The “Perfect” Body
By MARIA GRAFAS
While many may blame the individual for obtaining a complex about his or her own physical appearance, they fail to see the role that the media plays in shaping a person’s beliefs. I have seen too many magazines stacked on the shelves of supermarket checkout lines boasting how to get an “insane body.” Headlines like “Best and Worst Bikini Bodies” and “Curves are Back” demand that women praise new trends and hang onto magazines’ every word.
The supermodels, actresses, and TV personalities that are viewed with the utmost admiration are often the cause of body image issues. According to a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute study, a staggering 40% of girls ages 9 and 10 admitted to trying to have lost weight in some way. While it can be argued that perhaps said children were, in fact, in need of losing weight due to obesity, a study taken in 2010 states that 18% of children ages 6 to 11 are obese. Perhaps, in the study in which 40% of 9-10 year old girls admitted to having tried to lose weight, 18% of them really were overweight. Why then, are 22% of these girls still trying to lose weight at such a young age? Young girls are not only manipulated to desire a certain look per the media’s instructions, but are also shamed for the healthy bodies that they have.
From a medical standpoint, women like Britney Spears have the ideal weight for their height. However, the ideal does not take into account any muscle or bone mass that might come into play, therefore, the ideal for each person varies. It is not the weight, as so many women are preoccupied with, that is the be-all and end-all for health, but how it is achieved and maintained. Contrary to the magazine standards, being thin does not necessarily mean one is healthy.
Media messages have changed over the past few years from the need to be thin to the need to be “curvy” or to have an hourglass figure.
While this new trend has promoted body positivism for many women, it has also led to unhealthy weights becoming acceptable. “Plus-size” models, for example, could be potentially as harmful to women as anorexic models. Neither have healthy body types. Plus-size models are necessary to act as inspiration to women who are still healthy yet a bit larger than the average woman. A model like Ashley Graham, who weighs around 200 pounds at 5’9”, is still in good health and, therefore, a good representation for the plus-size population. However, a model like Tess Holliday, who weighs 280 pounds and is 5’5”, is just as toxic a role model for young girls as Isabelle Caro, a French model who weighed 55 pounds and was 5’5” before her death from anorexia. Both anorexia and obesity are diseases that young girls should not be subjected to. Media messages have caused such overbearing pressure on girls to have the perfect body that they have prevented them from differentiating between healthy and unhealthy body types.
Girls are, evidently, exposed to an enormous amount of pressure to achieve the perfect body, yet it seems the ever-elusive idea of perfection itself is not achievable. The media’s role in creating this stigma of what is accepted and what is not when it comes to women’s bodies contributes to the impossibility of trying to attain unreachable standards. I would encourage women not to base their worth of what is seen in the media, but rather by their health and comfort.
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