Body Image: A struggle towards the unattainable

As a young woman growing up in this society, it would be strange if you didn’t have body insecurities. Photos of models who are so photo-shopped that they don’t even resemble their actual form are plastered on billboards, websites, and television ads. Young women today are taught they must attain something that is quite literally unattainable. The average size of a woman in the United States is a size 14, yet models barely pass a size six.

This, of course, is not to say that men don’t also face high body standards: muscular, but not too muscular, thin but not too thin, tall but not too tall. We are all told that human beings should fit into a box with the perfect waist, toned legs, and tanned skin (oh, but not too tan).

A Body Snark Free ZoneSome body facts:
10-20% of college women struggle with eating disorders.
4-10% of college men struggle with eating disorders.
20% of people with anorexia will die due to the complications with their eating disorder.
91% of women are unhappy with their bodies.
Only 5% of women possess the “ideal body” that is portrayed by the media.
75% of college students are unhappy with their bodies.

More young women today are struggling with eating disorders than ever before, and I think we tend to overlook some of the major reasons.

When eating disorders like anorexia began to make their rise, we ignored them. People were shamed for their “weakness” and the mental disorder was tossed aside as a personal issue. Women and men, alike, were told to be happy with their bodies as they were. Then the media threw everything right back in our faces and screamed about the rising obesity rates. Young teenagers looked in a magazine for help with maintaining a healthy weight, but were shut down.

By failing to provide any healthy way to lose weight or maintain a stable weight, young girls have turned to unhealthy habits. As a society we fail to realize that telling someone “you’re so beautiful, though” doesn’t change their perception of themselves. If they are truly unhappy, or want to change their habits, and we do not give them the proper resources to do so, they will turn to the only ways the media pays attention to: anorexia and bulimia. Crash “diets” are the new fad, and do nothing to provide nutrition education on creating a healthy, balanced, diet. Dieting does not put you on a road to health, a good diet does.

We shame women for being “overweight” and then shame them if they become underweight.

I have spent years being a weight that “wasn’t big enough” to complain about but “wasn’t skinny enough” to be happy about. I thank the support of all my friends, but my happiness wasn’t going to come until I felt I was healthy. For the first time this year, after starting better eating habits and a schedule at the gym, I look in the mirror and I am completely happy with what I see. Sure, some days I wake up and wish I hadn’t checked a mirror at all, but more often than not that isn’t the case. I have embraced every curve and bulge in my body, and this only came after years of just the opposite. I wish people would see and fight the media that is creating unattainable and unrealistic body image ideas. Everyone’s body is different, it’s just a fact.

What is important when it comes to body image? 

How you feel.

Regardless of your weight or size, or a number on a scale, if you’re content in short shorts and a tank top every day, so be it. If you prefer baggy sweats and a t-shirt go for it. If you look in the mirror and you’re happy with the beautiful person staring back, why does anybody else have the right to tell you that is wrong?

People come in all shapes and sizes. It’s 2014, it’s about time we recognize that they are all beautiful.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder or body image issues, I encourage you to seek out help including visiting Abby’s House, who can aid you in finding further resources.

By Quinn Murphy

3 comments on “Body Image: A struggle towards the unattainable”

  1. Thanks for this. As a man, it’s easy for me to forget how much more pressure our society puts on women than it puts on us. I do appreciate you mentioning that men aren’t completely free of it, though. Many men consider eating disorders to be a female problem, so it’s hard to admit having one, even to ourselves.

    The more people talk about this stuff, the better. Thanks for helping spread the word.

    (BTW, it looks like you have a typo in the line about 1% of women.)

    1. Thanks for the support! It is easy to forget about everyone’s constant struggle: male or female. Because of stigmas against eating disorders, it can be even harder for men to reach out for help. None of us are free from societal pressure.

      (Thanks for noticing, I think 91% sounds a little more accurate than 1%).

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