Wednesday, July 23, 2014

THE PERFECT BODY: How the media creates a body ideal that is forever out of reach.

Since times immemorial, the perception of beauty has constantly kept changing. And with the advent of communication arts, it has been changing ever more rapidly. And unfortunately in recent times, owing to the grandiose rise of a bunch of factors, it has been moving towards an almost impossible, artificial and at times, life threatening level. 

Rahul (name changed) is a regular 20 year old in a middle class family. He goes to college during the day, hangs out with his friends goes for movies, loves salman khan and in the evening, he regularly hits the gym. He uses supplements too. It's been 4 years, he is well built and handsome, BUT he still hasn't been able to achieve the physique that his favourite fitness stars have. That is what he wants - those ripped abs, those vascular arms, that clear cut jawline and that lean muscular look. He even bought a book written by the 'trainer' of his favorite celebrity. He follows everything they say on social media. This year, he is considering using all the money he has saved up to buy and use steroids as advised to him by a new trainer at his local gym. He has no idea of the qualifications of the trainer, of the side effects of these steroids or even about the TRUE 'fitness' secrets of these 'fitness icons' he worships so earnestly.  His world is about to take a dark, dirty turn.
Maya (name changed) is an aspiring actress. At age 22 (actually age 28) she has undergone chin tucking surgery to have a more defined face, hair removal for smoother skin, lipolysis for a shapelier figure, breast implants for obvious reasons, butt implants, teeth straightening surgery, botox injections to straighten out fine wrinkles, lip and nose restructuring surgery to look prettier, has a rib removed to add more grace to her body and is constantly on a starvation diet to remain skinny and keep that 24" waistline.  And btw, she occasionally adorns fitness magazine covers as a fitness model and is a 'sponsored' athlete.
She is a college drop-out with no other career skills, her bank account is close to zero and she moonlights as an escort to pay the bills.

You many think these youngsters are nothing like you or the people you know. But wait. Think again.
That 30 year old struggling to lose his paunch, the man with a great physique and an erectile dysfunction he never talks about, that aunty trying to lose weight with a special *** challenge product, all those people buying fancy gimmicks to lose weight, those fairness cream buyers and men's cream users, those people spending thousands on fitness magazine subscriptions and those couples trying to 'look in shape' before the wedding. Did we miss out any? Surely a hell a lot more. But the thing is, not just these people, but also you and me are often subject to the pressure of body image ideals created and propagated by the media. An ideal that is not only almost unattainable and fake - an illusion you may say, but also one that is very much so because of the 'products' that advertise that image. How you ask?

Let us look at how the Modern day Media is contributing to these ridiculous concepts of body image?
                - photoshop and editing keep the 'ideal' forever out of reach.
                - non disclosure of facts and blatant lies used to market products.
                - use of cosmetic surgeries and steroids not made public.
                - 'manufacturing' pseudo fitness and body image professionals and advisors.

So we come to wonder, is it all lies? All those amazing bodies, those six pack abs, that beautiful hair, that narrow waistline, that flawless skin. Is it all just unattainable LIES?
What the people need to know is what is REALLY Possible to achieve and What is not.
And more importantly, that what is achievable is at what cost? AND is it worth it?

How will the people ever find a way out of this vicious and never ending cycle?
The soultion is quite within our reach.
An ideal way to keep people from falling prey to unrealistic ideals and to encourage true wellbeing, health and fitness instead, would be in providing:

                -Body Image Awareness Programmes & Counselling
                -Providing Basic Fitness Awareness Education for all
                -Giving REAL professionals a media platform (developing media with a sense of responsibility)
                -Enabling a LAW that takes stern and quick action against fraudulent claims (including the *).
The question at the end of the day is, even knowing all this now, will you contribute to the change - or will you still fall prey to the beautiful illusion? The illusion of perfection that surrounds you, lures you, drowns you. Every single day.
Or will you fight it?
Will you now Seek out genuine fitness and health professionals and actively question their credibility instead of blindly relying on them because they were quoted in beauty magazines and celebrity shows?
Will you help spread quality knowledge and facts and refrain from encouraging scamsters and frauds?
Will you share this article to educate a friend?

The change, if ever there can be one, begins with you. 

PS: another good read would be an article i had written on the same topic in much detail previously:

-Pushkaraj Shirke
Director, Project Battleready
For Seminars and Workshops, contact

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