Monday, October 10, 2005

Weighty Matters

Have you noticed how many ads there are in the newspaper/TV/magazines for weight loss centers lately? Most of the models used for these ads look underweight - BMIs of probably less than 17! The use of popular TV celebrities for such ads is also very common, despite the fact that these personalities were probably not in need of weight loss in the first place.

Growing up in the 70's & 80's, the obsession with weight (or the lack of it) was already rampant, and I've always had to deal with the "overweight" issue, no thanks to thoughtless comments made by well-meaning relatives & friends. I look at photographs of myself in my mid-teens & to my present self, I looked skinny!!! Fortunately I did not become bulemic or anorexic, but I do believe that I had suffered from a mild form of body dysmorphism, thinking that I was something that I actually wasn't. I only became comfortable with my self after moving out of this country & living in the USA for several years. It was somehow "more acceptable" to be heavier than the so-called beauties that one saw in ads & on TV.

Moving back here again, not only was I inundated with all these images of skinniness that one is supposed to strive for, but shopping in the stores for clothes which actually fit was a nightmare & absolutely depressing. The only clothes which could fit a size 14 (considered "normal" sized in the USA) could only be found in the Womens Plus section. And these clothes were not exactly the epitome of fashion either.

A few years ago, a local celebrity almost lost her life when her liver failed due to her taking a weight loss supplement that was hepatotoxic. She did not appear to be overweight in the first place, but probably under pressure from her peers or from her job requirements, she started taking these supplements. Fortunately, she survived after a liver transplant.

At that time, I thought that it would be a wonderful platform for someone like her to promote being healthy (having learnt her lesson which almost cost her her life) instead of chasing that never ending goal of looking like the models in a fashion magazine & being obsessed with reaching a BMI of less than 17.

Unfortunately, that did not happen & the next thing you know, she appears in ads as a spokesperson for a weight-loss center.

Adolescents these days are faced with so many societal pressures, especially the girls - I wonder what it will take for that all-important wake-up call that health and a good self-image is more important than being skinny. I wish that the media & celebrities would take a lesson from Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, and start sending the message that self-worth does not depend on what you look like, how large or small you are, what colour your skin is, and how old you are; I know it's cliched, but it's what's inside that counts.

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