Opinion

BELMONT STUDENT COLUMN: Here’s the skinny on body image

Batsman Matty Menzies and wicket keeper Richie Gardner practise cricket at the Metchosin pitch behind the municipal hall. The newly formed Metchosin junior team begins league play this Saturday (June 7), but room remains for young players. - Photo by Rick Gardner
Batsman Matty Menzies and wicket keeper Richie Gardner practise cricket at the Metchosin pitch behind the municipal hall. The newly formed Metchosin junior team begins league play this Saturday (June 7), but room remains for young players.
— image credit: Photo by Rick Gardner

You step on the scale. You frown at the number. You suck in your stomach to see if that helps – it doesn’t. You frown at your stomach. You step off the scale.

You try to make yourself feel better in one of two ways: a cheeseburger and fries and whatever else is greasy and bad for you – since you’re already fat, what’s the harm? Or you  simply avoid food altogether; since you’re so fat, it can only do good, right?

Then you rinse and repeat, caught in a vicious cycle of insecurity and self-pity.

How many people are pleased with what they see when they look in the mirror, or when they step on a scale? Sadly, while researching this topic, I found 80 per cent of women are dissatisfied with their appearance (psychcentral.com).

Eighty per cent seems to be the disheartening magic number. Statistics from sirc.org, the Social Issues Research Center, show 80 per cent of women overestimate their size. Among women over 18, 80 per cent are unhappy with what they see, and eight of 10 women are dissatisfied with their reflection.

I know several people who, when looking in the mirror, describe a person completely different than who I see. We see ourselves as too fat, too thin, too big in some places and too small in others. It’s easy to see why: in the media we are force-fed a lie that Photoshopped models are the only thing close to acceptable body types.

In our society, it’s hard to be satisfied with yourself, particularly your body. The UK’s Daily Mail had a study that showed three per cent of British women are completely unhappy with their body and about 73 per cent think about their weight, size and body shape daily.

Everything we see and hear in the world around us tells us we aren’t good enough.  We’re overweight, underweight, wrong body type, ugly face, splotchy skin. It’s unhealthy to be so obsessed with appearance and an unattainable standard of beauty. The effort to somehow “fix” oneself can lead to harmful habits such as eating disorders, which can have serious health implications.

Some days I struggle with whether to bother eating. Other people I know, and those I don’t, have this issue, too. They question whether eating is worth the calories it adds to their bodies, or if there’s any point trying to control their eating habits.

So much focus is put on the “perfect” image of women that guys’ body image issues are often glossed over.  As much pressure as there is on women to be slim yet curvy, men are challenged to be muscular, but not bulky. Tall, but not gangly. There’s just as much pressure on men to strive for perfection as for women.

For either gender, the problem remains the same: the perceived vision of perfection we grow up with all around us is just that – perceived. It’s dangerous to be so caught up in the lies of perfection.

Even though we all know that the images are retouched, we can’t help but feel that is what we should strive for. It’s terrifying to know someone can take a photo, manipulate it using a computer program and create something unrealistic, yet present it as something normal. There are people out there, particularly young people, who don’t realize these images are fake and think there’s something wrong with themselves.

A study published in Pediatrics magazine stated that approximately two-thirds of girls in grades 5 to 12 said pictures in magazines influence their image of an ideal body, and half of those girls stated the images made them feel they needed to lose weight. Doctored photos encourage people to turn to extremes, such as anorexia and bulimia, to try and make themselves look like the models in the photos.

For a long while, I found myself thinking less highly of myself and the people around me because we didn’t look like Photoshopped, almost-anorexic models. I guess I’m still fooled by it, sometimes; there are days where I’m still trying to understand that these media messages are false and not something attainable.

Society needs to take this message to heart. It’s time we woke up, faced the mirror and told ourselves we are already perfect. It’s time we realized that we are real people, and real people have flaws.

Jordan Michelsen is a student at Belmont secondary.

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