The average American woman is 5‘4”, weighs 166 lbs, and wears a size 12-14.
The average American supermodel is 5’10”, weighs 107 lbs and wears a size 00-0.
Do you see a problem here?
We all know that models are photoshopped. We all know that every picture that we see in a magazine or ad has been digitally enhanced. We all know that the image of the “perfect female” is next to impossible to achieve… so why are we so obsessed with it?
When we consider that most super models are between the ages of 14-19 and a size 0-00, we are left with a very narrow margin of error when it comes to “the perfect body”. The average American woman is 5 foot 4 inches tall, weighs 166 lbs, and wears a dress size of 12-14. We know that when we go out to the grocery store, shopping mall, or beach that the average woman we see out in the “real world” doesn’t fit the specs of the women posing on magazine covers nor the dolls we give our young girls. Real women’s skin isn’t always flawless, they might have cellulite, their eyebrows might not be perfectly coiffed, their hair not always set, their nails unmanicured, their feet unpolished, and goodness forbid, they aren’t wearing skin tight jeans with a crop top. Behold the greatest shame of being a woman – not being perfect by society’s standards… C’mon people, isn’t it time that we got real?!
“What are you going to do? Be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That’s just dumb”. Jennifer Lawrence
The “ideal body shape” for women has been changing since dawn of time but never before has there been such an unnatural standard. Big voluptuous chest, robust shapely derriere, tiny waist, large lips, small nose… and on and on it goes. Negative body image, body shaming, and extreme dieting are all good indicators that “Houston…we’ve got a problem”. Girls as young as the age of 6 are now starting to show signs of body hate. Six, not sixteen… Before they even enter puberty, they are comparing themselves to an impossible “perfection” to which few, if any, will ever realize and the outcome is disastrous.
In the United States, the National Eating Disorder Association estimates that upwards of 20 million American women and 10 million American men suffer from eating disorders at some point in their life and the numbers are growing. Hospital induced cases of eating disorders in England for example have increased by 172% between 2003 to 2013. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Chairman Dr. Colin Michie attributes the staggering rise to the increase in exposure of young girls to images of celebrities and popular culture. But it isn’t just young girls either. Young women, mothers, mature women all feel the pressures too, and how couldn’t they? The images of young, vivacious, thin, sexy women permeate every single inch of popular culture, giving us ample resources to criticize ourselves and others too.
“I have a belly. And I have cellulite. And I still deserve love”. Amy Schumer
If we look back only twenty years ago, not so far in the distant past, models weighed on average 8% less than the average American woman. Now, models are 23% lighter… not shorter, not younger, lighter. That is almost a quarter less body mass! By most medical standards, most models have exceeded the weight threshold for anorexia (rehabs.com). And let’s step out of America for just a moment. France has seen such an epidemic with female negative body image that they have had to ban advertising that showcases overly thin women following the death of several fashion models. Countries like China and Japan who had very few incidents of eating disorders in the past are now plagued with it. What is perhaps even more alarming is the growing number of young girls in countries throughout the world are seeking plastic surgery as soon as they are legally able to do so.
In an interview with People magazine. Dr. Judy Rosenberg, founder of the Psychological Healing Center explained that “Our culture makes it so socially acceptable to seek plastic surgery, and because celebrities create the idea that if you are beautiful and perfect you will be rich, famous and loved, teens easily associate this plastic surgery ‘solution’ as a pathway to feeling better.” Low self-image, low body confidence, low self-esteem are all very dangerous outlooks that can lead to extreme dieting, eating disorders, anger, depression, a whole host of adverse mental and physical conditions, and for some – death.
Considering the fact that the average hospital stay for a patient with eating disorders is 5 months to a year, this epidemic is also placing a significant strain on the health care system. Just ask Australia whose government has to shell out upwards of $70 BILLION on this issue each year.
“I would only lose weight if it affected my health and my sex life, which it doesn’t”. Adele
So what do we do? Unless we want to jump on the the eating disorder and plastic surgery bandwagon, we are left we a few options… remain critical of ourselves and other women who do not make the “perfect” mark, or learn to choose love instead. Teach young girls that beauty is not a weight or a look. That the images that they see in the media aren’t real and the standards that they hold themselves to are impossible to achieve without dangerous intervention. Invest time on helping women of all ages who need support to both come to terms and love their own bodies – naturally. Purge the negative body image thoughts we have for ourselves and other women who aren’t part of the supermodel elite. Support our friends, our children, our family members who are struggling to love themselves so that they can find the courage to live happy and healthy lives.