There is way too much pressure on women to be thin, says our columnist, who believes social media, for all its wonderful aspects, is having a negative effect, causing ‘an awful lot of anxiety for many, especially our susceptible, highly impressionable young adolescents’…
In the materialistic, image-obsessed world we live in, there are so many negative impulses and influences on us to have the body beautiful – especially for us women, so it’s vital we listen to the important messages our bodies are sending us. I mean, it may seem obvious but I’m going to say it anyway…we should respond to our natural urges to eat when hungry and to stop when full. Simple isn’t it!
However, sometimes, there is an overwhelming pressure to judge and compare ourselves to others. This begins when a slow desperation creeps in and, very often it becomes impossible to conquer. This desperation is all about insecurity, survival and the will to control our own destiny. How do I know? Been there, done that! This desperation can even lead to destructive impulses; the type that are felt by every person who has suffered from the debilitating and chronic effects of the illnesses known as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa; ailments that are becoming far more common, but, popular to what sufferers believe, do NOT, in any shape or form, create the body beautiful. In fact they destroy it!
I thought I’d address this issue in light of last week’s appalling headlines surrounding Zara Tindall (Britain’s Princess Anne’s daughter) who was lambasted by unkind critics for turning up at that over-hyped and highly privileged pomp fest Royal Ascot displaying what critics are calling a ‘mum tum.’ Now while I feel no solidarity whatsoever with the British Royal family I do feel so sorry for this young woman who was forced to defend herself, even rebutting rumours that she was ‘pregnant,’ just because her hip bones don’t protrude far enough to set off airline security scanners.
It’s my opinion there is way too much pressure on women to be thin and this fact was highlighted earlier this month when the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland Bodywhys said they saw a 50 per cent increase in the number of people contacting their services last year for help.
Now, for me, this would be a cause for concern because it’s my belief that anorexia and bulimia can strike anyone at any time; however, many sufferers will never admit to falling prey to this heartbreaking disorder because they’re afraid of its implications. Due to this, I would advise that the most important thing for those who are suffering is to understand that they’re not alone and to remember that as they are vibrant, valuable members of society; are daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, husbands, brothers mums and dads; people will understand and will want to help.
I don’t have any medical training but research has led me to believe that in most cases of eating disorders, the sufferer has previously undergone difficult life experiences such as bullying or has possibly been through the untimely death of a loved one. These experiences are nearly always accompanied by feelings of depression and/or a compulsive obsessive disorder which is likely to be a contributing factor.
I also understand the myth that anorexia sufferers hate their food is just that…a myth. Sufferers actually like their food but their bodies are the one thing they can have complete control over meaning their bodies and food become the enemy. As I said, just my understanding.
There’s hardly a day goes by that my Facebook page isn’t showered with images shared by friends of some photo-shopped, perfect, fabulous, flawless yet impossibly skinny model which surely must cause psychological and negative effects to many women. I know I feel distinctly dowdy, frumpy, ugly and old when I see them. And last week when I was uploading a group photo onto Facebook one of the women in it warned me – now didn’t ask me mind, she warned me – not to attempt to tag her in it unless I’d first ‘instagrammed’ her!
Yes she’s become all kinds of obsessed with Instagram and has, along with my two daughters become part of its reported 300 million active monthly users. This meant contouring her jawline, widening and brightening her eyes, making her lips look fuller, altering her skin tone and doing God knows what else rendering her totally unrecognisable to the beautiful woman she actually is.
“Seriously?” I asked; “sure if you want to look like that love, we’ll need a Genie in the camera not a filter system,” but hey, given what happened to poor, put-upon Royal, Zara Tindall when some happy snapper caught her belly at a bad angle; I suppose my friend had a point and as I’m one of the few people who do not subscribe to Instagram…no, what ya see is what ya get with me; I had to bow to her wishes and didn’t upload the pic.
But look readers, it’s no secret that the big bad world of social media, wonderful though it is, and much as I love and embrace it, has actually caused an awful lot of anxiety for many, especially our susceptible, highly impressionable young adolescents; becoming a dominant, mostly positive but often negative force in their everyday lives with some allocating way too much time and putting way too much relevance on image-related activities in their desperate bid to self-objectify and reach their so-called perfect idyll.
We would do well to take a leaf out of the unperturbed Zara Tindall’s book when she replied to those unkind harpies following the circulation of her unflattering photos, dismissing them with “I’m just a normal girl.” Er, “Normal Girl” with millions in the bank sweetie. But nonetheless she’s a girlie who oozes self-belief and self-esteem and I for one, tip my tiara to her.
* For more information/help on eating disorders log onto www.bodywhys.ie or PH: 1890 200 444 or 01-2834963