Wildcat Wellness: “Good Bodies”

Kyra Fleischman '17, Writer

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Do you feel like meeting the social standard of a “good body” improves one’s quality of life? Well, on a recently conducted anonymous survey, eighty-three of your Marin Catholic peers said that it kind of did, and seventy students blatantly said yes, it does. In today’s society, although most people desire life quality to be independent of body shape, something has gone utterly wrong; how much one feels that their appearance fits social standards seems to play a large role in their happiness.

Since the 1950s, eating disorder rates have steadily increased. Many people look to the growing advancement of the media to blame for this problem, where people now use advertisements containing flawless, photoshopped men and women to sell their products, while subconsciously connecting the ideas of beauty, thinness, and wealth to one’s success and happiness. Along with advertisements, the way characters with certain body types are portrayed in TV shows also seem to create criticism for body diversity. None of this is fair to the millions of Americans who view these images of people with “perfect bodies” and decide theirs are not good enough. Everyone has different body types, and displaying one type as the standard causes shame and self consciousness. Different people carry more weight in different parts of their bodies, some around the waist, the torso, the chest, the shoulders, the stomach, the legs, or a combination. Studies show only five percent of women are naturally as thin as models are required to be. This encourages young girls who desire to be “as beautiful” as the women in their favorite magazines, to start watching their weight. Possibly for this reason, girls have become self conscious younger and younger, even before or during puberty. 80% of ten year olds are afraid of being fat, and likely not because they are concerned of the health complications of obesity.

In the past decade or so, teenages are facing a new threat to positive body image. Social media is another type of medium that is a large part of many adolescents’ lives. Although there are many types of social media, one of the main ones that helps build stereotypes of a “good body” is Instagram. While Instagram can be an enjoyable and creative way to express oneself, an interactive way to connect with friends and even family, or a bulletin board to spread social messages, it sometimes appears to be a contest between teens to see who can “get the most likes”. Often, pictures that get the most likes seem to be pictures of bodies. From famous people to normal teenagers around America, images of girls where breasts are clearly shown, stomachs sucked in and toned, and butts are stuck out sometimes seem to receive the most positive response from Instagrammers. Now, not to be mistaken, there is nothing wrong with the female body, or posting a picture in a bathing suit! The response is the problem. The fact that some girls with different body shapes feel like their body is not worthy to post on Instagram is the problem. The same goes for males, who deserve to feel confident in their bodies despite muscular structure and distribution of fat. Although many think of eating disorders and self consciousness as “women’s’ issues”, many men suffer also.

The advertisements, the model industry, and social media all play a role in the high rate of eating disorders in the United States. Over one half of teenage girls and one third of teenage boys use unhealthy habits to lose weight. On a Marin Catholic survey, 52% of students report that they have participated in unhealthy behaviors to attempt to lose or gain weight. These include diet pills, laxatives, over exercising or excessive muscle building, restrictive eating, throwing up food on purpose, and more. These behaviors can take an extreme toll on the health of an individual. Eating disorders can result in extreme dehydration, fatigue, kidney failure, gastric rupture, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, fainting, death, and more.

So, what is the solution to all this body shaming and eating distortion? One very important step society should take is awareness. Although up to 30 million people have suffered from eating disorders, the field receives inaccurate funding compared to other mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Schizophrenia, even though research shows that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate. Many young people do not know the damage an eating disorder can cause on the body, or that they could die from one. The next step is creating a healthy environment is where body shaming is no longer in style. It is very common for teenagers to express self hatred, and it is considered normal by many. This needs to change. Everyone’s body is unique and beautiful. Some people are naturally very thin, some are naturally curvy, some naturally retain muscle easily, some do not. As cliche as it sounds, bodies really do come in all shapes and sizes and it is important to shed light on the idea that no body shape is superior to another. Finally, if you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, get help. There are many options available, including anonymous hotlines, online support groups, therapists, school counselors, trusted adults, hospitals, and counseling groups. The most highly recommended form of help for teenagers with eating disorders is telling a counselor or another adult. Please remember, eating disorders are not shameful, they are actual mental disorders and deserve care and treatment. The journey may be tough, but it will be worth it.

Help:

 

Sources:

“ANAD.” Eating Disorders Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.

“Prevalence vs. Funding.” Get The Facts On Eating Disorders. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.

 

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