Not many can say that they are completely happy with what they see in the mirror. Most do not have what society considers the perfect body. Which, after polling both male and female students was defined as tall, thin and toned. Big surprise. For those that do not fit this mold it can be a struggle to achieve that perfect reflection.
[barbie]“I’d like to be tall, lean, and toned. Preferably a size 6,” senior Lauren Stone, 22 said. She represented a majority of the responses from females on campus. Interesting, being that the average woman in America is a size 12. The males were did not find so many faults when it came to want they want in a woman. “I would like a girl who is proportionate,” 20-year-old junior Stephen Bradley said. “The number on the scale doesn’t necessarily mean anything, as long as it corresponds to her height and build.” Women are often more critical of themselves than men are of them.
Men also wanted a certain image reflected back at them. “I want to be ripped,” Dan Beard, a freshman of 18 said. Again, women were far less demanding of their male counterparts. “I want a tall guy with a thin build, [nothing] too bulky!” said Mallory Radzik, an 18-year-old freshman. “I definitely wouldn’t mind dating someone with a few extra pounds, as long as they weren’t unhealthily obese,” 20-year-old junior Jessica Wheeler said. Body qualms are often self-inflicted for both sexes. “The pressures women put on themselves to have large breasts are the same pressures males put on themselves to [be well endowed.] Their partners, most of the time, are [unconcerned] with these matters,” said Ronda Bokram, club advisor for the organization RUBI, (Respecting and Understanding Body Image) and nutritionist here at MSU.
So, why the desperate urge to change ourselves? Amy Kaherl, founder of Beauty from Within, a small ministry in metro Detroit devoted to improving female body image, blames the media. “Eighty-one percent of girls ages seven to ten have tried dieting. Where are they getting [the idea that this is ok?] I don’t think it’s from their parents,” Kaherl said. She believes our views of what is ‘beautiful’ are shaped by unrealistic images that we see on a daily basis on television, in magazines, on billboards and in movies. How can most compare themselves to celebrities and runway models that are 5’9 and 110 pounds?
Also many of the pictures we see are airbrushed or altered to create tone or shave off a few pounds. The expectations we are aspiring toward are nearly impossible, not to mention unhealthy. Even our earliest role models have unrealistic goddess-type bodies. Barbie, if she were to the scale of a woman, is 8 inches taller than average, 44 pounds lighter and 7 dress sizes smaller, with a 2 inch bust increase and 10 inch waist decrease.
Not everyone thinks the media is largely to blame; in fact Bokram has another theory. “While the media is easy to blame for this, with unreasonable pornographic standards [for women] and an increasing number of underwear ads for men, I find that the cause is due to a shift in overall society and changes in family, medicine, etc.” Bokram speculates that it is our values that have changed. “We have gone from a largely internal society, concerned with things like character worth to a externally based one, where appearance is far more important.”
Either way, the effects of imprecise self-representation are scary. “From drugs, like adderall, creatine, and cocaine to spitting chewed food out, to laxative abuse; eating disorders are becoming more and more bizarre and diverse,” Bokram said. “We no longer only have to worry about the hazards of bulimia or anorexia.”
Even simply monitoring 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.
Choosing a balanced diet is always the healthiest choice. Cutting out entire food groups can he harmful. “Eating too much protein, as men often do to build muscle, can be a severe kidney threat,” Bokram said.
So then how does one reconcile with the bathroom mirror? Give yourself a break. “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. Love yourself for who you are and others will too.
Ronda Bokram can be reached at ronda.bokram@ht.msu.edu, and information on Beauty from Within can be obtained through vivalarevolution.org

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