Body Image: A Love Hate Relationship

I was reading an article in Cosmo about plastic surgery in Venezuela where it was normal to see women wearing restrictive ‘waist-trainers’ which are thick straps that compress your clothes to help you get an hourglass figure. The article stated that thousands of girls spent the weekend at modelling schools learning the art of being ‘beautiful’ and even exfoliated their elbows! I thought this was sad and decided to see what my friends thought about body image and whether they were happy with theirs.

Girls in italic, boys in bold…

  •  ‘Would you say you love your body?’

‘No! Haha’

‘Well maybe I do when I get comfortable in the relationship I am in. Now I love that my partner does but I don’t always as it never looks the way I like it.’

‘Noo, there are parts which I like more than others and sometimes I am tempted to tone up, but overall I wouldn’t trade with someone else because I’m working with what I was given.’

‘Definitely not haha’

‘I would say I like it yeah, but obviously there are always little things that I would change, but when I’ve been exercising more and am feeling fit then I sort of forget all of that and am quite happy.’

‘Nope, I get spots and feel I should have a flatter stomach.’

‘Urm yeah. I suppose so.’

‘That’s really tough. I would say I like it yes but every day I think of ways of improving it. It’s why I now go to the gym 4-5 days a week.’

  • Do the media influence you about body image?

‘Erm no not really, because I’m more aware of airbrushing and editing now so I know that although those models are gorgeous, they have imperfections too which is a good thing!’

“No I don’t have time for media. But you do see a lot of people pushing their ideal image of a woman that it not yours and it can make you think your image isn’t good enough.’

‘Urm not really. I just want to feel confident in myself and not worry about what others think.’

‘I think a certain amount because it’s all around you, clothes are advertised on slim models, magazines and TV advertise ‘ slimmer is better’ and criticise weight gain, even if they’re fine on celebs and you are almost ‘ tricked’ into thinking this image is perfect and the way to be. It’s regardless of you also knowing there are a lot of unmentioned issues behind this e.g. not eating properly, air brushing and the models chosen are a very small percentage of society.’

‘A small part is media, the main part I would say is social media. people sharing pictures of their “ideal man” on instagram and FB.’

‘I mean yeah. Everywhere you look you see ads with the “ideal” or the “perfect” male or female body. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that that is the ideal body for you.’

‘Yeah, films and adverts showing ridiculous bodies that are practically unachievable.’

  • ‘Do you think there is a lot of pressure on a ‘bikini body’?’

‘Yes I do think there is a certain amount of pressure where women feel that there’s always the preparation to do before they whip the bikini out. But at the end of the day if you’ve got your bikini on and are comfortable in your skin it’s ok not to care what outsiders think!’

‘Well it can make people feel unhappy with their perfect look. There is a lot of stigma around what is a bikini body, year on year it changes. I like the 60’s bikini body which is curvy.’

‘Yeah definitely! If you look fat next to your friends then you are reluctant to get into a bikini haha!’

‘Yes probably the most pressure, and that’s probably what influences me the most.’

‘So much…the pressure from not only what I mentioned there but from the guys on the beach, how you are going to look in comparison to your friends, in photos and personal pressure to feel happy when you look in the mirror when you go bikini shopping.’

‘Yeah in a way it does, but I think in more recent years you get more understanding on just how much is photo shopped and not real. But all the adverts for clothes and everything have a very predictable model that has a very different body to most average girls which I don’t think is fair and I guess does make me want to look like that to a certain point.’

‘Yeah, guys have the pressure to ‘look good shirtless on the beach’. Not just to be perceived as attractive but also to be perceived as masculine.’

‘The media show off ‘perfect’ bodies all the time.’

I feel like there’s pressure to have a six pack and defined biceps for summer but that pressure comes from me I think.’

  • Do you do anything to enhance your body like tanning, dieting, exercising etc?

‘Maybe all 3 haha although tanning was a bit of a fail! Really though, cannot be bothered with it! I go through healthy eating/dieting stages depending on if I have gained weight, feeling super unhappy or it is getting near summer!’

‘I like to sunbathe to tan but naturally on holiday, not by spraying or sun beds as I just find it expensive and unpredictable! I have never dieted and I go through spells of running or attending gym classes occasionally when I feel like I want to or should haha.’

Well, one week of running every morning at 6 on the dot for at least 1 hour… didn’t last long.  Eating healthy and enjoying life.’

‘Yeah I consider what I eat most of the time and go to the gym/ exercise because of body image but also because of well-being and I really enjoy it, so I don’t do it purely because of image but there is that reason too.’

‘I joined the gym, will be joining again this summer, started running and eating healthy but it never lasts very long but I do want to try stick at it this summer.’

‘I exercise every week by playing football and going to the gym,’

‘I exercised and eaten right pretty much my entire life. The exercise I do because I enjoy it (e.g. Karate). And I’ve eaten right because that’s just how I’ve been brought up. I don’t do anything to enhance my body.’

‘It links to the gym but I’m eating 5 meals a day now to get bigger. I used to be on 2 maybe 3 but now I always try get 5 meals in.’

  • How has your perception of your body changed as you’ve gotten older?

‘I think I was more confident when I was younger as it wasn’t really an issue but now I’m more aware of my body and the pressure to look good.’

‘I think it’s stayed pretty much the same as it is currently throughout my teens- bouncing between more significant feelings than others, although looking back I should have never had a problem! I just am more aware of how to deal with it properly now and although I can’t force myself to believe it, as I have got older I am learning to embrace what you’ve been born with and make the most of it before children and old age ruin your body!’

‘I didn’t care when younger; I now care more about what I should do with my body and learn what’s good for it.’

‘It’s probably got better than from a few years ago as I’ve got happier with myself and care less about other people’s opinions.’

‘I actually care now, whereas when I was younger I didn’t.’

‘I’m probably more conscious of it now I think. I don’t remember thinking about it like 8-9 years ago when I was 15.’

‘As you get older you learn to appreciate what you have. And you also have a better understanding that people come in all different shapes and sizes. So there is no perfect body because everyone is different and want kind of body you like is completely up to your preference.’

Everyone’s answers were varied and very opinionated in what they thought of body image. I got sent a link of a recent ad for Protein World which was banned since it caused such a huge outcry on Twitter. No wonder too because the model on the advert is practically anorexic causing people to vandalise the posters and create parodies of them like #EachBodysReady and ‘love your body the way it is.’

From thinkprogress.org:

‘Over 66,000 people have signed the Change.org petition calling for the removal of the campaign on the grounds that it’s “directly targeting individuals, aiming to make them feel physically inferior to the unrealistic body image of the bronzed model, in order to sell their product.” A “Taking back the beach” protest against the ad has been scheduled for May 3 in Hyde Park. The online swimwear retailer Swimsuits For All published its own spin on the ad, starring the plus-size model Ashley Graham, that asked “are you reading for this beach body?” On Instagram, where they posted this response, the caption reads “ALL bodies are #BeachBodyReady.”

 

Its adverts like this that make people feel like they are fat and should aspire to be like models who are so obviously airbrushed. This is why people develop eating disorders and feel depressed when they can’t achieve this ridiculous image. I have never suffered with either luckily since I have always felt fairly confident about my body. I remember feeling insecure when I broke my arm since I had a huge scar on my arm and thought it looked really ugly but it’s faded over time and I realised no one even noticed it so neither did I.

All of you who said you wanted to improve your arms, legs, stomach or face, it’s only because the media has made you feel that way. Even if you don’t think you pay attention to it, even mannequins in shops our friends are an influence and where do they get their ideas? The media. You’re all perfect, I promise 🙂

 

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