Americans Obsessed With Beautiful Bodies

Americans Obsessed With Beautiful Bodies

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Many of our problems, particularly the ones related to an obsession with weight, dieting, appearance, self-starvation, bingeing, purging, steroids and muscle building, are due to our overemphasis upon the outer package, called the body.

We don't want just a healthy body. We want a body that is perfect in physical dimensions. Herein lies the problem.

It appears that few want to live within the framework of their own body. Most want to make their bodies look like somebody else's and that somebody else's body might have been differently.

You have a body that wants to express itself within the confines of its own frame. Recognize it. Respect your own body. Avoid the trap of thinking thin but feeling fat. It is a sure recipe for misery. Think health.

Eating disorders are extreme expressions of an obsession with the perfect body, an image that is handed out to us by a body-obsessed culture. Our effort should be to think and feel healthy.

So, what is "healthy?" Health is physical, mental, and spiritual. If we accept this concept, then health should mean energy, stamina, flexibility, strength, inner peace, joy, harmony and connectedness with the universe and its creator. According to this definition, notice that there is no mention of the physical dimensions or the attractiveness of the body. Health has to do with how you feel. Health is an experience, not an appearance.

Do you feel healthy? If you feel healthy, it doesn't matter what size you wear. If you don't feel healthy, then review your eating, sleeping, working, resting, and exercising habits in order to achieve your health goal.

We all cannot be alike. We should not try to be alike, either. Each person has a body that is unique in many ways, including its physical dimensions. So, there is a "natural size diversity" that we should respect in ourselves and others. Let's celebrate natural size diversity. Let's promote positive body image and self-esteem.

Many children hear negative and often cruel messages about their bodies at a time when they are most valuable and when their self-image has just begun to take shape. Elementary school children are often the perpetrators or the victims of teasing about body shape or size. Those little fellows are geniuses at inventing derogatory labels and nicknames.

Five to ten percent of girls and boys in America suffer from eating disorders. Over 50 percent of American women are on a diet at any given time. Body dissatisfaction and dieting are the portals to the hall of fame of eating disorder celebrities including actresses, models, dancers, and athletes.

Many children would give their life to have a body like that of their ideals. Many celebrities give their lives to have that kind of body. What an irony!

The organization, "Eating Disorder Prevention and Awareness," has developed a puppet program that is designed to reach elementary school children with positive messages regarding a healthy self-esteem and body image. Puppets convey to children the importance of recognizing that people come in all shapes and sizes. Kids On The Block may also have a similar puppet program.

Some schools take up special projects to promote positive body image. Students in these projects "dissect" the body messages in newspaper advertisements and TV commercials and other programs. They identify the items that send negative messages about food, body size and shape, and write letters to those companies to draw their attention to the negative impact of their messages.

It also would be good to write to the companies, if there are any, which send positive messages about the natural diversity of shapes and sizes.

According to one survey, 75 percent of American women and girls are dissatisfied with their bodies. I wish I knew the exact number of men and boys who are dissatisfied with their bodies but, I suspect, it should be a pretty substantial number.

We are a nation of dissatisfied body owners. Recognizing that a lot of us are dissatisfied with our bodies, businesses thrive by promising us a cure for all our defects. Clothe designers, hair stylists, cosmetologists, plastic surgeons, and others promise us instant elevation in our body image and self-esteem. Unfortunately, all their products and services only scratch the surface of the body image and self-esteem.

Let's create a world in which a person's health and self-worth is not measured in pounds, inches, pimples, freckles, or zits.

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 2003, Mind Publications 
Posted July 2003


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