Body image is a term that is used to define how we think or feel about our bodies. With social media now saturated with so many flawless, photoshopped and surgically enhanced physiques, our body image is unsurprisingly worse than ever.
Studies have shown that children as young as 5 start to express dislike for their bodies. Social media undoubtedly has a huge role to play in this and Instagram has been reported to be the worst site for body image issues.
Most of the bodies we see on Instagram and in the media fall into three categories:
- Surgically enhanced
- A genetic lottery win
Most people will not be able to achieve these body shapes that they are encouraged to aspire towards because they are either unnatural or genetically out of their each.
Y'all remember the thigh gap trend? Physiotherapists who work with imaging of the pelvic muscles say that the gap is un achieve-able for 80% of women at a healthy weight due to the shape of their pelvis.
Despite this, almost EVER image we see of women's bodies will depict some sort of a thigh gap accompanied by an unfeasible large bootay. Then we are told and somehow expected to believe that the butt was achieved through squatting (just buy the workout plan!).
Ironically, squatting builds your thigh muscles which actually closes the gap (get your refund now!).
Another one we see often, is women with six packs. It has been know for years that female athletes can suffer poor health as a results of low body fat levels. Generally we can assume that a woman's abdominal muscles become visible at around 16 - 19% body fat. We know that hormonal disturbances can lead to reduced fertility when body fat percentages are under 22%.
Although body image is considered to be largely a women's issue for many years, but men are now under more pressure than ever to achieve a body shape that is almost certainly enhanced.
Far less research is available on men and body image but if you speak to anyone in the know about fitness models & body building they will tell you that the use of steroids and testosterone supplements in the industry is rife.
Despite this, boys and men are also encouraged to just work out more (buy his workout plan!) or eat more protein (buy his supplements!) to achieve what is unlikely to be physiologically possible.
Weight loss plans and products, exercise regimens, surgical enhancement procedures and make-up brands all do very well out of our poor body image.
What does not do well is our mental health (and bank balance).
With so many people trying to change their skin colour to fit the shade that the beauty industry has decided is appropriate for us, it is easy to see how our self perception has become so damaged.
So, if we can accept how unhealthy and illogical our 'norm' has become, how can we heal our body image and make things better for the future?
There are a few basic steps you can take:
Delete the social media accounts you follow that use their bodies to sell you products or services.
Follow accounts offering balanced and scientific information on health and wellness (fully clothed).
Explore the world of Body Positive influencers (check out @scarrednotscared and @sofiehagendk).
Speak nicely about your body, especially around others.
Find a way to eat and be active that feels like pleasure, not punishment (check out @notplantbased and @foodandpsych).
Take notice of all the normal bodies around you and know that you're normal too.
Social media definitely has a role to play in improving the images and messages that are fed to us. Teenagers and young people in general get most of their messages about nutrition from Instagram. It is all of our responsibility to ensure that they are receiving the right messages.
Ultimately, we are striving to encourage our community to remember to always choose health over aesthetics.