Body language: Living up to unrealistic image becoming more prevalent

02/26/14 by Rennie Detore

Think about the last time you were standing in line at a grocery store, and exactly what you saw.
More than likely, you've looked to your right and suddenly became fixated on the adjacent magazine rack, and equally captivated by a headline by barely deserved any notoriety but kept you enthralled nonetheless.
It probably read something along the lines of "10 Best Summer Bikini Bodies," "5 Summer Bodies That Don't Make the Grade" or "Flat Abs in Only 5 Minutes."

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Yes, even at the grocery store, you're reminded that your body isn't all its cracked up to be, at least when you compare yourself to the models on these magazines or celebrity cover girls (or boys) that showcase a six pack or short sleeves whenever they get the chance to do so.
As silly as those aforementioned story tag lines may seem, they actually are more than just checkout fodder. Men, women and young adults often find themselves paying attention to the unrealistic standards set by a myriad of sources, whether the media is constantly telling you indirectly that thin is beautiful or you're reminded ad nausea that if you don't have abs, then you might as well consider yourself obese.
These self imposed thoughts of feeling insufficient can have side effects that go far beyond feeling faint due to a lack of calories consumed or skipping dessert at dinner. Young adults and women, particularly, feel the need to look a certain way, and can easily fall into a routine that borders on anything from starvation to eating disorders.
Laina James is a women's health coach who specializes n relationship to food and the body. James, herself, struggled to overcome her own issues, namely an eating disorder. She's shifted to passionately working and helping other women find a combination of diet, spirituality, emotions and exercise that works for them safely.
James points out that the media has its cross to bear when it comes to our perception of what an ideal body type and weight is, but also is quick to point out that they're not the sole culprit.
"Body Dismorphic Disorder doesn't necessarily have to be cultural determined; it's a phenomenon that has some biology involved," James says. "Does this current modeling media and culture affect (our perceptions), yes it does."
The balance between being thin and not is an odd dichotomy, actually, if you take a moment to think about it.
There's no arguing that the population within the United States is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to how people are overweight and, more staggering, obese. Poor diet, a lack of exercise and processed food that is way too easy to get your hands on plays a major role in the expanding waistlines across the country.
The number of people who rank as obese rightfully is referenced as an "epidemic," and the particular demographic that falls into this category desperately needs help in turning the corner and cutting back on how many pounds their carrying.
The opposite end is the body image spectrum, those who struggle with eating disorders, over exercising or psychological issues to the point that you search for the perfect body, the same ones that adorn all those magazine covers.
In the end, the best happy medium of sorts is to encourage healthy weight, healthy eating and exercising regularly. In a sense, keeping the talk and chatter simple, effective and not varying from one extreme to another.
But often even the most sensible and sane advise is rendered obsolete and replaced with a way of thinking that is skewed and masked by anything from idolizing a magazine cover or, as James suggests, how you were initially exposed to body image and negativity in that regard as a child.
"Did you have parents that hated how they looked, was it active, was there pressure," James asks. "It's not what they (parents) say directly to kids but rather how they talk about themselves and then kids see that."
"When I see people say I need to workout or say things about themselves in front of kids, I cringe," she adds.
The school of thought when it comes to your upbringing and how it relates to body image certain is an important facet to discuss and dissect. If mom, and dad to a degree, viewed themselves consistently as "too fat" or referred to themselves as "fatty" or "disgusting," one has to wonder the ripple effect that had on kids who overheard and thus took that type of inner angst and anxiety about how they look personally.
Where that type of influence falls specifically as to being an exact cause of negative body image is open for interpretation and debate. The same could be said for all of the components that potentially play a paramount role in body image, whether it's something you're born with or you can't help but opine to have the perfect body.
"Body image is due to a desire to be thin, and it's about control and having a real obsessional component to it. It's also saying 'I wish I looked thinner and I'd be happy," James suggests.
"The desire to be desirable, and those who tell themselves that if I had that (perfect body), other things would work out for them, too."
Seemingly in all forms of body image, the overall scope seems to include key elements that can't be overlooked: perfectionism and desire for a flawless figure that equates to the idea of happiness.
And that simply isn't an image worth attaining.

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