In this day and age we are surrounded by the media, and thus images of what is often considered the ‘perfect’ body. Although it is certainly no bad thing to want to look after your body and achieve great things in sport, in some cases it can turn into something more of an obsession. Getting the balance between obsession and what is healthy can be difficult, but ultimately comes down to personal lifestyle.
With the emergence of trendy spin classes like “Psycle” and certain spas dedicated to just detox, it can be hard not to get swept up in the whirlwind in the fad of “healthy living.” What we eat and how we work out at the gym is posted all over Instagram, influencing people’s opinions of what would seem to be the perfect lifestyle. By 2010, social media had emphasized the importance of the “thigh gap” and “bikini bridge”- potentially unhealthy and dangerous body trends that may well have stemmed from the desire to achieve an image like that of Cara Delevingne.
Anne Robinson, in her show Britain’s Body Image Secrets explores the lives of those either obsessed with or disinterested in body image and their appearance. Robinson first visits the home of Lonan and his girlfriend, both gym/workout fanatics and ‘up and coming’ models. Lonan constantly uploads images to his Instagram pages, showcasing his next to perfect body and rigorous workout techniques. He currently has 130,000 followers, which is quite a large sphere of influence. Yet even though Loanan looks incredible, his lifestyle might seem a bit meticulous and dull to others. Loanan eats dinner everyday at six, a bland meal of fish and broccoli, goes to bed by ten, and wakes up again at 7 to start his day over again. Robinson even goes so far as to say that the life Lonan leads seems to be a “completely joyless existence.”
Yet there are those who are comfortable in their own skin, literally. Isolated and indifferent to some of society’s infatuation for the perfect nose, or perfect abs, exhibitionists and naturists seem much more comfortable to have their own take on the latest trends – namely by not adhering to them. Naturists oppose the conventional cultural norm, spending their days naked in public or private. It continues to remain a controversial subject. Although it may seem inappropriate to some, for exhibitionists, it’s a completely normal and extremely comfortable lifestyle. You might even argue that being in an environment where people are naked evokes no competition surrounding appearance because everyone just looks alike. When you’re naked, perhaps you’re more likely to become comfortable just as you are. Being nude might involve an element of self confidence.
It’s no surprise that society has been constantly updating the ideal body image of men and women since the 1800’s. The “Gibson Girls” depicted in the paintings of Charles Dana Gibson, had thin waists, large breasts and round shoulders. By the 1940s and 50s “pin-up girls” became the desired body image – women like Marilyn Monroe, who were curvy and big-boned. Some people believe that by today’s standards, women should be “twig skinny,” while men should have impeccable muscles. However, looks are constantly changing – what is in vogue today is likely to change by next month, thus making it impossible to fulfill all the requirements of society’s ideal body.
Faced with the two opposing extremes of obsession with one’s appearance and complete disregard for it, it can be hard to strike a balance, especially when bombarded with the pressures of social media. It’s not difficult to change your appearance, but learning to accept it? This is where the challenge lies.