The Quest for Thinness
The unhealthy and obsessive craze for thinness has bridged both the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries and currently shows no sign of stopping. What’s really behind this pursuit of “Twiggy-ness?”
This is the private bane of the modern woman. Every magazine, commercial or movie often features semi-emaciated women. Current studies have actually proven many celebrities “thinness” exceed those on the criteria for anorexia. We have a modern culture where women in their 30s and 40s are encouraged to dress in their teen daughter’s clothing.
What’s most unusual about this trend in humanity’s self-destruction is the backlash so often exhibited against those who rock the proverbial boat. As if every individual who notices the barbaric obsession with forcing the human body into an unnatural shape, is automatically condoning a society where everyone is at least 200 lbs. overweight. In reality, it’s no different from pointing out the adverse health effects of prolonged corset use or excessive sun tanning.
Our daughters are taught, from the time of cartoons, that even a small amount of excess weight is “bad.” Princesses are all incredibly thin. Barbie dolls are just as unreal. This lingering craze has launched a number of theories as to its perpetual state. Firstly, some believe the craze was started by people who simply hate the natural female body. A second theory is that it’s a shallow drive to push the human body into an impossible form, thereby creating an indefinite stream of revenue, reaching into the billions, from magazines, schemes, devices and “programs” geared to push this purpose.
The one thing most professionals agree on is the public embrace of the natural female form ended with Marilyn Monroe. Monroe was the last paragon of the female figure. She was noted for her curves and soft features, until the harsh angles and straight lines of the 1960s gained popularity.
Perhaps this trend is so stubborn to leave because it’s actually been combined with terms, such as “fitness” and “health.” The effects of this physical obsession on society is been anything, but fit or healthful. What’s perhaps the most tragic of this modern insanity are its detrimental effects on children, primarily girls. We’ve reached a pinnacle as a society where beauty isn’t even about actual beauty, but simply how thin you are. How many people would pursue the quest for health or fitness if terms such as “weight loss” weren’t associated with it?
Here are some statistics to prove how “healthy” society has become, with the current emphasis on appearance.
- It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men*
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness*
- 5% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25 *
- 80% of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight*
We’re seeing today the long-term results of the “thin craze,” which started in the 1960s and 1970s. Those who have deprived their bodies are seeing the health disorders, diseases and medical problems from the lack of proper nutrition.
Chronic dieters destroy their bodies. Women who continually diet often experience thinning hair, brittle bones, loss of physical coordination, slower metabolisms, poor oxygen utilization, dull and flat hair, slower heart rates, and that doesn’t even count the psychological problems. Mental issues that stem from dieting are an inability to focus, poor memory, slow reaction times, and a dramatic increase in problems with self-esteem, depression and anxiety.
There are professionals who claim eating disorders have been “common” for a century or longer, but how often did you hear about it? Of course, the media didn’t really mention it until Karen Carpenter’s death in the 1970s; however, people talk in their communities. Few people knew what eating disorders were until more recent decades because they weren’t at the rampant rates we see today. In fact, curves were seen as beautiful for centuries. In the Middle Ages, being obese was a sign of affluence, therefore a sign of beauty.
It’s most likely the media is responsible for the trend in self-destruction. Of course, those in the media blame the victims, but it’s difficult to justify such a statement when so many of the victims are children. Likewise, most of the media makes their profits via advertising from the dieting-oriented venues. Diet pills, programs, books, and advertisements fill our lives on a daily basis.
Here are some statistics from “About Face,” a website dedicated to revolutionizing the media and accepting the natural female form. This relates to the media and its influence on teen girls.
- For female adolescents, the frequency of healthy, unhealthy, and extreme weight-control behaviors increased with increasing magazine reading.
- The odds of using extreme weight-control behaviors (such as vomiting or using laxatives) were 3 times higher in the highest-frequency readers compared with those who did not read such magazines.
- Body dissatisfaction is common for teenage girls and is associated with dieting and unhealthy weight-control behaviors. The idealization and pursuit of thinness are seen as the main drivers of body dissatisfaction, with the media primarily setting thin body ideals.
- The average size of the idealized woman (as portrayed by models), has become progressively thinner and has stabilized at 13-19% below healthy weight
- In this television study, overweight and obese females were less likely to be considered attractive, to interact with romantic partners, or to display physical affection.
- The thin ideal is unachievable for most women and is likely to lead to feelings of self-devaluation, dysphoria (depression), and helplessness.
- Girls and young women who more frequently consume or engage with mainstream media content also support the sexual stereotypes that paint women as sexual objects.
So, in the quest for “fitness” how much are we spending, annually, just on dieting alone? We’re spending tens of billions of dollars per year, just to be thin. The majority of victims, or dieters, are women, an estimated 85 percent of those currently dieting.
* South Carolina Department of Mental Health, Eating Disorder Statistics: http://www.state.sc.us/dmh/anorexia/statistics.htm
Health Psychology Home Page- http://healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu/2009/BodyImageMedia.htm