As I age, I’m keenly aware of my facial lines and wrinkles. I’m the perfect candidate for the mommy makeover; a procedure that involves breast augmentation and a variety of other surgeries to give back my pre-pregnancy body.[i] Everyone else is doing it. I’m constantly hearing about moms from the local elementary school filling the nearby plastic surgeons office as if it were the neighborhood Starbucks. Botox, tummy tucks, breast augmentation are all gaining popularity and changing the look of our culture.
I thought the incessant focus on our bodies ended before we graduated from college. I already spent five years of my life with an eating disorder; why would I want to replay that episode some 20 years later. For at least a year I ate steamed white rice and one apple a day. My food restriction and excessive exercise became my routine. I weighed a mere 87 pounds and due to my health, barely kept a tennis scholarship at a division I school. Self-centered, self-hatred, self-destructive behaviors all related to trying to achieve the perfect body. In those days I found control through the dis-ease. In a strange sort of parallel that same control could be attained today with aesthetic plastic surgery. Why now is it becoming socially acceptable and necessary to achieve the perfect body or face through cosmetic surgery?
I’m saddened that women feel the need to alter their real body or simply choose to hate their body. I've seen firsthand the devastating effects of body image dissatisfaction as I watched my younger sister struggle with anorexia and bulimia. Her eating disorder consumed her life and eventually resulted in her death. Her daily struggle was not much different than what many women face---a constant preoccupation with the unimportant that prevents us from living authentically. During an evening out with friends, I listened to two different conversations involving women talking about their body dissatisfaction. Their disclosure revealed the depths of insecurity and malaise. In quiet desperation I searched for words of reassurance trying not to trivialize their discontent. The evening was a stark reminder that disordered eating isn’t the only sign of body dissatisfaction; the preoccupation with vanity and aesthetic plastic surgery also indicates the high level of unsatisfied women. We've been trained to believe we are deficient and only by taking control of our appearance can we become powerful, strong women.
In 2007, 11.7 million cosmetic procedures were performed.[ii] That same year, Americans spent $413.2 billion on aesthetic plastic surgery.[iii] Over the past ten years, cosmetic procedures have increased by 457%.[iv] I often wonder what kind of message we are sending to our children when we engage in this practice of outwardly expressing our body discontentment. A 2002 article in Childhood Education found that “children admire or look up to people they know and overall children most frequently (34%) named their parents as role models and heroes.”[v] Since my children are watching, it’s important for me to break that cycle of dis-ease. Studies show that a child’s body image dissatisfaction can begin as early as age six (Lowes and Tiggemann).[vi] Often times a child’s negative body image behavior is “predicted by the mother’s body dissatisfaction” (Pike and Rodin).[vii] If we continue to buy society's prescription for beauty we perpetuate negative body image and weaken women. My goal is to promote, support and endorse real bodies. I would like to affirm all those women who have made the same commitment. Together we can help the next generation feel better about their bodies than we do.
Mission of Real Body Story:
To raise awareness about the influence mothers, sisters, and peers have on body image.
To celebrate a woman's real body.
To serve others.
[i] Singer, Natasha. “Is the Mom Job Really Necessary.” New York Times on the Web 4 October 2007
[ii] The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. 8 February 2008. ASAPS
[iii] The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. 8 February 2008. ASAPS
[iv] The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. 8 February 2008. ASAPS
[v] Anderson, Kristin J, Cavallaro, Donna. “Parents or Pop Culture?: Children's heroes and role models.”
Childhood Education (Spring 2002).
[vi] Lowes, Jacinta and Marika Tiggemann. “Body dissatisfaction, dieting awareness and the impact of
parental influence in young children.” British Journal of Health Psychology. 8 (2003): 135-147
[vii] Pike, K.M.; Rodin, J. “Mothers, daughters, and disordered eating.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
100 (1991): 198-203
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