The Sunday News
EVERYONE has a slightly different idea of the perfect body image but we are heavily influenced by societal pressures and the media. Society’s expectations affect our beliefs about the ideal body image and sometimes this creates problems or causes harm. Society tells us what kind of body image we should strive for. We see pictures of perfect bodies all around us, on TV, magazines and social media (instagram, facebook, snapchat etc).
Reporters and gossip columnists even comment on the appearance of people in the news and political figures.
There are certainly some very direct messages associated with body weight in the media; celebrities, fashion models and show hosts are often seen as role models, especially by teenagers. They appear to demonstrate what it is to be successful and popular like Tyra Banks, Bonang Matheba. Their body weight, appearance and beauty are often associated with their popularity and wealth. In most instances these body goals are unrealistic and can only be achieved with the help of a plastic surgeon.
The truth is that people come in all shapes and sizes and people of all shapes and sizes can be attractive. In fact, in past years curvy women were considered more attractive than very thin women (that belief seems to be back) but over the years the thinner you were the more sexy you were. The ideal image of women also tells us that women should be blonde, tan and have big breasts or long weave, flat tummy, light skinned with a huge behind.
If you do not look like Nicki Minaj or Black Chyna then you are not as fly. “She should not have any physical disabilities. It doesn’t matter too much if she is smart, as long as she is physically attractive” so they say.
People that mistakenly assume the media images represent a desirable weight or good health may diet excessively in an attempt to match the images they see. It’s important to understand that the ideal body image as presented by the popular media is not healthy. It is generally assumed that being bombarded with images of skinny, flawless supermodels and celebrities makes most women feel bad about themselves. It makes it difficult to accept your body when everyone wants to look like Khloe Kardashian, meaning that until and unless you reach that goal you wont feel sexy enough.
At the moment, one of the hottest celebrity-influenced trends are the butt implants, from K Michelle to Black Chyna, with a million followers on social networks it is easy for them to have an influence globally. Women who cannot afford the proper surgery end up going to backyard surgeons who damage their bodies forever and in some cases leading to death. The skin bleaching trend is still in full swing especially in African countries. Mshoza (SA) and Kelly Khumalo seem to be doing their thing and getting lighter by the day.
The images of perfection we see on magazines and music videos are an unrealistic version of reality that we are continually told is attainable — if we work out, eat less and lather our bodies in transformative, firming and tightening creams. The media is a powerful tool that reinforces cultural beliefs and values, and while it may not be fully responsible for determining the standards for physical attractiveness, it makes escaping the barrage of images and attitudes almost impossible.
The effects of a poor body image on women can be extreme. The weight loss industry is very profitable and marketing firms know exactly how to sell products to people with the promise that their lives will be better if they lose weight or buy a certain brand of clothing. “Low Fat” and “Fat Free” are two of the most successful marketing terms that a food product can use in order to sell better. Clothing firms use size zero models in their advertisements that are photo-shopped to alien-like dimensions that would be unachievable and unhealthy for any human being.
If I said you don’t need to look like Minnie Dlamini or Pokello to feel good about yourself, you most probably wouldn’t believe it. The most you can do for yourself though is to:
De-emphasise numbers. Kilogrammes on a scale don’t tell you anything meaningful about the body as a whole or your health. Eating habits and activity patterns are much more important. Don’t strive to be a certain number on the scale but rather to be healthy and fit. Realise that you cannot change your body type: thin, large, short or tall, we need to appreciate the uniqueness of what we have — and work with it.
Stop comparing yourself to others. You are unique and you can’t get a sense of your own body’s needs and abilities by comparing it to someone else.
You need to move and enjoy your body, not because you have to, but because it makes you feel good. Go to the gym, ride a bike, take up dancing or even walking — there is something for everyone. Spend time with people who have a healthy relationship with food, activity, and their bodies. And lastly people who won’t keep on reminding you of your imperfections. —Additional info from Online.
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