Beauty perception in our society is unfortunately very narrow. Our standards for health and beauty tend to be very high, specific, and unrealistic. We idealize body sizes and shapes characterized as “thin,” “lean,” and “athletic,” while looking down on (and discriminating against) people who are viewed as “fat” and “out of shape.” This outlook is harmful to anyone who does not fit the mold of the “superior” body type—particularly those who are considered overweight or obese. Do we really want our kids to grow up in a community where they have to look a certain way to be accepted? By broadening our ability to perceive beauty with respect to body size and shape, we can begin to undo the damage and work toward a healthier, more accepting understanding of beauty.
Fact: Not all thin people are healthy. And not all overweight people are unhealthy. The thinnest and leanest individuals are not the healthiest and longest lived. However, they are by far the most likely to end up on the cover of a health magazine.
The Consequences of a Narrow Beauty Perception
Being exposed to such a narrow perception of what it means to be “beautiful” can have some serious consequences—including eating disorders, starvation, and a wide range of emotional and physical health problems. Drastic weight loss programs (including Very Low Calorie Diets) aimed at achieving the “ideal” body size and shape (i.e. magazine-cover skinny) are dangerous. Yet, because of societal pressures, many obese and overweight people will sacrifice their health in order to more quickly fit our prejudice for beauty and achieve the ideal “lean” and “athletic” body type. Before we can effectively treat the obesity epidemic on a societal scale, we must work to change the cultural biases that pressure all of us to live up to unrealistic (and often unhealthy) aesthetic ideals.
Moving Toward a Broader, More Accepting Beauty Perception
We all have a natural desire to be attractive. But why have we developed such a narrow-minded view of what that means? The attraction to thin and lean sex partners is not built into our genes. Rather, these aesthetic trends in sexual desire are cultural and contrived. We as a society have the power—and the responsibility—to broaden our cultural perceptions of what it looks like to be beautiful, attractive, and (most importantly) healthy. We owe our children freedom from a world which requires they hate themselves or others for reasons that are irrational and unjust. If the community begins truly celebrating bodies of all shapes and sizes as beautiful, we as individuals will be more ready to accept our own bodies and the bodies of others.
My suggestion to everyone, in order to bring a better balance of health and body image into our community’s culture, would be to begin conditioning yourself to see the “fat” person as beautiful. Follow some of the many amazing and attractive full-figured models, actors, and actresses on social media—such as these body positive Instagrammers, celebrities who don’t support the Hollywood ideal, and curvy yoga Instagrammers. And educate yourself and your kids about body acceptance.
Want to try a new workout method that’s great for spine health, strength and stability, and flexibility? Join us for ELDOA group classes right here in St. Louis. We celebrate all bodies and all levels of ability!