On my Facebook page today was a photo of women of all shapes and sizes labelled “Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes”, shared by a firm in the USA called ‘Kathy’s Curvy Corners’.
How true those words are – beauty comes in all shapes and sizes! It’s true for everyone, man, woman and child. But it made me reflect on how social pressures today cause so many of us to overlook this, and to think we have to conform to today’s stereotyped version of beauty, which is usually, amongst other attributes, thin to the point of emaciation.
Over the centuries society has dictated its own version of beauty, from the voluptuous beauties of Rubens to the slight figure of that stealer of a Royal heart in the last century, Mrs Wallis Simpson – who is said to have once remarked, “No woman can ever be too thin or too rich!!”
We live in more enlightened times. Or do we? Intense pressure from advertising on television and in magazines makes it hard for anyone who cares how they look to maintain a healthy body image these days. Twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8 per cent less than the average woman — but today’s models weigh 23 per cent less than you and me. Popular film and television actresses are becoming younger, taller and thinner. Magazines are full of photos of young, beautiful, SKINNY models and pressure is on us all to accept that this is how we should look.
What many of us don’t realise is that these photos are airbrushed and changed to present the image they want us to accept as normal and that it’s the way we should look. The advertising in magazines specifically targets our insecurities about how we look, and promise quick fixes. They love to make us feel bad about the way we are, because the aim of these ads is to get us to buy their products, it’s the magazine’s job is to make us think we do. And if it doesn’t work for us – well – next month they’ll tell us about something else that’ll be THE ONE.
When these things don’t work, we tend blame ourselves, to think we’re not disciplined enough, didn’t use it right, or don’t deserve to be thin or beautiful or whatever. All this pressure makes us want to shape our body into the figure they persuade us it should be – and if we can’t, we often beat up on ourselves for being weak and lacking in willpower. It’s no wonder so many women, and men too, find it difficult to be always positive and maintain a healthy body image in the face of all this persuasive advertising.
So what can you do.? Check how your body rates on a BMI Calculator, you’ll find one easily enough on the web, and try to accept that these figures are what you should aim for, not what the advertising gurus feed us!
One of the sad things about all this is that teenagers and even children are affected by this hype. When we hit our teenage years, our bodies start to change shape. This is when teen eating disorders are a danger. Hips change shape, breasts appear, shoulders may widen. So we worry about what we eat and feel embarrassed when anyone looks at us. At this time we easily develop a negative body image. Anorexia is an eating disorder which is now becoming more and more common. In it sufferers have an obsessive fear of gaining weight. They commonly control their body weight by starvation diets, purging, vomiting, excessive exercise, or other weight control measures, such as diet pills or diuretic drugs. It mainly affects teenage females, however it is now being seen in children in their pre-teens. And not just females, approximately 10% of sufferers are male. It is important that children are set an example of accepting themselaves from an early age, and it is up to parents to help them do this by setting a good example.So try to see yourself as the beautiful person you are, no matter what your size or shape, and make sure your children realise that good health, and the beauty it brings, is the only worthwhile goal.