[bones] When you look in the mirror what do you see? Can you honestly say that you are happy with who is looking back at you?
The perfect body. We all want it. We all dream of partners who possess it. And we all have a general idea of what this body looks like – tall, thin, and well defined.
However, most of us are lacking of such good fortune. We are still striving to achieve these qualities. We are, for the most part, dissatisfied with our own bodies in comparison.
In fact in a survey, the rare few that were 100% happy with their reflection were males. However, generally there is always something we are looking to change, to improve. And so it seems that the desire to change characteristics in our appearance and body images are largely self-inflicted.
“I’d like to be tall, lean, toned and preferably a size 6,” 22-year-old senior Lauren Stone said.. She represented a majority of the responses from females on campus. Interestingly enough, the average size of a woman in America is a size 12. The males were not so apprehensive to find faults of their mates’ physique. “I would like a girl who was proportionate, but the number on the scale doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” 20-year-old junior Stephen Bradley said. “So long as it is proportionate to her height and weight, it’s okay.”
Currently, girls are their own worst critics, and the reverse was true for men. “I want to be ripped,” Dan Beard, a freshman of 18 said. The girls were far less demanding in response to their male counterparts. “I want a tall guy with a thin build, [nothing] too bulky!” said Mallory Radzik, 18, a freshman here at MSU. “I definitely wouldn’t mind dating someone with a few extra pounds, as long as they weren’t unhealthy or obese,” 20-year-old junior Jessica Wheeler said.
If this is true, why such the desperate urge for young women to be so thin, and young men to have such huge muscular physiques? Ronda Bokram, Club Advisor for the organization RUBI, (Respecting and Understanding Body Image,) and a nutritionist here at MSU said that she has seen an increase in the number of patients who need to be treated for distorted body image issues over the years, despite our nation’s growing awareness of our vanities.
“The pressures women put on themselves to have large breasts are the same pressures males put on themselves to be well endowed,” Bokram said. “Furthermore, their partners, most of the time, are not concerned with these matters.” Bokram also points out that while the media is easy to blame for this, with unreasonable pornographic standards and an increasing number of underwear ads for men, [and rail thin pictures of women in magazines,] she finds that it is more plausible that the cause is due to a shift from an internal based society to an external one through changes in family, medicine and society overall. The definition of beautiful has shifted from as recently as 40 years ago because believe it or not, Marilyn Monroe was a size 16.
Amy Kaherl, founder of Beauty from Within, disagrees. The organization is about teaching media literacy and informing people of the dangers of its subliminal powers. “Recently, 81 percent of girls ages 7-10 have tried dieting,” Kaherl said. “Where are they getting the idea that this is ok? I don’t think it’s from their parents.”
In fact, Kaherl also said that the expectations most women are aspiring too are those that they seen in the magazines where most of the models are bone-thin and airbrushed to show little or no imperfections.
“Our role models have become those size-2 models that walk the runway looking like Barbie and we think that’s beautiful,” Kaherl said. “However, these expectations are far from reality and I believe that the media is the culprit for this because they are handing out these skewed views of beauty,”
Either way, the effects of these imprecise self-representations are scary. “Nothing surprises me anymore,” Bokram said. “From drugs, like Adderall, Creatine, and cocaine to spitting chewed food out, to laxative abuse and eating disorders; these are all becoming more and more bizarre and diverse.” She continues to say that we no longer only have to worry about the hazards of bulimia or anorexia, because simply monitoring your food intake can be cause for concern. “Eating has become all about numbers – calorie counts, weight, portion sizing – it controls you, makes you stop listening to yourself.” Bokram said.. “What you eat can be dangerous as well because eating too much protein, as men often do to build muscle, can be a severe kidney threat.”
According to Kaherl, the best advice is for girls to stop being so hard on themselves. “We are our own worst critics,” Kaherl said. “It’s more than likely that no one minds your extra pound or two, or your lack of bulging biceps but you, so love yourself for who you are and others will too.”
Ronda Bokram can be reached at ronda.bokram@ht.msu.edu. Iinformation on Beauty from Within or to speak to Amy Kaherl information can be obtained through vivalarevolution.org

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