Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Physique and the self esteem epidemic

It's outright horrible.

What I call a self esteem epidemic is the growing body-culture and the psychological ails it causes the general public. Growing amounts of people succumb to pressure to work out, eat less, and be slimmer. There has been an increase of eating disorders across the board; Anorectics, bulimics, extreme dietists. Why? Why do people have such low self esteem, such fragile confidence and little faith in themselves? I know this not only because the statistics say so, but because I've seen it, and what it can do to people.

A couple of reasons. First and foremost, the idealistic body-image that we think we find so attractive nowadays. This is the mother and father of most of the issues with low self in regards to physical culture. Historically, one of the most fit and demanding western physical cultures was that of the Greek. The Greek Gods, Adonis (Not a God, but a part of the mythology nonetheless.) in particular, were beautiful by all standards. Adonis was considered the most beautiful of all men. Aphrodite was a female counterpart. If you Google these, then you will notice that by modern standards, they wouldn't even be considered particularly fit. In most sculptures, Adonis is somewhat on the slim side, but in some of the sculptures, one couldn't even tell if he lifts.

The physical culture that surrounds both the male and female bodies of today is an extreme next to the already idealized bodies of the Greek Gods. The fact is, though, that those same Greeks, with their strong emphasis on physique, would find the models of today hideously underweight, because both Adonis and Aphrodite were sculpted based on what was found to be most beautiful back then. That goes to show both how extreme the physical culture of today is, and dynamic this ideal is.

Even more telling, back in the day of Marilyn Monroe, people still bought fattening products, lard, to get wider and gain weight. Because it was considered more beautiful to be wider and curvy, an ideal not reflected in media anymore. Models since then have become freakishly thin. We've all seen the magazine covers with the photoshopped women, but this skinny-image is also prevalent in the masculine media. Look up Burberry's male models. Most, although not all, are very skinny, and some are terribly underweight. The elongate necks and spindly limbs are all over Burberry's marketing.

Why? Why has society come to adore the skinny?

There's no one theory or explanation, but several factors. There is an obesity epidemic, especially in America. How does this affect Europe, and us? It affects us, because our media is Western, and nothing is more Western than America. HUGE amounts of money are to be made in solving the fatty crisis of America. Absolutely HUGE amounts of money, in slimming- and fitness products, in, well, the skinny lifestyle. Media is the salesman telling us we need to buy the skinny lifestyle.

Essentially, the media is telling the obese US people to get skinny. But we are all part of the media, and the american media is undeniably a large portion of it. So by extension, we are also made to feel bad, because the media forces the impression upon us that we need to slim up. The truth is, we're not obese. But by American extension, were made to feel bad about it.

And yes, it really is the media. Biologically, we are not engineered to be attracted to the bony. The pristine attraction is that to signs of fertility, and that is everything that exists on a biological level. We are meant to like women with wide hips, large breasts, healthy looking skin and hair, because these are the signs that tell us that this woman is ready to carry a child. Women ought to be attracted to tall men with wide shoulders, and a balance between muscle and health, because these are the men that seem best capable in protecting women and offspring. This is all the sexual attraction that exists on a biological level. Skinny is not part of it. The rest of our ideals come from society.

But this is the way it is. We can't help what society thinks, it makes all of us feel bad about our bodies. The self esteem epidemic stems from our unrealistic physical culture, and there isn't a lot we can do to directly influence this. But change needs to start from somewhere. In the mean time, let's try not to starve to death, or live unhealthy lives only because we strive to unrealistic goals. That's the gist of it, really. There's nothing wrong with beauty, even though the ideals come from a wicked place. But we can't let this impede our abilities to live normal, healthy lives. We can't let physical culture become the only culture we know, which seems to be something of an oncoming reality.

I've been wanting to make an entry about this kind of stuff for a while now. I plan this to be the first in a series of entries that will be about the human body, working out, and health, and this entry will serve as an introduction. I'm also going to write about myself, and how I balance health, happiness and working out, in becoming a better looking me.


  1. An excellent point as always;) Glad to see you back, I missed your good points and superb facts:D
    However there is one thing I'd like to point out in this blog.
    You bring up the matter of physical health and so called "skinniness" in just a negative view point. Although I agree with you to a full 100 per cent, only anorectics and people with different disorders should consider revising their lifestyle. But to be slim is also a good thing as it can greatly improve ,for instance, confidence in a otherwise insecure individual, if you know what I mean. So as you say, balance is key and to many a slim body through balance is the goal, but its only those that uses the extreme to reach their goals that err. As a slim body (which usually comes with exercise) is good for all and healthy. But I'm sure you where aiming at those who goes for the very extremes and slim themselves down to skin and bones, which is never healthy. I can sum up the comment in one sentence to make the point clear;) To be slim is a good thing, to be skinny not so much.
    And if my comment made any sense I'd like to add once again that it was a thought-provoking and splendid blog. Keep it up!

    1. It's not that I don't think people should be allowed to be skinny, my biggest qualm comes from the fact that many people, women especially, seem to become very absorbed by exercise and dieting, and their ultimate strife to slim up to these unrealistic ideals. The folly lies in that they so strongly believe that a slim frame will make them happy, that they seem to forget about all these other, little things that used to make them happy. Eating candy, fat- or sugary foods, spending extra time with friends or family, these things seem to be readily sacrificed. And for something so superficial; a smaller volumetric imprint. Can it really be worth it?

      I'm going to make a separate entry about how I think one should go about becoming fitter. In the end, though, it's not about how hard people work to get slim, the true pain comes in the angst that takes hold as soon these people feel they didn't work hard enough. That's what makes me ragged inside, people feeling horrible for the meals that they ate or the workouts they missed.

      Yes, I talk about the extremes, because people aren't interested if eating disorders aren't mentioned. It serves as an introduction to the fact that most people have some sort of body complex. Be it stronger or weaker angst, it has become an integrated part of our everyday lives and psyche to feel at least a little bit bad about our bodies.

      Thanks for the thoughtful and well written comment! It made a lot of sense!

  2. You know, I always seem to learn new words by reading your posts...

    Anyway, I totally agree with you. Aspiring for a perfect body is something that has climbed far too high on the priority list in my opinion, at least in today's Western society. One can be pretty much fully confident that the root of the problem lies in the media, as you said. You see, there are no mental diseases like anorexia or bulimia in developing countries, although they face several other problems. The picture of "having to be slim" just hasn't been imprinted into the minds of people who aren't exposed to the Western media, thus, there is no room for eating disorders.

    It's good to see you back with a new post and a planned series of related entries ;)

    1. Thanks for the comment! Indeed, the wide vocabulary is a gift of mine. If one isn't actually that smart, atleast one can try to uphold an illusion of insight using fancy phrasing and long words :P

      Yes, very much too high on the list of priorities. Indeed, developing countries rarely face these kinds of problems. I think Anorexia isn't a mental disease at all, much more aptly a social disease. Horrible one, at that. Eating disorders start out nabbing at the edges of consciousness, but before you know it, Anorexia has already eaten you whole. It takes over lives, and ruins them.

      Though it is important to point out that eating disorders rarely just pop out of the blue. Sure, sometimes they do, but often they are a symptom of a larger problem or depression. Often, it has something to do with the upbringing.

      Another interesting point is that in some cases, Asian skinny-pressure is even more horrifying than Western. (Of course, I'm generalizing, and truth be told there's not much I know about the subject of Asian physical culture.) In some Asian cultures, the image of beauty is a light skinned, thin woman, and that ideal is very ingrained into their culture and tradition. But we don't come into contact with Asian media outlets, so that's why I'm choosing to focus on the Western perspective.

  3. Lazy lazy Victor, you could at least have drawn your own version of the Greek Gods and the different ideals throughout history. This was okay as an introduction to a new horde of posts, but I must say that you discussing these important subjects without any artistic input will make this blog BOORING! (to say the least)

    Nah, sorry, I really like your blog, but part of the reason why I read this blog is due to the amazing art that keeps impressing and amusing me. I hope you understand that one much rather digs in to a chunk of text if one has an image to look forward to! :)

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Yes, I get your point, but you have to understand that this blog is something I do in my spare time, if and when I have the time, creativity, and will. Simply writing an entry like this takes at least an hour, time I could be spending with friends or doing whatever; making artwork to go with it normally takes about two more hours. The wonderful thing is, though, no one is forced to read this, or my long entries. If people don't find my blog to be interesting enough for them, then they can move on, and read someone else's blog.

      If it was that easy, and I always found drawing to be incredibly exciting, I would paint a hundred paintings for every entry.

  4. I haven't been reading your blog in a while, but this was one of your most intresting text you have written so far :D And yeah, it so sad too that in this world many things are so black and white too: its bad if you aren't skinny enough, or if you are too big. Why not prefer something that is somewhere in the middle?
    Ofc it is important to have a healthy lifestyle, but i think that still if you are training or something, it is important for your psyque that you can give you the chans to eat some sweets sometime if you feel for it, becouse it like keeps you in a more normal level, and you may not become an total controllfreak about what you eat and so on. I think it's have to be horrorable for under weight and obese people that they maby really can't have an balansed eating habit. In the tv serie "supersize vs superskinny" you can se really hororable examples of people how they really eat and how they really feel about food. Moust chocking was for me to se how it was for an women with bulimia, she litterally could eat snacks,chocolate and stuff that was like over 6 000 callories in maby 1 hour ( normally an women should eat ca.2 100 callories on an day to stay in normal weight as you may know) and then she just puked all up and didn't really eat anything for the rest of the day. She did even say that she didn't even liked the snacks and chocolates.

    What my point is, i think it's more important that you can enjoy your lifestyle. Maby you don't have to lift weight in the gym, but move and train in a way that you can really enjoy about instead of feeling addicted to it in a bad way (and i don't mean it's bad in a way if you lift weights, i mean that you shouldn't force yourself and do stuff in training that you feel forced into in a bad way, that you only doing it to loose weight instead of really enjoying the training. To go for an little run is allready a god training alltought you haven't loosed over 1000 callories, i hope you understand what im trying to say). I think it's more important that you can enjoy food and other stuff in a healthy way of thinking, that eighter of things should't bee too much of.

    And i hate when i see pictures like this in tumblr and otherwise in the internet:



    i mean really? Is it beautiful to see someones ribs?
    And ofc some people are very skinny naturally, and thats ok, but i don't like when a body looks too unhealthy eighter. Also it's important to remeber that everyone has different bodytypes, and somehowe the one special bodytype is the most "perfect" one. Why not trying to see more of the beautiful side of to look and be different?
    Also i think its sad to that men are "supposed" to be very skinny and still have big abs and stuff. Girls like to see some pice of an good ass too on men haha ;)

    Okay, i hope you haven't understand me wrong, im not so good in spelling and writtening in english, but i just felt to comment something ^^


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