With spring in full swing and bikini season approaching, the pressure to have a perfect body causes stress rise for the 8 million Americans with poor body image and eating disorders. Statistics from the National Eating Disorder Association tell us that we spend over $40 billion a year on diet and beauty products. 44% of women are on a diet and 29% of men are on a diet. Many experts warn that as the economy and earning potentials have been on the decline, body image for many men has become the focus for individual control.
The potential effects of negative body image are staggering. Most people are aware of the unrealistic images that bombard us from the tv and the covers of magazines. Few people are aware of the potential threats from favorite social media outlets. The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt in Maryland surveyed 600 Facebook users and found that 51% said that seeing photos of themselves made them more conscious about their body. 32% of responders said they feel sad when comparing their own photos to those of friends. 44% of responders are conscious that photos taken at events might get posted without their consent.
It is sad to consider that a girl’s self-esteem peaks at age 9 and one out of ten young men use unproven food supplements or steroids. For those men and women who are dieting, 35% will develop pathology with food. The University of the West of England recently reported that of 394 men, of whom a quarter were gay, 23% stated that concern about their appearance actually deterred them from going to the gym. One respondent stated that, “while it isn’t a bad thing for people to want to look better, it has become more like a competition”.
Ultimately, the winners in a competition like this will be those individuals who recognize that you cannot weigh your self-esteem and that a positive body image comes from within. Exercise should be for fun, fitness and friendships. In my practice, I regularly discuss nutrition and exercise with my patients. I want each of my patients to feel encouraged and empowered to be the healthiest person they can be. I also try to lead by example through my own love of exercise and a respect of chocolate. Healthful eating and regular exercise keep our bodies strong and makes us feel good on the inside where it counts. Those inner positive feelings can then be projected outwardly and shared with others. When we take inventory of our selves, it should be on those attributes unrelated to our appearance. Let fashion and beauty be comfortable. Smile. Wear clothing that feels good and allows expression of personal style. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “The beauty of life, is that you don’t have to be beautiful to live it”.
– Dr. Jennifer Mushtaler
I am committed to the well-being of each woman that walks through my door. To learn more about our practice visit www.capobgyn.com or call us at 512-836-2536 if you have any questions or to schedule your next appointment with Dr. Mushtaler.