EDITORIAL | Body image:no middle ground in sight

By Kaitlin Barr
April 26, 2007

Americans’ bodies seem to fall into two categories: the skinny and the fat. Two extremes in self-image are occurring in the United States today. On one side, eating disorders, dietary plans, and plastic surgery rule. On the other, fast food, plus sizes and obesity dominate. Neither extreme is healthy by any means, but no middle ground seems to be in reach. Too skinny, too fat, everyone gets criticized.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there are 11.5 million surgical and non-surgical procedures in the United States per year. Although only two percent of surgeries are being performed on teens, plastic surgery is constantly on the rise in teenagers and is now considered the top graduation present given in upper-class families. What kind of message is being sent to the rest of society when parents offer plastic surgery to their unhappy teens in exchange for an extra year of living at home after high school? Furthermore, how does that affect the rest of freshmen going into college who have not received plastic surgery?

Eating disorders have become more and more common over time. According to annecollins.com, approximately five percent of women and one percent of men have anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or a binge eating disorder. When dietary plans go wrong, men and women turn to a quick fix instead of looking into the real reason they desire to change their outward appearances. They cut out all the calories and don’t think about the health consequences that come along with their decisions.

Lately, it’s not a shock to walk into a tanning salon and see men’s shoes lined up throughout the salon. Nor is it a shock to watch men receive manicures and pedicures. A few years ago, however, that was not the case; men would not be caught even waiting outside a tanning or nail salon, let alone go in to help their image.

On the other end of the spectrum, obesity is also becoming a rising concern. Children are just as affected with this as adults, which is saying a lot about the future. Those who are considered “plus size,” or “obese,” are looked at as lazy and unnatural. If you’re obese, you’re looked upon as being unacceptable in society, like you don’t fit in with the rest of the world. What happened to older eras in which men and women who were heavier were considered beautiful, wealthy and better off?

A middle ground must be reached. Easier said than done, right? With celebrities constantly fixing every aspect of their bodies to look better, how are “normal” people supposed to look? Beauty is supposed to be in the eyes of the beholder, but what if the beholder doesn’t like what they’re seeing?

Society has its eye on perfection. The perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect family, all put together to go with the perfect body and smile. Average just doesn’t cut it anymore. “The girl/guy next door” is not as appealing to people nowadays as it was before.

Men and women, especially in college, encounter a lot of pressures from the outside world. Advertising needs to be focused more on an average body type and not the models with the “perfect” body. Companies such as Dove and Slim Fast, and celebrities such as Kirstie Alley are starting a trend that the rest of society should open their eyes to.

Change needs to start in Hollywood. The country constantly looks to celebrities for inspiration on how to look, dress and act. If everyone in the spotlight would show their “real” beauty, the rest of the United States would soon follow.

Kaitlin Barr

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