Body image and health are not the same thing, yet our perceptions, largely a result of popular culture, often lead us to the conclusion that they are. While being fit is a sign of health, our perceptions of what it means to be fit and healthy often have little to do with reality.
Older generations often associate carrying a little extra weight around with being healthy, and this was reflected in the popular culture of their time; think Marilyn Monroe and World War II pinups like Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, and Jane Russel.
For older generations, phrases like “you need to put some meat on your bones” were as common as “I need to start running again” is today.
In all likelihood, losing quite a bit of weight would prompt many from the World War II generation to ask if everything was alright with your health. To them, losing weight often conjures up images of sickness and ill health.
For younger generations, the pinups of old have been replaced by supermodels that are taller than 99% of women and are often skinny enough to prompt many World War II veterans to yearn for the return of Rita Hayworth.
Skinny is so in vogue these days that female supermodels are often taller than their male counterparts. The reason? The taller a women is, the skinnier she’ll appear.
Women are subjected to these tall, skinny supermodels day in and day out, and often view these women as representing the ideal of beauty and attractiveness. But, what do men think? Do men find these women “ideal”?
The answer is no.
Of course, men will certainly ogle at supermodels, but that’s a far cry from seeing them as “ideal”. When it comes to the science, what men find attractive more closely resembles Playboy Playmates than the women in a Victoria Secrets catalogue.
Men may gladly sit down and watch the Victoria Secrets fashion show with their wives and girlfriends every November, but if you wan’t to know what men really find attractive, marketing and economics provides the answer.
Female attractiveness is viewed quite differently by men and women. The best place to see these differences are at your local news stand or bookstore. One quick look at the women in the magazines marketed to men compared with those marketed to women will show you all you need to know.
When it comes to what men think women find attractive, men are just as far from reality as women are.
Men are bombarded with images of men with 5% body fat and washboard abs, and they view these models as representing the ideal of what the opposite sex finds attractive.
However, when AskMen did a survey for the top traits women look for in men, not a single physical trait cracked the top 10.
Clearly, both men and women have a misguided view of what is actually attractive to the opposite sex.
A hyper focus on body image in our society makes a lot of people a lot of money. In 2012 alone, 14.6 million plastic surgery procedures of the cosmetic variety were performed in the United States. Which included 6.1 million botox procedures, 2 million soft tissue fillers (think juicy lips), 1.1 million chemical peels, 286,000 breast implants, 126,000 facelifts, and 202,000 liposuction procedures.
Much of the non medical spending in the “health” industry is done in the pursuit of achieving a certain body image as opposed to optimal health; Americans spend billions in this pursuit each year.
Not only are the images we see in advertisements day in and day out not realistic, but those doing the modeling may not look anything like they do in the ads in real life. With all the makeup, hairstyling, lighting, and of course all of the photoshopping, the next face you see in an ad could be somebody you know, and you wouldn’t even know it!
If you think this is a bit of stretch, just take exactly 1:14 to watch this youtube video. If you haven’t already seen this, you’ll be amazed! If you’ve already seen it, then it’s a great reminder!