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Opinion

Weight debate devours nation

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September 27, 2012

In American society, it seems as if physical appearance is vital to our well being. If there is something about our bodies that doesn’t meet the standards our culture sets, we scrutinize this detail until our level of self-worth is significantly diminished. Although what I have just described may sound extreme, it is a reality that thousands of Americans face each day.

Because of the messages that consumers receive about body weight, these citizens feel more pressure than ever to obtain perfect bodies, and they will go to extreme, and often dangerous, lengths to do so.

The messages that consumers appear to be most affected by are those created by the fashion industry because of how abundant they are. These advertisements are seen on television, billboards, magazines and virtually any other place one can think of.

There is an element of these advertising campaigns that is designed to elicit a certain level of self-doubt within consumers so they will purchase a specific product. This self-doubt is often derived from the models that appear in these advertisements with their skinny physiques, attractive faces, perfectly whitened teeth and elaborate clothing.

Seeing these displays are an extreme blow to the self-esteem of consumers because they immediately notice that their bodies do not look like the flawless, and often photo shopped, bodies of the models in the advertisements.

The stark contrast between consumers’ bodies and the bodies of the models causes consumers to panic and potentially develop unhealthy habits such as excessive dieting, binging, purging, exercising too frequently and/or refraining from eating altogether.

The development of such poor habits is also fueled by the fact that people who are considered to be plus size are forced to purchase their clothing at separate stores because regular retail stores do not carry their size. This discrimination by size instills a sense of embarrassment and shame within plus size customers. These negative feelings perpetuate the unhealthy and dangerous tendencies that people adopt in order to acquire the thin physiques they constantly see in advertisements.

The entertainment industry acts in a similar manner when it comes to making consumers feel insecure about their bodies. In movies and television programs it seems like only actors or actresses who are fit, buff and attractive appear on screen. On the rare occasion that one sees a cast member who does not fit this description, it is likely because there is some kind of negative connotation tied to the character they are playing. Because of the roles these characters play, the public subconsciously learns to associate skinniness with happiness and fatness with anguish.

If the American public continues to consume these products and forms of entertainment in excess, it is no mystery as to why some people are unhappy with the appearance of their bodies. When popular culture is constantly telling a person that he or she is not good enough, eventually that person begins to accept this statement as the truth. Once consumers’ spirits have reached an extreme low, they tend to fight back, and often times this fight results in detrimental consequences.

Trying to lose weight at a fast pace can interfere with the basic functions of one’s body in the short-run and can cause long-term health problems that could be potentially fatal. If something is not done to change the messages being sent to members of our society, the consequences could be deadly.

Most people are familiar with the phrase “nobody’s perfect.” However, the sad reality is that in our country today, citizens are striving to achieve a level of perfection that they cannot possibly attain. By attempting to follow the false messages that are sent by various sectors of society in order to achieve the “perfect body,” we are doing far more harm to our bodies than we can possibly imagine.

Next time you see an advertisement, movie or television show that makes you feel self-conscious about your body, don’t give in to the unrealistic expectations of popular culture by adopting the dangerous tendencies of extreme dieting and exercise. These unhealthy actions can cause serious bodily harm that could ultimately result in death.

Morgan Stippel is a political science major and a professional writing minor. When she graduates from UW-River Falls, she wants to become a state prosecutor and specialize in domestic violence cases.