve wanted to for a long time. Working out makes me happier and healthier. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. I’ll probably lose weight because I’m dreading the day I have to write a column and tell you I took down an entire bag of Cheetos Puffs by using them as a spoon to scoop out Funky Monkey Ice Cream.
I won’t look perfect. My thighs will always rub together. Without surgery I won’t wear above a size “B.” I won’t look cute first thing in the morning. Wilber, the doughy area around my midsection, will probably always be there just a little bit. There will always be someone more beautiful and perfect than I am. I have to learn to be OK with that.
Through the ridiculousness that is our beauty standards, we have lost sight of reality. Those women we see on TV don’t wake up looking like that either. It takes an army of beauty experts. Those men spend hours in the gym, and they all have some form of a spray tan. What you see isn’t real. Attempting to achieve that is like hopping in and out of wardrobes hoping to find Narnia. Sure it is possible to look movie-star perfect, but a talking lion that leads you on mystical adventures isn’t a realistic future.
Kristy Wilkinson is a senior in political science and new media communications. The opinions expressed in her columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Wilkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.