Body Image Still An Issue

This week’s issue of Who magazine is “The Body Issue”. The fold-out cover showcases high profile Australians including Jodi Gordon, Tom Williams, Catriona Rowntree, Pat Rafter and Lisa Curry to name a few, in tasteful black body wear.

“The Body Issue” discusses body bullying, negative body image at school and male body image and shows how these Aussie icons embraced their bodies as they matured.

A candid interview with Vanessa Amorosi reveals the singer was body-bullied as a teen. She says “there’s a lot of pressure that goes on in schools. It seems important when you’re younger but with age you realise it’s really not. It’s about whether you’re fit and happy, and doing what makes your soul content, rather than thinking “Should I eat that next piece of cake?”

Many of the people I interviewed for Why Can’t I Look the Way I Want agreed that there is a great deal of pressure at school and in the peer group. Individuals with a high level of body image disturbance may be at an increased risk of developing eating disorders, with dieting the greatest risk factor. A study of adolescent girls found that 68% of 15 year-old girls are on a diet and of those, 8% are on a severe diet.

Tom Williams says “at school and growing up as a young lad, I didn’t look like the other boys. They had muscle, I was just lanky and lean … I always used to beat myself up about it”.

Pat Rafter says he exercises for wellbeing and “some days you wake up and you have a bit of a fat day. I like to stay in shape and feel good about myself, but I don’t go to an extreme where it goes beyond that”.

Unfortunately, some guys do. 17% of males are on some form of diet and recently a Men’s Forum in the UK revealed that a study of male US college students found that when guys were asked to pick their ideal body type, they chose a picture showing a man with approximate 12 kilograms more muscle than they had on their own bodies.

Body image dissatisfaction in males can directly affect self-esteem and as a result, trigger a determination to alter the body through excessive exercise. Because it is socially and culturally acceptably for guys to undertake a lot of physical activity, the dissatisfaction can often go unnoticed by family and friends.

Male eating disorders can be triggered by a psychological vulnerabiltiy caused by low self esteem, feelings of loss of control, emotional vulnerability and an effort to get the ‘perfect’ body that is idealised by society. Warning signs include an overaggressive approach to fitness, following dietary programs to the extreme, using dietary and protein supplements, an increased interest in fitness magazines and a sudden change in eating habits.

When it comes to females Christine Anu’s interview in Who Magazine gets my vote. She says “I was always unhappy as a skinny girl … I’m really quite physically confident now. I find myself a sexy woman and I’m able to really personify that for me. You are sexy in how you feel, the confidence comes from how you carry it”.

I often talk about the importance of self-love because it is my belief that positive body image stems from how you feel about yourself on the inside. Christine Anu sums this up beautifully, as does Who’s statement “true confidence comes from banishing image battles and learning to love what you’ve got”. Amen.

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