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Body image by Hye Young Byun Essay

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Some deny it, some may not show, but we all know that every woman is self-conscious about her body and want to fix it. How often do you look yourself in a mirror and imagine how good you would look if you lost ten pounds? It is either that your butt is too big or too small, or your waist is too thick, your legs look like tree trunks, or your nose is too high or flat, your eyes are too small or your skin is oily and the list seems endless.

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The heroin chic is on trend, where a person is too skinny she looks to be involved in heroin abuse. Recently, a 22 year old woman Luisa Ramos died of heart failure from Anorexia Nervosa. Actresses and models are becoming younger, thinner and taller. Media knows that we have low self-esteem so they attack us, women of all ages. Many women regardless of nationality or age contain negative body image and if they do not develop healthier body image, they will suffer physically and emotionally.

How bad is our negative body image? During childhood, we grow up, looking at Barbie dolls, which is too skinny in size that if she were made into living person, her back would be too weak to support her upper body, and her body would be too narrow to contain only than half of a liver and only a few centimeters of bowel. When we grow older, we watch makeup and beauty product ads that contain models that are severely underweight. Studies have shown that 81% of women in Canada feel anxious and insecure after watching a 30 second advertisement promoting beauty improvement on TV. (Wellness edu)

Firstly, our negative body image causes us to think that we are bigger in size than reality. A study found that women overestimate the size of their hips by 16% and their waists by 25% yet they were correctly able to estimate the size of a box. (Nancy Hayssen blog-Shocking body image statistics) We think that our body is fatter than it actually is, because we feel depressed when comparing our ‘normal’ body to ‘fake’ images in media. Secondly, containing unhealthy body image makes us have unnecessary fear of gaining weight.

Recent study stated that young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than experiencing nuclear war, cancer or even losing their parents. (Wellness Edu) It is terrifying to see that media’s influence even applies to women in such young age. Lastly, having an unhealthy body image will cause women and even men to waste unbelievable amount of time fitting into the ‘ideal’ body. Two out of five women and one out of five men would trade up to five years of their lives to achieve their weight goals. (Wellnessbeing-edu) Also, the average woman in North America spend 2.5 years of her life washing, styling, cutting, coloring, cramping, and straitening her hair at home or in salon. (120 Wolf, 1991) We become prisoner of perfect body without even realizing it.

Lots of us think it is not a big deal. But here’s the problem. Body image involves our perception, emotions, imagination and physical sensations. Having negative body image damages all of these parts. Having negative body image will bring many negative effects to women. Firstly, it will lead to depression or lower self-esteem. Feeling insecure and less confident, women are more likely to believe or fall in for the exaggerated advertisement shown in media. They will look at air brushed models or celebrities who has gone through several cosmetic surgeries, and feel ashamed of their own body. Women will experience financial damage from spending lots of money into cosmetics, clothes, diet products, and even cosmetic surgeries. The diet industry itself is worth between 40 to 100 billion dollars a year only selling temporary weight loss programs! (People magazine Sept.2000) Secondly, unhealthy body image will lead to Eating disorders or bad habits.

One of four women in early 20s in North America uses unhealthy methods of weight control like fasting, skipping meals, excessive exercise, laxative abuse, and self- induced vomiting.(American research group Anorexia Nervosa& related Eating Disorders Inc.) The pressure to be thin is not only affecting older women but young girls as young down to 5 or 6. Nearly half of all girls wish to be thinner. (“Appearance Culture in Nine-to 12-Year-Old Girls: Media and Peer Influences on Body Dissatisfaction”)

Last, but not least, women could develop disorders like Anorexia Nervosa. Anorexia is a disorder where a person has extreme fear of gaining weight, and women with this disorder believe themselves to be overweight when they are actually visibly underweight to the point where they need hospitalization. Up to 450,000 Canadian women were affected by Anorexia Nervosa or extreme eating disorder in 2006. (Teen Vogue 2006) Many women if not all, mostly think that worrying a little about their health is not a big deal or a good thing. But they don’t even realize how severe their worrying has become. It has become severe to the point where they lose their identity. If you as a woman do not stop having unhealthy body image, it will lead to very unhappy life.

So how do we not have negative body image? It seems so hard to just let go and be free. Women’s biggest concern and biggest interest is beauty. There are lots of ways to keep you healthy, but free of pressure, and stay beautiful but still have positive body image. First, you need to accept people of all sizes and shapes. (Margo Maine’s book “Body Wars,”) You can even make a list of people that you admire regardless of their body. Does their outer appearance affect how you feel about them? Appreciating the people around you will help you appreciate yourself. Secondly, another way to avoiding having negative body image is to question Media’s messages. (What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?, Thomas F. Cash, Ph.D., Bantam Books, New York, 1995.) Media is a powerful source that could influence women. 96% of normal women in Canada do not match up to the models and actresses shown in the media.

Average model is 5’10” with weight of 110 pounds, while the average woman is 5’4″ with weight of 142 pounds. Women should remember that most of the images presented have gone through Photoshop or have been airbrushed. They also need to learn that media is not hundred percent honest to reality. Lastly, women today need to learn to listen to their body, not abuse it. They should eat when they are hungry. Staying fit in the healthiest way is to eat when you feel hunger, and to exercise in an enjoyable way, regardless of stress, or pressure to lose weight. While listening to their body women should also ask themselves this question: Would I rather spend my precious time with my family, friends, on school, and on career? Or would I spend it on pursuing the “perfect body image”? I don’t think anyone would give up their quality time with family on for accomplishing lower weight goals. All of these things will bring great benefits to your life.

Today, in Canada, we have freedom to accomplish whatever we want to. Yet, women are prisoners of beauty myth, and appearance. Negative body image is a serious problem and has damaging effects on women’s self-esteem and it can lead to depression, as well as an eating disorder or other disorders like Anorexia Nervosa.

It also causes women to waste time on diets, or improving their outer beauty, and also fear gaining weight more than anything. Medias influence us every day, producing air brushed models that are severely underweight. Media causes women to feel angry and anxious about their own body. But we can develop healthier body image if we appreciate ourselves for who we are and listen to our body. We lose lots of women in Canada that starve themselves to death. Women need to learn to self-love and respect their body instead of abusing it. Our bodies are not our enemies, and it is our responsibilities to stay unique and set our own trend.

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