Beauty: It’s More Than Skin Deep

A little girl holds hands with, and looks up to, a stylish, thin woman in a business suit.An unrealistic body shape has become the standard by which all celebrities measure themselves. When Demi Lovato bared her new and significantly fuller body at the MTV Video Music Awards, many were pleased to see that her treatment for eating problems seemed to be working. She looked vibrant and vivacious. Some tweeted she looked amazing. Others commented how she looked beautiful and healthy. And others said she was fat.

Demi fought back through Twitter. But as much as I admire this young starlet for defending her physique, I feel that her comments have fallen on a deaf generation. Even though many tweeters think she looks fantastic, they may detest their own “normal” sized bodies. The young girls that support her recovery and are glad to see her back in the limelight may be the same young girls that hoard a stockpile of laxatives and spend fifteen minutes after each meal in the bathroom.

This unattainable ideal is nothing new. For those who are old enough to remember, stars such as Calista Flockhart, Courtney Thorne-Smith, and Lara Flynn Boyle rode the wave of infamy for their skeletal frames long after their hit television shows stopped running. Pop stars such as Mariah Carey and Jessica Simpson, who are in no way obese, have been ridiculed for years about their fluctuating figures. Many celebrities refuse to have their real bodies portrayed in the magazines our little girls fixate on unless they are air-brushed to perfection.

I don’t need to discuss the effect this has on our young women; we’re all smart enough to realize what it’s doing. But it is very sad to face the fact that despite all of the attempts of professionals and organizations that try to promote healthy bodies, the problem still exists. The young girls today want to be famous, just like all the actresses they see on television. They want to have a number one album and live the life Nickelback described in their hit song “Rockstar”:

“Cause we all just want to be big rock stars
Live in hilltop houses, drivin’ fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap,
We’ll all stay skinny ‘cause we just won’t eat.”

The sad truth is that even if our daughters start out innocently idolizing these images, they may quickly find themselves unable to control dangerous and even deadly eating habits. They may experience this for years, like Lovato, who said she struggled with food issues for six years. As a matter of fact, many of them already do. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) reported that over 80% of ten year-olds worry about gaining weight and becoming fat. That’s 8 out of 10. That’s nearly every little girl that was at my daughter’s birthday party. That’s so sad. And unfortunately, as they age, girls continue to distort their idea of the perfect body. According to ANAD, half of teen girls express a desire to lose weight to appear more like the figures they see in the media.

I wish that our culture focused more on the truly healthy women in our society. Red carpet divas like Posh Beckham, and rail-thin, plastic-part people like Heidi Montag receive coverage when they sneeze. Yet the 21 beautiful, athletic, strong, and—dare I say it in print—healthy women from the US World’s Cup women’s soccer team had to achieve the near impossible to be heralded as icons and capture the attention of our youth. Right now, if you ask a 12 year-old girl to name one of the players, she probably can’t. But, I bet she knows what Miley Cyrus got caught smoking and what dress size Selena Gomez wears.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning every thin woman in the spotlight. Many are just naturally thin and very physically fit, like Jessica Biel and Michelle Pfeiffer. But far too many of today’s stars make a conscious effort to become something that they are not, in order to compete and be accepted. And sadly, these stars strongly influence our children’s perceptions. It is our job as parents and caregivers to teach our kids, through our actions, not just words, that the super-svelte images they see are often fictitious and fabricated. It is our responsibility to show them that it is perfectly okay to have a piece of chocolate cake and truly enjoy it, without worrying about weight.

It is our obligation to teach our children that beauty is a result of many attributes, not merely physical ones. Peace, happiness, altruism, meaning, purpose, and love are all elements of beauty. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a weight loss program that guarantees that if you cut out carbs or eat cabbage for a week, you will be happier. And isn’t that what it’s all about? So Demi, I think you look fabulous, healthy, and happy. You go girl!

© Copyright 2011 by Jen Wilson. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • helen

    helen

    September 6th, 2011 at 11:37 PM

    it is a sad situation that young girls follow these celebrities so blindly.they airbrush their pictures and print them in glossy pages and the youngsters vouch to attain the same body.

    if a product is different in its adverts than it really is there are rules for that but not for humans I suppose.you may not be that ‘perfect’ but you can photoshop your pictures and give an illusion to youngsters,that’s completely fine!

  • dan f

    dan f

    September 7th, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    kids are not matured enough to quickly grasp all this…they will follow whatever is popular and attractive.the problem lies with the content regulators.they are not doing their job and the so-called ‘celebrities’ are running wild with their crazy antics.

  • Ellen

    Ellen

    September 7th, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    It is great that all of us here think that Demi L looks like a smart and healthy girl. And just think- the camera adds 10 pounds so she is probably way smaller that the average female in the US,
    BUT- I think that we are in the minority. My own daughter was one who criticized her and said she looked fat. I have seen that everywhere. It is harder to stop this epidemic than we think, and for many girls it just might be too late to make a difference in their way of thinking about what healthy and beauty really is.

  • Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson

    September 7th, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    Sadly, today we live in a world where the general publics perception of a “normal” female body is perfect. A female with anything less then a perfect body is considered sub par or even fat. I think that the overly judgmental fans who caused these celebrities to have eating disorders are to blame. Such as the fans who tweeted about Demi Lovato looking fat. C’mon really? Are these people that cold hearted that right after Demi is released from treatment they are back to saying things about her weight? The same thing that put her in treatment in the first place! All parents should have the duty to talk to their kids about eating disorders as early and as often as possible. 8/10 ten year old girls worry about gaining weight means that if you have a girl, she is most likely worried about gaining weight. Now that scares me! Hopefully, we as a society, will learn to accept all people of all weights, male or female.

  • PAUL

    PAUL

    September 7th, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    Adolescents and youngsters may not fully understand this but how many of us ‘adults’ do?!

    I’m sure there are plenty of grown ups that follow their idols and crave the impossible body that they see on the screen. Awareness about these things and especially material like this is what can turn people’s views around!

  • kevinmillar

    kevinmillar

    September 7th, 2011 at 11:38 PM

    Any man who calls a woman fat is a disgrace to the male population. A gentleman describes her as having a Rubenesque figure. I would never call a woman fat. It’s rude, it’s tactless, it’s blinkered and quite frankly very immature to be making such remarks. Women know how big they are and to me a Rubenesque one is a very beautiful one.

  • Chase Benedict

    Chase Benedict

    September 7th, 2011 at 11:52 PM

    @kevinmillar, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I don’t know what I find more repulsive: the end result of anorexia or bulimia, or people that encourage it or mock other people’s body shape so much that it drives them to such extremes.

    I’ve dated a few full-figured girls and I’ve also dated some very skinny ones. Personality notwithstanding, I’d rather be with a woman who has some meat on her bones.

  • Brendan V.

    Brendan V.

    September 8th, 2011 at 12:44 AM

    Remember Betty Grable’s famous swimsuit pics from her 1940’s pinup days where she’s looking at the camera over her shoulder? They are classics.

    Young girls would consider her fat by today’s standards and she’s anything but. That’s sad. If you’re too young to know who she is, Google her and you’ll see those images.

  • Blair

    Blair

    September 8th, 2011 at 4:20 AM

    We have to mindful to teach especially our young girls from a very early ge that beauty is not only about what is on the outside. This of course is going to be a battle because this is not what we see from society.
    But it is a must!
    If we do not make this point plain and clear to our children then is only going to continue forever.

  • Up, Down and All Around... with Jen :-)

    Up, Down and All Around... with Jen :-)

    September 8th, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    I am so glad to see so many wonderful and insightful comments. And as someone who possesses a Rubenesque figure herself, thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. My husband agrees! But regardless of my shape or my husband’s preference, my seven year old daughter, who thinks I am beautiful and definitely not fat, has already said she does not want to get fat. It is a matter of perception, what she sees on tv versus real life. And it is getting more difficult with every passing day for me to help her distinguish fantasy from reality.
    @Helen – that was a wonderful point! There is no culpability in false advertising, and that is exactly what these doctored images of celebs are. Kudos for your thoughts!

  • Alan Chance

    Alan Chance

    September 8th, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    @Chase–I agree with you! And yet many women would swear blind that all men want are thin women. Which actually says more about what they want to be than what men really desire.

    Newsflash, ladies: men are human too and just like women, we have varied tastes and likes and dislikes in the opposite sex. Don’t tar us all with the same brush.

    Nice work, Jen.

  • Laurie Schwartz

    Laurie Schwartz

    September 8th, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    Is there really a link between body image problems and skinny models in the media or is that an urban myth? I don’t think that there is at all. Anorexia was around when the “in” body shapes were fuller. I’d like to see a credible source cited for that please.

  • Steph Warren

    Steph Warren

    September 8th, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    @Laurie Schwartz: There is a link and it is indeed from a credible source.

    Back in 2000 the BMA found that there was a link and it was the first time they had actually acknowledged that it existed. They had said that 6, 7, and 8 year olds were worrying about their weight and so on. So it’s no urban myth.

  • Ellis Rowland

    Ellis Rowland

    September 9th, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    Oh come on Steph, you can’t be serious. Kids that are barely in school probably couldn’t even define what the word worry means. They don’t have a proper idea of what that is at that age!

    Sure, they might worry about little things for a fleeting moment until another issue catches their attention and they will worry about that momentarily. Their minds flit around like butterflies. I don’t believe little six year old girls lose sleep night after night over their weight concerns!

    What a ridiculous idea.

  • Geraldine McCarthy

    Geraldine McCarthy

    September 9th, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    Why do these articles always paint every single female as being out of control of her eating habits and susceptible to anorexia? As a woman I find this deeply offensive to a degree that makes all this body in the media nonsense insignificant in my mind.

  • I.T.

    I.T.

    September 12th, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    Where are they getting the results like this: “According to ANAD, half of teen girls express a desire to lose weight to appear more like the figures they see in the media.”

    I went to school, I went to high school, I went to college, and I lived in a very populated area. I have never seen or heard of someone asking such personal questions to a complete stranger in a school setting. That’s private and personal.

  • Southy

    Southy

    September 22nd, 2011 at 3:03 AM

    Teenagers can easily be influenced especially what they see in the television and heard in the media. Losing weight to have a good body figure are what they wish. There’s nothing wrong with it as long as they follow a healthy lifestlye like exercise.

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