By Alexandra Raymond, RD
Throughout the years of our lives, we change. We change emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and most importantly, in the eyes of our media driven society, we change physically. But, the overall message the media sends us through their advertisements stays the same from birth to old age…. They sell us their products by claiming they will make us more attractive, and therefore happier.
As young girls, most of us are hardly concerned with what we look like. I was the type of kid who loved playing games with my friends outside. I had no worries except for the days that my neighbors weren’t around to catch fireflies with me. But, then puberty and high school came along and everything changed. At this time, friends and clothes and make-up became my first priority. I began to compare myself to other people and wanted to look just like the TV stars on my favorite shows.
Many of you probably have found yourself in similar situations throughout your life. Women’s bodies go through so many changes—puberty, pregnancy, then menopause. What the media tells us to be, stay thin and young looking and you’ll be beautiful and happy, is first of all impossible, and secondly, can really bring down our self esteem during times where our bodies experience changes. Celebrities who “lose the baby weight in two weeks” create all these unrealistic expectations for us. In fact, women are supposed to “lose the baby weight” gradually, which results in healthier outcomes. I’m surprised there’s not a reality TV show yet called “Who Can Lose the Baby Weight Fastest?!” After giving birth, new parents should spend their time getting to know their new baby and enjoying every second (because they’re they are not as cute when they are asking for money)!
Not only are post-pregnancy women targeted by the media, but older women are also victims of the advertising world’s wrath. Have you heard of “fat-talk?” Well, experts are also discovering something called “old-talk,” which, in summary, is when women talk about how old they look and feel, which negatively impact self-esteem. But, in my opinion, the older we get the more reasons we have to appreciate our bodies and all they have been through. For example, without our legs we would not be able to discover new cities by walking around, without our hands and arms we could not hold our newborn family members, without our lips we would not be able to smile at the moments that make us happy.
I myself have not yet crossed these stages in my life (I’m only 21 and not trying to rush anything!), but I definitely was not prepared for the changes that were going to happen to me during high school. Yes, I gained weight, my legs didn’t appear “long and lean” anymore, and I broke out everywhere! Magazine and TV advertisements played on my up-and-down emotions and told me to buy products to rid my stretch marks and clear my skin! Thankfully, my mother was there to reinforce the fact that I was beautiful, and my changing physical appearance didn’t change that. I learned, through much practice, how to be a critical viewer of the media and how to NOT compare myself to my peers. I learned how to embrace my body and how to have fun in it! It is true that you only live once, and life is short. Spending too much time worrying about appearances (yourself or others) just won’t make you happy. This is one important lesson I have learned in college and I hope you learned something from this blog and carry it with you throughout the stages of your life!
Blog updated September 2015.