I was watching the finale of the Biggest Loser a few weeks ago — a show that I generally enjoy — and was astounded by the appearance of the winner.
A 24-year old who was last seen on the ranch at a healthy weight of 145, appeared on live television looking extremely thin at a mere 105 pounds. I was disappointed for a few reasons, but mainly because thinness was rewarded as beauty and the ongoing expectation of skin-and-bones thin was celebrated.
The Biggest Loser is not an isolated case, young people — especially young girls — are bombarded with images that define beauty unrealistically and unhealthily, leaving people feeling as if beauty is just out of reach, always a few pounds or sizes away.
It is estimated that we see 3,000 advertisements each day, often a barrage of messages designed to make women dissatisfied with their bodies. The resulting body disappointment can have serious consequences. In reality, 98 percent of women are not as thin as fashion models, yet of American girls who read magazines 69 percent say that the pictures influence their idea of the ideal body shape. Body dissatisfaction among girls and women is the best known contributor to the development of anorexia nervosa — which has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness — and bulimia nervosa. The quest to become thin often becomes an unhealthy obsession to achieve the unrealistic beauty seen in media. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, nearly 20 million women will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life. Eating disorders — such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder can include extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.
Regardless of gender, young people want to look like the images they see in the media, leaving most unsatisfied with the uniquely beautiful body they were given.
Our goal should be to live well — to live in a way that respects ourselves and others. Constant dissatisfaction with our body is a distraction to actual living. Living well includes healthy eating, regular exercise, financial peace, being tobacco-free, but it also includes acceptance and satisfaction of the only body we get in this life.
As we conclude Eating Disorder Awareness week, make a concerted effort to redefine beauty. Celebrate your moms, sisters, friends, coworkers, and daughters as beautiful. Health is not a particular number on a scale, beauty is not found solely in small sized jeans, and satisfaction with one’s body does not happen overnight, but together we can help redefine beauty so our daughters can begin to find confidence and peace within the body they were given.
Choose today to live a full, healthy life. Choose to live well.
Becky Taylor is a prevention specialist with Oklahoma State University Prevention Programs.