Mainstream Media Beauty Lies – The Skinny Lie – The Zero Blemish Lie – The Fashion Lie
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1: The Skinny Lie. A dangerous and popular lie in America is the modern classification of skinny. Most extremes are unhealthy and this includes underweight and overweight bodies. The media defines a desirable or healthy body as lean and flawless. This beauty ideal is unattainable for most and unsustainable for everyone and has distorted the reality of what a healthy person looks like. In my opinion, women of all sizes suffer the most from this unhealthy cultural direction. I would also tell you that most top models are not how a fitness professional would classify healthy. In fact, most models I have worked with are underweight and suffer from eating disorders and negative perception of physical self. Strangely, many overweight women that I have coached over the past few decades have the same problems. This is discouraging because none of these ladies are getting out of the media trap unscathed. Sadly, this has led people to extreme actions such as cosmetic procedures including liposuction, gastric bypass or even insulin abuse. Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, binge eating or the more recent muscle dysmorphia, are all products of warped body image. No surprise that this insanity has birthed an extreme alternative mentality which is that “Your body is perfect no matter what.” But folks, that is just a new lie! Your body is not “perfect” no matter what. This is a bandwagon argument and a way for some people to justify an unhealthy lifestyle or live in excess. To be clear, if you are carrying around excessive body fat, regardless if are currently experiencing negative health consequences from your behavior, then you are just as delusional as the ultra-skinny person. I understand this is a strong statement nowadays and there are some that are horrified by the concept. Because now it’s not appropriate to say some one is overweight. So here is the bottom line: we all should strive to be the best versions of ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually.
2: The Zero Blemish Lie. Cosmetics have existed for thousands of years and may be the oldest form of physical alteration to enhance appearance or desirability. However, mainstream media has bludgeoned our society to a pulp with makeup, creams, lotions and other cosmetics. I feel there are two parts to this lie so let’s start with the obvious. First, manufactures and ad agencies have set an ultra-standard of facial beauty. The models are ridiculously perfect and represent a mere fraction of a fraction of the population. And when I say “perfect,” I am not advocating that these models look perfect. I am pointing out that the mainstream media is telling us that is what should be defined as perfect. The false promise is you will look the same if you use a certain product or brand. Second, the insinuation is that beauty is external and these ads focus exclusively on superficial forms of beauty. So here is my next outrageous statement: I have met men and women who were not the apex of physical attraction but once I got to know them, they became far more attractive. Why? Because they are exceptional people that add value to the lives of others and that is simply beautiful. Sadly, this means we often give more grace to people who are physically attractive from the start. Well, if they conform to the modern definition of beauty. Because of this lie, both men and women in the general population feel they should meet some standard of beauty. The corrosive part is when they look in a mirror and don’t see that flawless reflection of trendy beauty. This leads to potential loss of self-esteem, feeling of inadequacy and using words like “plain” or “ugly” to describe themselves in their own head. To that point, many years ago, I was training a young female athlete who was an outstanding soccer player and was remarkably fit. She was 16 years old and for many weeks, our sessions were positive and she had a strong get’em spirit. One particular session, she was obviously not performing at her best so I asked her “hey, where is your head right now? You usually kill this drill.” She was quiet for a moment and then just asked me point-blank “Do you think I am ugly?” Of course, as an experienced trainer my shields went up immediately because you never know where a loaded question like that can lead. So, I simply said “What I think, or anyone else thinks is not the question. The real question is, do you think you are ugly and why?” She replied with “I think I’m sort of ugly. Not terribly ugly but not as pretty as other girls.” I asked “And just who are these girls and what about them is so beautiful?” She went on to list about a half dozen celebrities and a few girls form school and how they are always “perfect.” Suffice to say, I did my best to remind her of true personal beauty and encouraged her to be her own special brand of beautiful. I also told her about the lie. The nasty lie she believed enough to even ask the question. Of course, we all go through periods of self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy but this was beyond that. 16-year-old athlete in peak physical condition with a pretty look and she defined beauty just as the media programmed. Unattainable, unsustainable and superficial.
3: The Fashion Lie. As much as I enjoyed the film “The Devil Wears Prada” I find some components of fashion to be truly silly. There is little value in mainstream fashion as far as I am concerned but I know many people who find aspects of fashion to be a form of artistic expression and function. Fine. I understand that part but there are some strong ethical issues surrounding fashion. Most notorious is the body image influence we already explored. But the fashion industry has done more than just lie to us about beauty and social acceptance, they have altered human physiology. For fashion, technology is a powerful tool to propagate their fabrication and cultural manipulation. Computer programs have allowed for excessive and inappropriate augmentation of skin texture and body shape. They take genetically gifted men and women with unusually well-proportioned parts and then create a whole new sub-species of human that not one of us will ever look like in our lifetimes. I find this remarkably disturbing and imagine the cover model they altered looking in the mirror to see a body that is not the same as the one on the magazine cover. No wonder we have eating disorders, body issues and psychological problems run rampant in the fashion model profession. In addition, the amount of environmental destruction from excessive consumerism inspired by fashion is unsustainable. Sadly, fashion also keeps child labor alive and well but that is a whole other situation. The fashion lie includes the claim that what you bought last season is no longer fashionable, which is to say you are no longer trendy or beautiful. Of course, there are many layers to the fashion industry but our focus is on the manipulation of beauty perspective. How many times have you been in a social situation where someone negatively remarked on your sweater, dress, shoes, jeans or accessories? There you are, enjoying a lunch with a group of friends when one of them titters at you with “Oh, is that the last season Louie? Well mine is the latest from Paris and I simply love-love-love it.” Or, you are a guy in an office and a coworker snickers at you “Soooo, pleated pants? Did you raid your grandpa’s dresser to dig those up? Lol, It’s all about the flat front now.” I submit to you all that this mentality is insane. However, sometimes people dress in a way that is awkward, mismatched to the point of distracting or inappropriate for the situation. This is separate from fashion shaming or implying someone is not attractive because let’s face it, when Uncle Ned has a six-inch flood going with his powder blue trousers and a bright construction orange set of suspenders over a white deep cut V-neck thermal…well.
There are my thoughts on the beauty and in part 2, I will examine the three biggest lies in fitness…