Don’t push your body past its limits for ‘beauty’

For many, healthy eating can become compulsive. (Photo: Creative Commons/Simon Haisell) For many, healthy eating can become compulsive. (Photo: Creative Commons/Simon Haisell)

Haley Falco

Art Director

Looking through magazines and seeing tall, abnormally slim, long-haired Photoshopped women on every page can cause intense emotional damage.

The media’s role in modern society is to inform, persuade and entertain us. The message media presents us also conveys unrealistic expectations that the thinner you are, the more attractive, desirable and loved you will be. Through these toxic images, the media portrays that in order to live a happy, fulfilled life, you must be slimmer and more beautiful than you already are. This leads to an impractical expectation for many women to change the shape of their natural figure.

Many young girls play with Barbie dolls — gorgeous hair, skin and ultra-slim body — an image that is extremely unrealistic. These dolls provide girls with an impossible body shape expectation they will aspire to yet never achieve, because the Barbie doll’s actual body measurements are virtually not possible in nature.

Celebrities such as Jessica Alba, Victoria Beckham and Mary-Kate Olsen admitted to having an obsession with disordered eating, with each of them experiencing anorexia. The media portrays the “perfect body” as being unusually thin and undernourished.

Style icons promoted in the media are getting thinner, causing an unhealthy image for young women who look up to the celebrity lifestyle.

But there are more types of eating disorders than the typical anorexic or bulimic behaviours that the media commonly covers. In fact, there are four different types including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and ED NOS (Eating Disorder not otherwise specified).

Anorexia is an eating disorder in which one is underweight, living in fear of gaining weight, and most importantly obsessively restricting food intake. Both anorexia and bulimia are dangerous, as bulimia is characterized by episodes of binge eating, followed by vomiting and/or laxative use to avoid weight gain in any form. Binge eaters constantly overeat in an uncontrollable manner. The less discussed but extremely common ED NOS describes when someone doesn’t specifically fit into just one category as previously discussed. ED NOS is where I fit in.

I, as well as many other women, have experienced obsessively controlled eating behaviours. For example, I was on a strict vegan diet, and felt extreme guilt whenever I made a mistake. I felt that I never fit into a specific category, but rather experienced all disordered types in my own way.

I now know that eating healthy 80 per cent of the time is the healthiest way to live and punishing yourself for falling off track sometimes is unfair and unhealthy.

There is no single reason for body dissatisfaction, but research shows that the media does indeed contribute to disordered eating- especially for young women.

We blame the media for glorifying thinness, causing disordered eating and body dissatisfaction- this seems to be a reasonable accusation. However, our environment provides us with heavily processed foods high in fat and sodium, which is causing people to gain excess weight. When anxiety rises from weight gain, people normally turn to dieting, which is their biggest mistake. Dieting commonly triggers binge eating and many times this is the start of a disturbed relationship with food.

Dieting studies show that twice as many people diet as need to, meaning that half are not even overweight to begin with. Eating disorders aren’t necessarily just about becoming slim and shedding extra pounds; it’s a mindset that is unbelievably difficult to reverse. There’s no number on the scale that will suffice.

Women feel pressure from all areas of their life, including their peers, boyfriends and girlfriends, family and clothing stores.

How can someone build confidence when they’re surrounded with influential forces saying they will never be good enough?

Society is aware now more than ever before about eating disorders, which is why there are more services available.

It’s a sickness that takes complete control over the mind and what is considered “too much food” or “too many calories” becomes unhealthily obsessive.

Not all media output and advertising campaigns convey toxic messages. Dove Beauty is an example of a brand promoting acceptance of beauty in all its forms.

This company strives to change the way society looks at perfection. More examples of this are needed.

Every person is born beautiful, whether you’re naturally curvy, petite-framed, or the shortest in your class, and it’s up to society to take a step back and evaluate the messages from the media.

Real beauty comes from within, and a number on the scale shouldn’t define you.

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