Dieting and working out have been popular in America ever since food (and the sneaky calories that come with it) has been in excess for the average person. Dieting is a sticky trend dating back at least 150 years. While the quest for a quick and frankly unattainable fix has not changed, what has changed is the nature of our dieting/exercise goals. Look back on diet ads from the ‘50s and ‘60s and you’ll see a fairly even mix of promises to make users slimmer or curvier. While diets to gain weight might be surprising now, what is even more noteworthy are the old ads’ holistic claims. Whether advertising for a slimming or a filling effect, there is very little emphasis on body part-specific results. Rather, users were promised a generally skinnier or curvier figure – period. In a modern era in which the “desirably curvy” woman still has abs and lacks cellulite and the desirably slim woman still has large breasts and glutes, one might wonder – how did we get here?
Although much more is now known about the human body and health, weight loss-related or not, our expectations for form are becoming increasingly unattainable. In response to a calorie cut, our bodies, much more in line with the promises of weight-loss ads from the mid-twentieth century, will respond holistically. In all likelihood, fat will be lost from the entire body, including the less-desired glutes and breasts. Similarly, a quest for more curves to round out that new bodycon dress will likely also result in a softer stomach. While this seems like a common-sense concept, it is one that we as young people easily forget.
So, how did we get here? Is it our own fault? Perhaps we are not entirely the ones to blame when the real culprits are naught but our eyes. How often have you wanted an item without seeing someone else who had it? How much would you want defined abs if you had never seen anything but a one-pack? How much would you want your glutes to pop if tight garments were not available to show them off? The powerful modern combination of more revealing fashion, the will to post photos on socials and the amazing ability to photoshop, zoom in and filter has hypnotized our eyes, and ourselves as a result, into a trance of unrealistic expectations.
Although covering up would very effectively solve the problem, this article is certainly not a call to start dusting off the housedresses and sensible footwear. A picture is worth a thousand words, all of which are in your head and most of which can easily be negative, jealous or self-deprecating. If you can relate, it’s time to break out of the trance. Photos do possess the power to set unrealistic expectations, which are often not even met by the real-life subjects of the photos. Instead of willing your body to fit a mold, recognize that your negativity would be absent if not for the sight of that mold. Turn your gaze inward instead. The lens through which you see yourself when your real eyes are closed – that’s the one that matters.