I’ve been in the fitness industry for 15 years, and over the years there’s become more and more I dislike about it. I think what I dislike the most is the obsession with our physical form. It’s not a fitness industry. It’s a fatness industry. And it’s falsehoods are killing us.
Greg Crister, Harper’s Magazine, wrote about our culture, “No one, and I mean NO ONE, in the pages of the glossy magazines within which the elite project their image of themselves is anything like fat. The hierarchy of acceptable body types is becoming more rigid and exclusive than ever before.”
And within ALL of the thousands of “beautiful” images are hidden some rather ugly statistics.
Women and Children, first:
-Up to 97% of women report, at some point, “HATING” their own body.
-47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
-69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape
-42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner
-81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat
-The average dieting age for girls is 8 years old
–“The muscularity of ideal male body representations present an extremely, and largely unattainable, muscular ideal male body type, which is equivalent to the unattainable thin female ideal” (Lever, Frederick, & Peplau, 2006; Schooler & Ward, 2006) (Olivardia, Pope, Borowiecki, & Cohane, 2004)
-Inadequacy in males often leads to abnormal eating and substance abuse
The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported Americans spent approximately $30 billion in 1992 on all types of diet programs and products. Marketdata estimated in its 2007 study the size of the U.S. weight loss market at $55 billion. It is now estimated to have reached over $60 Billion.
There are well over 100 million people “dieting” every single day in the United States. And 35% of those “occasional dieters” progress into pathological dieting (disordered eating), and as many as 25%, advance to full-blown eating disorders, reports the Philadelphia Eating Disorder Examiner. And eating disordered individuals have the highest rate of mortality of all mental disorders.
Anywhere from 65 – 98% of dieters return to their pre-dieting weight within three years, according to Gary Foster, Ph.D., clinical director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and Rudolph L. Leibel M.D. of Columbia University Medical Center.
Wherever the actual percentage of failing dieters falls, the majority of people are never going to see the projected expectation of physical beauty expressed by their body. According to The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, It’s estimated that the body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females.
Even though the odds of almost anyone radically altering their weight indefinitely are dismal, it is still possible. But at what cost? If we don’t want to embrace the unique beauty of the Individual, the majority will continue to find themselves devastated by the physical, psychological, and emotional destruction of believing that all of us should fit into 5%.
Roberta Pollack Seid in her book, Never Too Thin, Why Women Are At War With Their Bodies, concludes “We pursue thinness with a fervor that borders on the religious. We believe in physical perfectibility and see its pursuit as a moral obligation. The virtue that presumably will put us on this road is our ability to control one of our most fundamental instincts – eating. We have come to believe thinner is healthier, happier, and more beautiful as though it were handed down on Mount Sinai. But those are not divine truths. They are prejudices with a complex history. They have led to a false religion that does not deliver what it promises.”
Seid continued, “…Never before have so many people believed that the shape of their lives depended on the shape of their bodies.” But their measurements, their weight, are a matter of health,.. Right? Is weight a useful predictor of health?
The answers may surprise you…
Stay Tuned for Part 2
*Note – statistics cited from National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, University of Colorado, and National Eating Disorders Association