I am absolutely astonished at the number of women who hate their bodies. Notice I said “women”, not girls, not teenagers, but full-grown women. I have come to realize there is an epidemic of low self-esteem among females in this country. When I became a personal trainer, I unjustly assumed that the need to bolster body image would be reserved for those in their teens and early-twenties. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While I knew that eating disorders and low self-esteem could occur at any age, the prevalence of self-loathing and the need to compare one’s body to others was shocking.
Let’s take a look at some statistics:
- 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies1
- Women who view more media (social media, magazines, television, movies) are more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies1
- 71% of women over 50 are trying to lose weight2
- 84% of women over 50 dislike their mid-sections2
- 79% of women over 50 believe that their figure plays a key role in self-perception2
- 80% of 10 year-old girls have dieted3
- Almost 25% of girls aged 15-17 would consider plastic surgery3
- 80% of 10 year-olds are afraid of becoming overweight3
- 45% of healthy-weight women believe they are overweight4
- 20% of underweight women believe they are overweight4
- 2% of women believe they are beautiful5
These statistics leave me deeply saddened and frustrated. They are not only facts on paper. I have witnessed, firsthand, the accuracy of these research findings.
I’m not frustrated with YOU, I’m frustrated with US. I, too, find myself comparing my body to others, particularly those in the fitness industry. There are times when I think about filming a video, but conclude that my body doesn’t look lean or strong enough. Furthermore, like most women, I can name my top five flaws at the drop of a hat… “I’m pale, I’m not curvy, I have acne, I’m flat-chested, I have stretch marks…”
Here’s the thing: the aforementioned attributes are only “flaws” because society tells us they are. We all have things that make us less than “perfect”. Society’s definition of perfection is imaginary; it is in the eye of the beholder. In reality, we’re all perfect. We are made in God’s image. Think about who you would choose as the world’s most beautiful woman. Guess what? We probably all said someone different!
When you find yourself being critical of your looks, remember these facts:
- Airbrushing is everywhere, even on social media. Ever heard of Facetune? You can basically turn yourself into a Pixar character without anyone knowing.
- Most women in the media have spent hours in hair and makeup. Prior to walking the red carpet or attending a big event, it is likely they have been on a restrictive diet to flush out bloat.
- The same goes for girls in fitness magazines/videos. While they undoubtedly have beautiful figures, they probably stuck to an extra-restrictive diet and intense exercise program for at least a week prior to filming. They’ll also probably treat themselves to dessert afterwards, just like the rest of us!
- Women all have something to hide. For example, Jillian Michaels has been very forthright in disclosing that she doesn’t like her butt and cellulite. However, she is pleased with her upper body. Take a look at her workout videos. She’s always wearing shaping capris and a sports bra to highlight her best features and reduce her “flaws”.
- We all have to carry fat somewhere, and we carry it differently depending on hormone balance and genetics. Women need at LEAST 13% body fat to maintain healthy menstruation.6 Check out this chart to compare the recommendations for male and female body fat percentage: http://www.shapeup.org/bfl/basics1.html. You’ll also notice that women require a higher body fat percentage as they age. This allows for reserves in case of illness.
- If you’ve had a baby, pregnancy has likely changed your body in some way. This is a beautiful thing.
Instead of criticizing ourselves, let’s be thankful for these incredible vessels that allow us to live our lives. Let’s focus on our health; eating well and exercising because we love our bodies, not because we hate them. Our body is our most precious possession, and it is truly a masterpiece.
“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” –Psalm 139:14
- 11 facts about body image. DoSomething.org Website. https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-body-image. Accessed October 5, 2015.
- McConville S. Middle aged women and body image. Eating Disorder Hope Website.http://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/treatment-for-eating-disorders/special-issues/older-women/body-image. Updated June 5, 2014. Accessed October 5, 2015.
- Statistics on body image, self esteem & parental influence. Heart of Leadership Website.http://www.heartofleadership.org/statistics-on-body-image-self-esteem-parental-influence/. Accessed October 5, 2015.
- Body image and diets. Better Health Channel Website.http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Body_image_and_diets?open. Reviewed April 2013. Accessed October 5, 2015,
- The facts. Confidence Coalition Website. http://www.confidencecoalition.org/assets/1442/8-2-13_facts_on_cc_2013.pdf?1377879930152. Accessed October 5, 2015.
- Everything you want to know about body fat. Shape up America! Website. http://www.shapeup.org/bfl/basics1.html. Accessed October 5, 2015.