A couple rather depressing stories came through the newswire recently in the field of health and in particular the ongoing weight struggles that us as a society face. One of them, easily the most virulent of them all, was about the Body Shop advertisement featuring “Ruby”, the plus-sized nude mannequin. This ad, which boldly speaks for female empowerment and acceptance of all the shapes they have, was pulled after legal threats from Mattel™ over its defamation of their famous figurehead back in 2006, and the poster has once again traveled through social media. Never mind that in reality the doll could not menstruate (although there is a version where she comes pregnant with twins) , hold up her back and neck, walk due to the dimensions of her legs and feet, and would have many other problems. The 7’4” “perfect woman” is only attainable for an everyday, 5’4” woman if she grows 2 feet, expands her chest size by 5”, and stretches her neck by another 3” (all while whittling their waists down by 6”!). The real defamation of the brand is the hosts of girls and women that grow up idolizing and aspiring to be everything she is and develop body dysmorphia and – unfortunately – eating disorders. While the blame often rests on waifish celebrities and models with God-given bodies, the fact remains that children are first and foremost exposed to the toys they play with. Most young girls are not looking at the pages of Vogue or People, after all!
Then I happened across a wonderful campaign by Fit vs. Fiction that brings to glaring light the prevalence of body dysmorphic thoughts and behaviours by children. Sadly, the trend is toward more and more young individuals developing these self-destructive habits, and poor diet and lifestyle choices down the road (including emotional eating and bingeing on “forbidden food”). When you consider that a quarter of 7-year-olds (mostly girls) have already dieted – over 80% by age 10 – the vast majority of the youths today have no idea what constitutes a healthy meal. “Eating right” and “moving more” are simply translated to either extreme, while the “kid-friendly” products are now labelled “fat” or “sugar free” and can easily trick both adults and diet-conscious kids alike.
Most recently, and relevant to working women of all ages, was the release of a study correlating appearance of bodyweight and women’s earnings in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Something that many working women have known or suspected for years was eventually published in Forbes: while men can, in general, actually expect a slight increase in pay by gaining a few pounds, but for females (especially very thin women) putting on weight at all negatively impacts their pay scale. Compared to an “average” female worker, those labeled as “very thin” made about $22,000 more, while “heavy” or “obese” women lost between $9,000 over $18,000. In a society bent on equality for all, it would be ridiculous to have an employer deny someone a raise (or indeed, fair pay for equal work) due to their religion or marital status – so why is this still the case? Rather than encouraging women to assert themselves in the workforce, this behavior objectifies and trivializes women to little more than walking, talking dolls, and erodes both the self-confidence and the work ethic of those affected. While being overweight or obese is never ideal, it is not the employer’s job to dictate the preferred physiology of an able-minded, qualified adult.
Where do you stand? What do you think is the biggest poor body-image factor facing anyone (male or female, of any age) today?
Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition