Why are we unhappy with our body?

Photo by USNavy via Wikimedia

Jennipher Schafer/Staff Writer

There are a lot of ways to make us love or loathe our bodies these days.  Living in Miami, we have a virtual flood of images for the “perfect beach body” and how to get it–for a price. Whether it is diet, exercise programs, or plastic surgery we are constantly being told that we don’t measure up. Whose standard is that exactly and why we should bother caring about it?

The notion that we should resemble some ideal is far from new. These ideals can shift from culture to culture. It was once considered a symbol of wealth to carry a little extra weight on one’s body, indicating you could afford to eat comfortably. It was not until the 1960s and the phenomenon of the fashion model Lesley Lawson, better known as Twiggy, that thin became the favored body type. This doesn’t mean people didn’t care about their health before. On the contrary, they based their ideals on things the medical experts seemed to think made sense. Now that we know the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise, such as the prevention of cardiovascular diseases or other health issues, it is easier to justify the need to fight obesity. The real question is where do we draw the line?

More often than not, our image of the luxurious, tanned beach body is highly photoshopped for the magazine covers. Sun exposure is good for us in moderation since it promotes mental health, but too much of it can cause skin cancer and premature aging of the skin cells as well as burning, which can sometimes require medical attention. While the absence of the sun in some extreme northern climates can cause seasonal disorder in people–a type of mild depression.

The heart of the matter lies within us. Are we happy the way we are? If we are dissatisfied with our looks do we go about change in a healthy and productive way? Why are we so unhappy in the first place?

It is easy to say someone who takes the time and effort to maintain peak health is either motivated or shallow, depending on the mindset of the person asked. The reality lies in the motivation. Are they concerned about a family history of heart disease or diabetes? Are they involved in athletics? Are they happy? If the answer to these is yes, they are motivated and are creating a change in a positive way through diet and exercise. It is unhealthy, though, when a person starves themselves or over-exercises as self-inflicted punishment for a cookie they ate in order to conform to the magazine cover standard.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel good, even if it is for reasons other than health. It becomes a problem when people begin to believe there is only one standard of beauty and that they are inadequate. Extreme beauty treatments such as skin bleaching, eye widening, and extensive liposuction are a direct result of these standards being out of control. If we all looked the same how could we ever feel beautiful in our own right? You only get one body.  Take care of your body, but don’t obsess over what others say about it.

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