Society’s body image expectations are unrealistic | The Triangle

Society’s body image expectations are unrealistic

With summer only a couple months away, Drexel students are already restless to drop their books and escape to the beach for the weekend. After a long, cold winter, who could think of anything better than a weekend getaway? But with beach vacations comes something that plagues America: an obsession with having the “perfect” beach body. We live in a country that has crafted its own textbook definition of perfect, and many young adults and teenagers latch onto this image for dear life.
Unfortunately, the idolization of having a “perfect” body can lead to eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia. It doesn’t help when the Drexel Recreation Center sends mass emails to students promoting the “Beach Body Bootcamp.” According to the email, the bootcamp is a four-week express class starting May 2 that works to push students to the next fitness level. The Editorial Board fully supports fitness and healthy habits, but we are concerned that a class titled “Beach Body Bootcamp” could accidentally trigger insecurities in students who have a history of eating disorders or who are on the road to developing one.
According to the website of the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders Inc., anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents, and 86 percent of students report an onset of an eating disorder by the age of 20. The site reports that 25 percent of college women binge and purge as a weight loss technique. Additionally, in a survey of 185 female college students, 58 percent reported feeling pressure to be a certain weight. With all these statistics in mind, Drexel seems to be unintentionally sending a message to students that they need to improve their bodies.
With Drexel’s fast-paced 10-week term, many students may not have time to hit the gym. To make up for not working out, students may turn to skipping meals or eating a very small amount of food, which is extremely dangerous. Amy Henning, associate dean of the Drexel Counseling Center, said she does not believe that the Beach Body Bootcamp email would cause an eating disorder per se, but it could possibly be one of several factors that leads to body-image insecurities and disorders.
“I think that it might set up unrealistic expectations. We’re all subject to the pressure of having this ideal body that I think is very difficult to achieve. It may not be realistic to who we are,” Henning said.
Watching shows such as “The Biggest Loser” has become an American pastime, and commercials for diet pills and meal plans are commonplace. Magazines are constantly preaching the swimsuit body in huge neon letters, and it doesn’t help when the headline is next to a rail-thin celebrity. April is a month when many fashion magazines reel in readers with diet and exercise tips to reach the ideal body type. In fact, the binding of the May 2013 issue of Glamour magazine reads, “It’s Our Swimsuit Issue: You’re Going to Look So Good Half-Naked!” How does this make a young woman uncomfortable with her body feel? Well, it will certainly encourage her to buy the magazine and try to be as thin as the celebrity on the cover, even with dangerous methods like skipping a meal.
The Editorial Board would like to encourage Drexel students that meeting society’s impossible body expectations does not guarantee a happy and healthy life. As soon as we stop comparing ourselves to photoshopped models and get comfortable in our own skin, the trip to the beach will be a lot more fun. It can be a challenge to stay confident when we’re surrounded by magazines, commercials, and even emails from Drexel that seem to be holding us to some high standard of thinness. We should be striving to be fit, healthy and happy students–regardless of what the world is trying to tell us.