Weight loss – an obsession gone too far?

College life isn’t always easy, and trying to balance lectures with socialising, exercising, eating healthily and other commitments can be tough. It seems like in the end that something always gets forgotten, and for me and many other students, it was healthy eating that got the boot. It’s all too easy to throw on a packet of noodles or order a pizza when you’re too busy to cook or hungover from the night before. For the majority of us this can lead to a little extra meat on our bones, some more than others. But how big of an affect does this weight gain have on us, and why is it such a big deal?

It’s when you jump two dress sizes from a slender size 8 that you begin to question these things, after your body undergoes a change. But one thing that never seems to change, is the media’s portrayal of the “perfect body”. After I gained weight I seemed to be more aware of the obsession the media have with how big or small celebrities are. The front pages of magazines are either covered with unflattering photos of stars who have gained a few pounds, or praising them for their drastic weight loss and new size 6 figure.

With images and headlines like this on the front page, women and young girls are forced to see the harsh reality of what society expects of us today. Having a bit of a belly, wobbly thighs or chubby cheeks is deemed unacceptable, which is all too much to live up to. We’re all different and beautiful in our own way, and some of us are naturally bigger or smaller than others. We shouldn’t feel that we have to conform to the ridiculous expectations of losing a tonne of weight and being a tiny size.

In October last year, popular lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret released a new range of underwear under the name “The Perfect Body” which was advertised all over America. This campaign received plenty of backlash however, because the models featured on the advertisement and their “perfect bodies” consisted of a group of women who were all the same. Tall, skinny, and no bigger than a size 6. According to The Journal, women and men everywhere signed a petition, requesting that the company “apologise for and amend the irresponsible marketing” of the bra range, and there’s no wonder. This advertisement would have been viewed by young girls who’d look at it and think that being tall and thin is the only way you can be perfect, which couldn’t be much more wrong. Your body is beautiful no matter what your shape or size.

It’s rare that a day goes by without seeing a headline on the front of a magazine about somebody’s fluctuating weight, and it sometimes ends up overruling other important topics that should be covered. Radio presenter Jameela Jamil was the first female presenter on BBC Radio 1’s Official Chart Show, raking in over 200,000 viewers. This was huge, and Jameela was left infuriated when the media decided to report on her weight instead of her achievement. Giving an inspirational speech on body confidence, Jameela bravely said: “Pardon me if will always wobble just a little bit when I walk. Pardon me if I want the daughter I may have one day to grow up wanting a good heart, a good mind, and a good life – and not a f**king thigh gap.” Issues like this can leave us wondering, why is there such an obsession with weight above all else? Why is a woman’s weight deemed the most important and interesting thing about her life?

In January last year, The Journal reported that according to a survey, a quarter of Irish women said they had parts of their bodies that they didn’t want their partners to see or touch. Statistics like this are frightening, but there’s no wonder when we’re constantly reminded of the “perfect body” and what we should all aspire to look like. But it’s not only the media that are guilty of putting this image in our heads, social media is partly responsible too. Tumblr, which is a blog site, has thousands of teenage users, and some are becoming more and more obsessed with being unhealthily thin. Many of them obsess over having a “thigh gap”, where slender legs in which feet are together, do not touch. Many young girls go to extreme effects to get this “desirable” feature, something that can be the cause of illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia. Many girls are naturally thin and have this gap, but for others it can become an unhealthy obsession.

With all these images and ideas being portrayed to young girls, it’s obviously going to have an effect on some of them. According to the Eating Disorder Resource Centre of Ireland, children as young as five are displaying signs of poor body image – and some seven and eight year olds have developed eating disorders. These habits can continue on into their teenage years, and soon becomes something that seems almost impossible for those affected to overcome.

With this recent obsession with weight loss, it’s important to remember that a number on a weighing scales doesn’t define who you are. You do not have to conform to a certain shape or size to be acceptable, and we’re all unique. It’s all about being confident and loving who you are, and there’s always going to be somebody who’d give anything to have a figure like yours.

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