Fat and Fit
Results of a 12-year study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that while being overweight alone shortened people’s lives, subjects who were fat and fit (that is, did 30 minutes of walking most days) were at no greater risk of dying. Other studies have shown that a slender, inactive person is twice as likely to die as an overweight active person.
So we can be fat, fit and fabulous. The problem is that thin is the new beautiful, and being beautiful has always been prized. Research shows that attractive people are regarded by others as possessing desirable qualities such as intelligence, confidence, social skills and superior moral virtue. The notion that “to be beautiful is to be blessed” is hard-wired into our DNA.
It’s unlikely that our obsession with “beauty” is going to abate any time soon, but there are signs of a shift in attitude, and advertising and media are driving it.
Already, television has sniffed out a prevailing trend and jumped on it. The TV series Ugly Betty puts an average girl in the office of a fashion magazine and shows that if thin is the new beautiful, then real is the new fabulous. Ordinary women also star in Carson Kressley’s series How to Look Good Naked, a surprisingly touching and inspiring show that sees the flamboyant style-master teach women how to “accept, embrace and accentuate” what they see in the mirror.
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, featuring women of all shapes, sizes and ages, has also struck a chord. “It started when someone in the global team was flicking through a magazine and thought the images of perfect women were inspirational, but unachievable,” says Candice Fernandez, a Dove marketing manager for skincare. The first campaign for firming body products, “featuring fabulous, real women in their underwear,” was clever branding, and a refreshing change.
Body image experts say international ad campaigns such as Dove’s are helping to level the playing field, but many of them remain unconvinced it’s enough to change entrenched values.
“We need more individual approaches,” says Tiggemann, “such as teaching young girls strong media literacy; education about advertising; and instilling self-esteem through something other than looks—such as sports, music, academic achievements, or being kind.”
It’s a goal worth pursuing.
Imagine a day when every woman on your bus is smiling because she got up feeling great about herself regardless of her dress size.
Today the bus. Tomorrow the world!
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