I cannot remember the last time I went an entire day without hearing a conversation about weight loss or calories. At restaurants and cafes, when I’m hanging out with friends, and even when I’m passing people on the street or studying at the library, I hear people talking about their calorie budget for the day, which food has more calories, or what kind of weight loss diet they are on. My first reaction is to feel annoyed and frustrated with these people: why are they talking about this? Don’t they know it could be making others feel uncomfortable? But then I give it some more thought and I realize that I can’t really blame them. This is the new environment that society has created–an environment in which being healthy now means being on a weight loss plan, and being beautiful means being skinny.
Health Defined by the Media
When was the last time you picked up and health or beauty magazine? If you didn’t see an ad for a low calorie diet or a plan that would help you lose a significant amount of bodyweight in what seems like an unrealistic amount of time, chances are there was an article about it somewhere in the magazine. Since when are health and beauty defined by weight and low calorie diets? We are so wrapped up in this new definition of health and beauty that society and media have made so prominent, that we rarely get to think about the fact that it doesn’t really make much sense.
But is the Media’s Definition Truthful?
For instance, think of that 55 year old mother of four. Her BMI classifies her as overweight, and some have told her that she could afford to lose a few pounds. However, she has absolutely no health problems due to her weight, she lives her life every day with no regrets, possesses a lot of positive energy and self-esteem, and has no trouble balancing work, time with her family, and time to herself. Does she meet society’s standards of the ideal weight for a woman? Probably not. But is she healthy? Absolutely; because her whole life is in balance and she has a positive outlook on life.
Next, think about that 17 year old girl who is envied by all her friends because she meets society’s standards of skinny. However, she loses sleep at night thinking about the amount of calories she is going to eat the next day and how far she will have to run to burn it off. When her friends go out to dinner, she sits alone at home feeling miserable and depressed, and when they convince her to go, she sits there the entire time staring at the calorie counter app on her phone, and the guilt of having a couple bites of dessert overwhelms her for days. Even though her outward appearance meets society’s standards, is this really a healthy way to go through life?
True Health and Beauty
So what are health and beauty really? Health has very little to do with how much you weight and what size you are, and everything to do with your outlook on life and the way you feel. Health is about your life being in balance–making the time for yourself and things that make you happy, not being too hard on yourself, and striving for a positive attitude even at low points in your life. Likewise, beauty has almost nothing to do with your outward appearance. Beauty begins with confidence and embracing your imperfections because we all have them. True beauty is when you let your confidence and positive energy show.
So before you pick up that magazine full of weight loss articles that they call health tips, take a moment to think about it. Are you content with the way you are living with your life? Do you make time for yourself every day to partake in activities that make you feel good? Do you surround yourself with people who give off a positive energy? Keep in mind that nobody is perfect, and no BODY is perfect. Having flaws is part of being human, and the world needs all kinds of people. If you feel the need to make changes in your life, then you have complete and total control over that whether or not you know it. You don’t need a health magazine or weight loss advertisement to help you achieve what you want. You know what is best for you–the media doesn’t.
Did you pass up that opportunity to buy that magazine because you are already happy with yourself and your life, and you know that you are in control? Good, you don’t need it anyway; you’re already living a healthy life.
Emma Balek is a dietetics student at Boston University and a certified fitness instructor. Her personal struggles with anorexia nervosa, and the media’s false information about health is what inspired her to study nutrition. She intends to pursue a career in eating disorder recovery. If there is one thing she wants people to know, it is that you should never lose hope that a full recovery is possible.