ART BY SAMANTHA PARRA
By MICHELLE HUANG
Often, magazines and newspapers are plastered with images of “perfect” models: fit and flawlessly tanned. Understandably, the mass appearance of such media influences people’s desire for the ideal body.
With a desire to achieve these body “goals”, many people follow motivational weight-loss social media pages, watch advertisements or read pamphlets about losing weight.
However, despite the widely credited benefits of following such media, many individuals may experience a counterproductive effect: an unrealistic expectation stemming from seeing so many models achieve success through following a specific diet.
For example, motivational body positive Instagram pages attract millions of followers because of the widespread desire to change one’s body into a more socially appealing one. Therefore, when following a page, one will see that many of the posts include perfect models whom followers idolize. Realistically, many people are unable to ever reach this goal, because of either physical limitations or emotional stress.
Most often, the inability to reach such goals stems from an emotional detachment from one’s initial objective. Looking at the motivational posts is helpful for those with a spark of motivation to change their lifestyle, but in the long run, seeing these fit people takes a toll on followers.
For instance, Susan decides to follow an Instagram page, say, @bodypositivity, and uses its tips and advice loyally in hopes of attaining a perfect body. However, after months of adhering to the listed actions, Susan has yet to achieve the changes that the pictures on the Instagram page suggest, because she has not put enough consideration into her personal needs when working out. Instead, she has been focusing on the perfect pictures of the people in the posts, subconsciously imagining herself as a replica of the model.
Because she puts in a lot of work but gets minimal results, Susan experiences lowered self esteem and stops trying to change her body again, turning to unhealthy ways of coping with the discrepancy between her body and the ideal body. In this case, the main hindrance in Susan’s pursuit of a better, healthier body is a sense of anxiety from fear that she was unable to achieve her potential goals; the pictures she idolized were overly high expectations.
After an individual realizes that their efforts have not produced a desired result, he may even acquire detrimental health problems due to stress from their “failure.”
With unrealistic desires, an individual may realize the flaw in their goals. It is then that they might wake up to the reality that there are many factors beyond their control deciding the fate of their goals regarding their body type: genetics, bone structure, wealthiness, career, and time.
For example, the models in the pictures probably have jobs that require a certain type of body. Therefore, they spend almost all of their time modifying their body to fit the specific sizes for their career. On the other hand, the person who follows their blog most likely does not have that kind of time, which contributes to the seemingly shrunken results that they got from following the steps.
Therefore, the various body positive social media pages have very different effects on users than the positive impact that they want the public to believe. Rather than promoting body acceptance and motivating people to eat healthier, work out, and manage sleeping schedules, these pages often end up causing detrimental issues in people’s health.
In an effort to gain more positive effects through these motivational pages, followers should focus more on their personal goals and on competing with themselves and their own bodies, rather than comparing themselves to picture-perfect, fit models portrayed and idolized by society. Those who follow their pages for inspiration should strive to be the best they can be, not the best the models can be.