Am I Desensitized by Body Image News?

When I first read the survey in the UK that almost one in three women attending university would swap a year or more of their life for their ideal body shape, I had a lot of feelings. I was sad, frustrated, mad and had many other various emotions; yet the one feeling I did not have was shock.

I wasn’t shocked at all that women would trade time in their life for their ideal body shape. And I guess to me, that is the saddest realization. And I questioned myself “Am I de-sensitized by body image news?”

The trend of women having body image struggles is rampant. I think the article gets it wrong though, it says they would exchange a year for “their” ideal body shape, and yet we do not live in a vat, we live in a culture where the ideal body shape is promoted in advertising, media, music videos, magazines, tv, and every other place we look. So perhaps it would be wiser to say women would trade a year for the ideal body shape of a society or culture.

A majority of us advocates have read the Fiji study and the effects of TV on the main island, Viti Levu. In a culture where “You’ve gained weight” is a traditional compliment, eating disorders and body image concerns began to be a concern just a few years after TV came to the island. This shows that ideal body types can be influenced by cultural shifts.

This survey in the UK also noted that “Most (93 per cent) have also had negative thoughts about their body in the last week, with 31 per cent feeling critical of their figure several times a day.” This trend of over 90% of women having negative thoughts about their body is absolutely concerning. We are so much more than our bodies!

We get confusing, conflicting and negative messages about our bodies, our health, our worth, and this all leads to a negative body image. We are targeted in marketing campaigns, to fix this, erase that, stop aging, fight our bodies day in and out. The diet industry is a multi billion dollar industry that continues to increase its own revenues the more we hate our bodies. Even though diet failure rates can be up to 95%, people continue to see diets not as a problem, but as a solution. And diets only increase disordered eating, can potentially trigger eating disorders, and makes us unable to listen or trust our own bodies.

We then have this anti Obesity campaign that I feel is only worsening the messages to people, to children, that being fat is something morally wrong and something to be feared. Instead of focusing on health, nutrition, education, and exercise, we are being taught bad vs good foods, that BMI is a tool that can be relied on for health, and that we somehow need to fix this “problem.” We don’t hear about genetic research, metabolism research, nutrition research, eating disorder research, all showing the complexity of weight and health. People equate thin with being healthy. They judge fat people on what they eat, and think they have the right to be cruel, judgmental, and make this a moral issue. Even PSA’s are shaming children in campaigns as well as perpetrating stigmas that exist (this alone is too large of a topic to address in this post alone) I don’t know how many times I want to just scream at the top of my lungs, that you CANNOT tell the health of a person from weight alone!!!! You also cannot tell a persons worth from their weight. People of all sizes, shapes, races, genders, all should be treated like human beings, and with equal respect and treatment.

I believe this all SHOULD be shocking, and I am not shocked at anything I read anymore, and that is sad.

The norm is that women hate on themselves, it is socially acceptable to say self hate talk in front of a mirror or with friends, and diet talk can come from the home and into the office. Offices even have created Weight Watchers groups and meetings; it appears there is no place where we can focus on who we are, our skills, our talents, and have a break from how we look.

There are obviously many more contributing factors to a negative body image, and I think the change needs to start with us. We need to stop self hate and monitor our self talk, and the messages we are allowing to have free rent in our heads. It shouldn’t be normal to be so damn mean to ourselves! I believe we need to teach our children that they are more than what they look like, and can embrace their talents, skills and individuality. We need to teach media literacy. We need to empower people to question the media, the advertising, the subtleties they are trying to send and sell to us on a daily basis.

I have hope that Health at Every Size, intuitive eating, and positive messages of health can counter the messages from those just seeking to make millions on our insecurity.

I wanted to counter this with an exercise to write all of the reasons I would NEVER exchange a year of my life for a body shape, because there are SO many things that are worth more to me.

I would never trade a year of my life because of all the things a year is worth to me:

A years worth of puppy kisses, snuggling and unconditional love

A year of watching my nephew grow

A year of hugs, loves from my family

A year of reading

A year of writing

A year of moments, lessons, intentions and gratitudes

A year of new beginnings

A year of smiles and giggles

A year of feelings, all feelings

A year to see how far I have come

A year of finding what brings me joy

A year of reading inspiring blogs

A year of morning coffee! :)

A year of watching people discovery recovery, embrace recovery, and discover their true authentic selves

A year of meeting inspiring people, and having amazing dialogues about creativity, business, motivations, and sharing of stories.

What about you? What is a year worth to you??

How do you think we can work to change these statistics?

 

14 Responses to Am I Desensitized by Body Image News?
  1. McKella
    April 11, 2011 | 4:03 pm

    I once read a survey in a fitness magazine that said a significant percentage of their readers would rather spend a year in jail than gain 100 pounds. I think that might be worse than giving up a year of life.
    For me, a year is another four seasons, another round of holidays to spend with my family, and a year’s worth of reading. I think about where I was last year and how much I’ve learned and how far I’ve come in such a short time. Would I want to give that up? Not a chance.
    McKella recently posted..Dear Self- Writing Love Letters to Ourselves

    • Lisa
      April 11, 2011 | 11:19 pm

      I don’t know…..as someone who DID lose 100 pounds, being that obese did feel like jail for me. I am so much happier now that I’m healthy.

      • ViR
        April 11, 2011 | 11:38 pm

        I think thats great for you! I am just saying that by shaming we don’t help anyone. Health is so complex, and research shows how complicated it is. I think it is an individual path, and finding what works for you. I am saying with women, the pressure to fit an ideal body shape when that isn’t natural or healthy for all and have that guide all behaviors is saddening (and potentially dangerous)

    • ViR
      April 11, 2011 | 11:41 pm

      Amen to all of that!!!! I think pursuing health is one thing, but trying to fit an ideal established in this culture? What? SOOO not worth it

  2. Alex @ Healing Beauty
    April 11, 2011 | 5:16 pm

    This is such a great post. I too am no longer shocked by statistics, polls, surveys, etc that have to do with women disliking their bodies and placing a higher worth on the ideal body shape rather than what truly matters in life. I think our society has had a shift from values to body image, where what our bodies look like matters above all else. This body centric attitude is quite dangerous, in my opinion, and I think we should all take a look at what matters the most in our lives.
    Alex @ Healing Beauty recently posted..Looking at Values

    • ViR
      April 11, 2011 | 11:39 pm

      Agreed!!

  3. Angela @ MyPinkyToes
    April 11, 2011 | 10:30 pm

    I really like how you clarified to say that women would trade a year for the ideal body shape of a society or culture. It is sad how much media has emphasized body size.
    I admire you for all your work in bringing these issues to the forefront. The world needs more people like you.
    Angela @ MyPinkyToes recently posted..It’s a Love Hate Relationship

    • ViR
      April 11, 2011 | 11:45 pm

      I didn’t really connect that until I thought about it. Ideals are set by a society, not only by an individual. Now while EDs are not always about the pursuit of thinness, the body image struggles are rampant right now. I cant help but question the messages, and fight for changes – or at least EDUCATE people on the realities :) Thank you for your comment!

  4. Dana
    April 11, 2011 | 10:41 pm

    Gosh girl, these statistics make me so sad. I think we can change by just helping 1 single woman/man/girl at a time. Sometimes I want to FIX the whole picture when really we should just be concentrating on helping one person! Helping just ONE person with their body image will cause a domino effect and it will change their life !
    Dana recently posted..Welcome

    • ViR
      April 11, 2011 | 11:39 pm

      Yes!!!! I know we want to change the world. I know I feel like that a lot! But it starts with us :) Helping one on one is what matters. It will have a domino effect as you say :)

  5. Ann Becker-Schutte
    April 12, 2011 | 2:58 am

    Kendra,

    I don’t think you’re jaded–I think that the body-hating mentality is so pervasive that it’s not a surprise that you’re not shocked. Saddened, angered, outraged . . . but not shocked. As for me, I treasure the prospect of a year to:

    –fill with days at the zoo, in the park, and in the garden with my kids.
    –celebrate birthdays, adoption days, and holidays with my family
    –eat tomatoes straight from the garden and blueberries warm from the bush
    –get started on our goal to visit every state park in Missouri
    –collect more letterbox stamps!
    –get one year closer to twenty spent with my soulmate
    –read more great books
    –play more Scrabble
    –meet new friends
    –participate in more powerful client journeys
    Ann Becker-Schutte recently posted..Beautiful You-Guest Post by Rosie Molinary and GIVEAWAY!!

  6. mamaV
    May 2, 2011 | 11:03 pm

    LOVE this post, wanted to let you know I am posting it to our blog. Your awesome writing needs to be recognized!

    If you want to become a contributor, email us!

    Thanks and take care,
    mamaV
    mamaV recently posted..We Are The Real Deal Voted Best Body Image Blog

    • ViR
      May 4, 2011 | 5:49 pm

      Thank you so much!!!! I saw it yesterday and really appreciate the share :)

  7. Mid-Week Balance--Inagural Post
    July 11, 2011 | 4:17 am

    [...] body look like? Read the article–I’d love to know what your body vacation looks like. “Am I Desensitized by Body Image News?”–Kendra at Voice in Recovery is routinely a powerful advocate of self-care and health. In this [...]

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