How Unrealistic Beauty Standards & an Impossible Physical Ideal Affect Us

Megan Smith
 min read

The implication of unrealistic beauty standards thrust upon us is widespread.

How Unrealistic Beauty Standards & an Impossible Physical Ideal Affect UsThe society in which we live has imposed beauty standards on us, and many people try to achieve this “physical” perfection.

As a whole, we are besieged every day by unrealistic beauty standards and the impossible physical ideal affects us in our everyday life without us knowing. It often leads people to go to extremes, such as excessive plastic surgery and illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia.

Effects of unrealistic beauty standards: Introduction

Whether on television, in the movies, or especially on social networks, we are increasingly confronted with beauty canons that can question our physique.

These socially created perfections lead us to adopt tactics such as wearing black or very baggy clothes when we feel our bodies are too big.

From then on, we think our appearance and the way we present ourselves will condition our relationship with others.

Because of a lack of courage or fear of repeated failure (for example, after several diets), we tend to settle for a few clothing adjustments to give others an image that is considered “fair.”

We will also deny ourselves certain behaviors or pleasures, generating a feeling of frustration. However, the fear of being excluded or rejected from a group is an even stronger feeling.

In this article, we will discover the different techniques that push us to reach this impossible physical ideal.

Repeatedly going on diets

If we want to look like those magazine models, we think going on a diet is “THE” solution to feeling good about our bodies!

Even if you are not a fan of dieting, the media will remind you regularly.

It will start right after the holidays when we tend to go overboard on food and drinks. In fact, as early as January, women’s magazines begin showcasing the latest diet fads.

Then, in the spring, here we go again: we think we have found an infallible method to lose those extra pounds before the summer and have a dream body on the beach.

In addition, the press will also begin to present more and more slimming products.

There are currently thousands of diets, each more proven than the other. The calorie-counting diet, keto, intermittent fasting, etc.

In short, there is a wide range of methods to lose weight, and diet addicts try everything.

In addition, the arrival of meal replacements has become a real financial windfall, and the diet industry is doing wonderfully!

However, the expected results when you go on a diet are not always there. Indeed, when the lost pounds come back, it is often difficult to live with your new image.

And when the pounds are gone, it is necessary to tackle the withered and aging body.

Repeatedly undergoing cosmetic surgery

To achieve the ideal physical appearance, some people resort to plastic surgery such as abdominal liposuction for example.

The most requested operations are breast surgery, rhinoplasty, and hair transplants.

Of course, the purpose of these surgeries is not to repair a deformity or to respond to pathology but to bring a sense of well-being and, often, to relieve a complex: a physical characteristic judged unsightly that can prevent someone from living well.

In addition to physical imperfections, age is also a factor in the use of cosmetic surgery. Indeed, the practitioner’s scalpel will be called upon to erase the first wrinkles, lift drooping eyelids, or reshape a sagging face.

Seeing yourself age in the eyes of others is not easy to accept. Consequently, it seems legitimate to seek to better live this transition period towards old age by sometimes undergoing surgery.

However, it is essential to know that cosmetic surgery has taken a long time to become as established as it is today.

Indeed, before considering this type of intervention, which is now fairly standard, society first rejected the practice outright.

It was not until the end of the 18th century that we stopped blaming the divine for all the disgraces and malformations observed in men.

Under the influence of philosophers, ideas began to evolve. Modifying one’s body is no longer considered an opposition to the divine will, and it is finally possible to correct the imperfections human beings suffer from.

Much later, following World War I, surgeons would begin performing plastic and reconstructive surgery on those who had been ravaged in combat.

Some of these procedures were successful and, in some cases, are still being done today. As a result, they paved the path for today’s elective surgery.

Today, cosmetic surgery takes into account not only the body but also the mind.

The media’s influence on losing weight

Today there is an overabundance of food in westernized countries.

A slim figure and control of one’s diet and body are positive values for women, also associated with the idea of wealth.

It is often among the poorest segments of the population that obesity is most prevalent.

The special case of anorexia

Anorexia is an eating disorder of psychiatric origin (and is different from other types of eating disorders). In fact, this disease can be defined as restricting one’s diet to the point of becoming extremely thin without being aware of the obsessive nature of this condition.

Already in the Middle Ages, there were cases of anorexia; the reason for the restriction was not to conform to a canon of beauty but rather to submit ardently to a religious rule.

Today, the pathological search to lose weight is part of another context. The current intentions are often to resemble the models of thinness conveyed by the media.

So the cultural factor has changed, and doctors and patients share the same culture and codes. As a result, they can tackle anorexia together, which is referred to as “negotiating the illness.”

Beware, it is important to note that not everyone becomes anorexic!

In fact, when you start a diet that is too restrictive and lose weight too quickly, your body will secrete endorphins, natural morphine that lead to a state of well-being.

In most people, this is an escape. Still, after a few weeks, this state of well-being disappears despite continued food restrictions.

After being deprived rigorously, the organism claims its due (and even more) in anticipation of future shortages: the “yo-yo” effect.

In a person genetically predisposed to anorexia, voluntary food restriction during a diet, or involuntary as a consequence of illness, will lead to a secretion of endorphins; but this time, there is no escape.

To feel good or less bad, the person will continue to restrict himself more and more. This is why many doctors consider anorexia to be “an addiction without drugs.”

What about bulimia?

People who cannot or no longer become anorexic will look for other strategies to control their weight.

The main techniques will be induced vomiting, physical hyperactivity and laxatives.

When you start to vomit, you can eat vast amounts of food with great pleasure without gaining weight, potentially even losing it.

It is a learned behavior, and it was shown that the influence of media pressure to be skinny and thin increased the frequency of these behaviors, particularly for dancers, jockeys, or models.

What are the risks of these eating disorders?

As for anorexia, it is accompanied by the disappearance of menstruation and, therefore, a state similar to menopause.

However, this disease occurs when the bone capital is in total development.

In addition, these young women will avoid consuming dairy products, which provide calcium and fats, allowing vitamin D absorption.

The fracture risk is often significant from the age of 25 (fatigue fractures, multiple vertebral compression, etc.).

When we have nutritional deficiencies, this will have consequences on hair, skin (premature aging), and teeth.

If the weight loss is first made at the expense of the fat mass (including the brain mass), all the muscles will start to melt, including the heart muscle.

In addition, immunity will drop, and the mortality rate will be very high.

For bulimia, the risks are similar if the weight loss is very significant.

Even if this behavior helps maintain average or below-normal weight, the primary risk is death from cardiac arrest due to a lack of potassium (lost during vomiting or laxative abuse).

Due to the frequent contact with the acidic vomit fluid, the teeth also get damaged very quickly.

These two eating disorders are also socially disabling: anorexics and bulimics often refuse to go to parties or dinners for fear of being forced to eat or being unable to vomit.

For these people, food becomes their main preoccupation to the detriment of their friendship, love and professional life.

How do I find help for an eating disorder?

Apart from cases of extreme medical emergency that require hospitalization, it is first helpful to consult a specialist about the disorder and the consequences of a “cure,” which will increase the motivation to change.

Once the decision to change has been made, the therapeutic approach is most often multiple:

  • There are self-help groups
  • Specialized dietitians will help increase the caloric intake and reintroduce avoided foods
  • Analytical, behavioral, artistic or body-mediated therapies are also new therapeutic methods
  • Re-learning how to cook for yourself, etc.

Effects of unrealistic beauty standards: Conclusion

Due to the image of physical perfection conveyed by the media, some people may feel self-conscious about their bodies and resort to methods to look as good as possible and try to reach unrealistic beauty standards.

However, it is essential to remember that each person has a unique morphology and that it is possible to fall into eating disorders if we try, at all costs, to resemble super-thin models.

It is essential to accept yourself as you are, with your physical defects, and not be influenced by the beauty standards imposed by society.

About Megan Smith

Megan has been fighting overweight and her plus size since her teenage years. After trying all types of remedies without success, she started doing her own research. Megan founded Plus Size Zeal to share her findings. She also developed various detailed buying guides for plus-size people in order to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Read More