Body Image Issues
- Friday, 23 July 2010
Most of us are glad to live in a multicultural society, valuing the freedom to live how we choose. We like to think we are open-minded, civilized, and tolerant of customs, beliefs, and choices.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where women often have a distorted view of their bodies. They look in the mirror and only see flaws—that they're too fat, their breasts are the wrong size, thighs or arms are not firm enough, or their nose is too big. Many spend considerable amounts of time and money on products that promise to magically make them look better and younger, all with little to no success. This is not a new phenomenon. While true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, historically, women have gone to extremes to attain perceived beauty, some of which today could be considered torture.
History of Body Image Issues
Egyptian Queens bathed in milk, outlined their eyes with soot and kept their teeth white by cleaning them with baby urine. Parents of female infants in higher social classes of China would shape their daughters feet by cutting and binding them in order to achieve a dainty “lotus” foot. The ideal foot size was about 4 inches, so to achieve this, the four toes were broken and curled under the ball of the foot as far as they could reach toward the heel, bandaged and tightened over time. The natural foot was considered a social stigma, preventing girls from marrying into a higher social class.
Instead of the lead-based cosmetics used by the English Tudor women, Edwardian women found arsenic gave their skin a luminous transparency and deadly nightshade enlarged their pupils and brightened their eyes. Unfortunately this beauty regime contributed to their young deaths.
In Victorian England, the ideal body shape was plump and full figured. In order to achieve this, a corset was worn to make the waist smaller and sometimes increase the bust. From age 4 onwards, girls wore a bodice that was gradually tightened and lengthened so that by the time they were teenagers, they were unable to sit or stand without a corset reinforced with whale bone or steel. Often they would be laced and pulled so tight it was impossible to take a normal breath. Over time these corsets shifted and compressed internal organs, pulled lower ribs together, sometimes overlapping. During pregnancy these women risked the lives of their children and themselves. Some women went as far as having their lower ribs removed, a cosmetic surgical practice still done today!
In the 1920s, women bound their breasts to achieve a waif-like profile. Starlets had their wisdom teeth removed to achieve hollow cheeks. By the 1950s, the full figure was back in vogue but by the 1960s, slim was back in.
In some cultures women still stretch their earlobes, sometimes down to their shoulders, and adorn them with beads and earrings. Also, lips are supported and stretched by metal rings during childhood and the larger the lip plate, the more beautiful a girl is considered. Necks are also stretched by gradually dislocating cervical vertebrae from adding iron rings to achieve a 'giraffe' neck. Girls still undergo female circumcision in order to prepare them for marriage, believing that without this procedure no man would find them attractive.
Body image has always played a big part in our society, but health should be the first priority. Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. We have to set realistic goals for healthy weight and support each other by tuning out the media and societal hype about “the perfect body”.
Today there are many cosmetic procedures available to 'fix your flaws'. Women subject themselves to Botox injections and bee venom as 'quick fixes'. What these fixes do is actually poison parts of your body such as muscles and nerves, by deadening them. As well, some risk their health to opt for surgical procedures, having things removed and inserting artificial chemicals such as plastic and silicone to create permanent changes.
Aging is a natural process and it is amazing how a healthy lifestyle minimizes the effects of time. If you need to lose weight, the healthy and most successful long- term solution is to do it gradually. Being overweight or obese is linked to many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer. More worrisome is that obesity among kids has more than doubled in recent years, and the numbers are still growing. There is no magic solution or pill available that will produce long-lasting results. Liposuction might provide a 'quick fix' but often it results in abnormal appearances in the area where the procedure occurred. Eating properly and exercising regularly is the only road to permanent weight loss and effective maintenance.
Having an eating disorder is also a health concern. Many women struggle with eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, with an increasing number fighting binge-eating disorders and exercising compulsively. These disorders often result in serious long-term health problems and are difficult to treat because of negative perceptions a person develops. Often this is aggravated by pressures from the media, friends, family and society. The death rate related to eating disorders is high, especially for women between 15 and 24 years old.
Changing your body image means changing the way you think about your body. Instead of looking for every minute potential flaw, look for the good things. What do people compliment you most on? Accentuate those features. Exercise regularly and do something you enjoy and in no time you will notice that you have more energy, your body is more flexible and you will feel better about yourself and the world. Exercising for 20 or 30 minutes every day will also go a long way to improve your overall health.
Having a healthy body image means you feel good inside your own skin. Make healthy lifestyle choices and strive for a positive attitude Stop torturing yourself and learn to appreciate and enjoy the uniqueness of who you are!