Mental Health Awareness Week: Is Society Doing Enough To Promote Body Image?

This week it’s mental health awareness week in the U.K. The theme is how we think and feel about our bodies. Body image is an extremely controversial subject. Mentalhealth.org noted during March 2019, 34 % of 4,505 young adults in the U.K. felt down or low because of their body image. As well as one in eight young adults felt suicidal about their body image.

Social Media

Social media Apps like Instagram have assisted with this dangerous perception causing users to promote hashtags such as ‘thinspo’, ‘thinspiration’ and ‘pro-anorexia’. To name a few.

This provides unrealistic perceptions of what the ‘perfect body’ should look like. Causing decreased self-esteem and for individuals to put their body under stress to try to achieve those images seen on the media. Often going to extremes such as consuming medication for the wrong purposes or buying into FAD schemes (an interest for a short period of time).

Medication

Laxatives are a medication used to help constipation. People have been shown to use laxatives after consuming a large amount of food. They think they can allow food to escape their bodies before their bodies absorb the calories. Therefore going to the toilet frequently and producing diarrhoea as a byproduct. Which only creates excess water loss. This can be extremely dangerous contributing to dehydration.

Skinny, Fit teas and coffee

Coffee Body Image
Photo by Math on Unsplash

There are tea and coffee companies hiring social media influencers to promote their products. Which has caused millennials to buy into the trend striving for bodies like those on Instagram. When in reality, their bodies have been shaped through other methods such as diet and exercise. Not skinny, fit teas or coffee.

Companies are giving the illusion their products will make people burn calories, have a lower appetite, lose weight and increased metabolism. Normally, these products have a maximum period of time you can consume up until.

These have also proven to be dangerous. According to the Huffington Post, these products also contain a laxative (senna). Which only makes people lose water weight. Visiting the toilet too frequently can cause bowel problems and nutrient deficiencies.

Sometimes we are not always that lucky to have control over our body image. No matter what actions we try to implement


Genetic Predispositions

Cell representing body image structure
Photo by Michael Schiffer on Unsplash

Likewise, some individuals could have a genetic predisposition to storing more fat. Scientists are still running studies however according to WebMD there has been a gene discovered called FTO. Alterations to this gene can account for a 20-30% higher chance of an individual being obese.

Medication Side Effects

Steroids

A steroid medication called prednisolone can contribute to weight problems as a side effect. Prednisolone is known for suppressing the immune system making it harder to fight infections. It is used to treat health conditions such as inflammatory arthritis, vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels); lupus (an autoimmune disease where your body tissues are attacked; Crohn’s disease and asthma are a few examples.

Combined Contraceptive Pill

Medication for body image
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

The combined contraceptive pill which contains oestrogen and progesterone have been reported by users to increase their weight. However, there’s been no scientific backing, that a side effect they’ve noticed is increased weight gain.

Cancer Treatment

Cancer.net notes chemotherapy has been shown to triggering food cravings, cause fatigue and retain fluid leading to weight gain. As a result of this treatment, it can cause people to become more anxious, conscious and depressed about their body image.

Disorders

Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia is a mental disorder which causes someone to constantly think about their body image. Mayoclinic states it may cause people to avoid social situations. This disorder causes people to obsess over a part or multiple parts of their body causing an overall dissatisfaction with their body image.

Anorexia Nervosa

This is a dangerous eating disorder which involves starvation leading to weight loss which can be life-threatening. As it can make people feel extremely weak, fatigued and cause damage to persons internal organs. Individuals tend to have a fear of gaining weight and have emotional problems. Sufferers from anorexia may feel depressed.

Bullemia

A disorder where individuals consume a large portion of food and afterwards try to throw it up by vomiting or taking laxatives. According to eatingdisorderhope low self-esteem and negative body image can contribute to bullemia. This disorder can be extremely dangerous leading to low blood pressure, dehydration and vitamin deficiencies.

So next time you’re judging someone on their body image, think again. You never know what they may be dealing with on the inside.

All the contributors to weight gain or weight loss may well be out of someone’s control. The rise of tech has only if not contributed more towards the decrease a individuals self-esteem making people aspire to be like those they see online.

Media Campaigns About Body Image

Social Media Devices
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

As a result of this, some online retailers have now used different types of models to promote their products aiming for more realistic images.

Dove claim 9 out of 10 girls in the U.K. with low body self-esteem don’t see the doctor about their confidence. As a result, they’ve implemented an online forum ‘uniquely me’ to help parents to assist children suffering from body confidence.

Models and celebrities have also come to light in recent years sharing photos of their stretch marks. Clothing retailers like Asos have left models stretch marks unphotoshopped. Similarly, some clothing brands now use plus-sized models, short and tall to promote their products. During 2016 Nike launched a campaign promoting sports bras advertising women of from different backgrounds and sizes. Encouraging body positivity.

Likewise, companies are acknowledging and hiring disabled models to promote their products. During January this year, Kate Grant a girl with down syndrome was hired by benefit cosmetics to promote their products. We’re slowly on the right path to eliminating ‘the perfect body’ from the media.

Are We Doing Enough To Promote Body Image?

It’s arguable that the most affected by body image are impressionable teenagers and young adults. Back in the day, it was people aspiring to be skinny. Now it’s more than that.

Some reality stars undergo excessive amounts on plastic surgery and promoting their image to a high amount of followers. An example being Kylie Jenner with 135million followers on Instagram alone. Making young adults aspire to plump their lips like her or undergo other forms of plastic surgery.

Cosmetic Surgery
Photo by JAFAR AHMED on Unsplash

According to the daily mail during 2016 “more than 66,000 teenagers in the U.K. underwent cosmetic surgery as they were not happy with their body.”

Not just Kylie Jenner or Instagram other social media Apps are on the rise. With that, there’s more sponsored adverts and exposure to the online world. People enjoy publishing images and videos from their lives on social media channels. Making them aspire to look at their ‘best’ for other users in order to gain a better online popularity presence. Making their images being filled with likes or comments. Which could mean surgery, excessive makeup use, filters or exercise just to secure that status.

The more exposed to these online images the more people gain an unhealthy idea of reality. The photos and videos uploaded on social media outlets are tiny fractions of a person life. If teenagers don’t partake in with the latest online trend they may feel subject to becoming bullied.

Like Tik-Tok , social media needs to be regulated until a mature age is reached.

More should be added to school curriculums to educate about body positivity. As well as parents and teachers to compliment children more frequently on their image. If this is encouraged by elders it may set an example to the younger generation, it’s ok to be different.

School
Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash

Fortunately, we are on the uprise of influencers on social media and ad campaigns promoting ‘honest and real’ images. However, it’s still not near enough, to normalise body image. If big leading giants like Nike are doing it, we can only hope one day other companies will take note.

Young people are going through the life-changing effects of their body due to puberty. Being exposed to unrealistic advertising during that period can lead to toxic mentalities or behaviours towards mental health. As their bodies and brains are not fully developed. This generation needs to be taught that being different is perfectly fine.

Otherwise, if not it’s only going to lead towards toxic behaviours and unhealthy mindsets for generations to come.

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