A couple of stories swimming around the media pool have stirred up some strong feelings for me. First is the recent blog post “You’re Not Perfect, And That’s OK!” The author, Denise, is a model who shares her experience in and offers advice about her profession. In this particular post, she reveals the reality behind the celeb photographs you see in magazines. It made me sad and angry to think of what those photos are doing to the health of many men and women who try to live up to that ideal. Isn’t there a law about false advertising? I would argue that excessive photoshopping falls into that category. And we wonder why so many people (men and women) have self-esteem issues and suffer from depression and eating disorders.
When I was a teenager, I remember flipping through publications like YM, Teen and Seventeen and feeling utter despair about the fact that I didn’t look like the models. I felt like I didn’t have nice curves; my knees, thighs and arms were too chubby; my nose was too big; and my stomach wasn’t flat enough. I’m not saying these magazines were the only instigators of my eating disorder in high school, but they certainly fueled the fire. Look at the men and women in the photos in Denise’s post. Not one of them is shown realistically in their after photo. Legs are slimmed down, waists trimmed, under-eyes and skin smoothed out, blemishes removed (yes, they have them!). I always knew that the photos in magazines weren’t real, but I never knew to what extent, so they always still affected me. Eventually, I just stopped reading the magazines.
I have to admit that I’m getting a little flustered and choked up writing this, because I have dealt with so much pain and anxiety in my life from the pressure to embody society’s vision of beauty: skinny; pronounced cheek bones; cute button nose; smooth, blemish-free skin; and on and on. Seeking this perfection is kind of like taking the moving walkways in the airport, only with no destination. You can choose to get off at one of the small breaks in between walkways, but if you’ve hopped on at a young age, that’s easier said than done. It’s all you know; it becomes a “truth.”
I think it’s time to portray our favorite celebrities in their true beauty, just as they are, for everyone’s benefit. Why do you think there are so many stories of celebrity drug addictions, rash behavior and deaths? I feel like they just can’t live up to the personas that have been created around them. Who could? We’re all human. We can only take so much. And with technology and social networking being what they are today, there’s no escaping the scrutiny. The criticism celebrities are faced with day in and day out is just sad. The excuse, “They chose this line of work” doesn’t cut it. Yes, entertaining you and me is their job, but that doesn’t mean they deserve the ridicule they receive for not looking their absolute best in public or showing some cellulite in their bathing suit (which the majority of women have, by the way). As fellow human beings, they deserve compassion too.
There is no such thing as perfection. We’re all different, and we’re all on the same journey to the same end. No one can escape that moving walkway. Everyone gets wrinkles as they age. Some people have fewer curves than others. Most people don’t have six-pack abs. So why are we so set on achieving the impossible? Who decided, and when, that we’re not good enough the way we are? Why can’t we appreciate our differences—the real qualities of beauty?
On a similar note, I just saw a video of one news station suggesting that focusing on gaining strength instead of being skinny might be another obsession (see the video here). For the most part, I have to disagree. Yes, there are those who believe that taking it to the max produces better results, but you’ll find those people in anything you do. The difference between the goals of being strong and being skinny is the foundation that each is built on. The general mindset of people switching to strength training is of health and well-being, whereas the obsession with being skinny is based on very unhealthy thoughts.
I feel that the people who find their way to strength training are eating healthier and training smarter (no excessive cardio, e.g. the treadmill, or too much time in the gym). Even those who overdo it (quantity over quality) tend to focus on healthy eating and are doing their workouts because they want to be stronger and healthier. Most people understand that to be fit and strong, you need to eat healthy and take care of your body. It’s not their fault that they’ve been led astray in how to do it. But, usually they find the right path (trainers like Jim Laird and Molly Galbraith at J&M Strength and Conditioning), because quantity over quality generally ends in plateaus and injuries that lead them to seek better options. It’s not fair to classify the entire movement of strength training as an obsession or compare it to the drive for being skinny. It’s not the same.
So, that’s my soap-box rant for today. What are your thoughts on beauty and fitness and what the media is doing to perpetuate unrealistic and downright harmful ideals?
P.S. Here’s a preggo update: We hit the halfway point! We’re at five months, and we just had a healthy ultrasound. She’s been moving around a lot and kicking up a storm. Also, I’m happy to finally have my energy back. I was getting worried that it wouldn’t return until after I gave birth, or maybe not for a while after that! I’m enjoying being at the gym again, and I’m feeling strong again. I’m so happy that I discovered the primal lifestyle and J&M Strength and Conditioning well before I got pregnant. I know it will give our little one a healthy head start in her life.
On another note, I’ve purchased my first items of maternity clothing, and I have to ask, why would anyone think it’s a good idea to make skinny jeans for pregnant ladies?!