The Inaccessible Images of Health


As I’m sure you can imagine, I use a lot of social media applications for my research into nutrition, health, and wellness related topics.  Two that I use most often are Pinterest and Flipboard because they allow me to identify my interests and then they aggregate stories – either from Pinterest or from the Internet – that have been tagged with my interests.  Saves me a ton of time as I don’t have to go OUT to the internet to seek articles and posts individually.

Neither of these apps are responsible for the content (aside from their efforts to ensure spam, hateful, pornographic images, etc. don’t proliferate) and so when I voice a dismayed opinion about what I have been noticing in the articles that are coming my way, I do not mean to imply in ANY WAY that this is the fault of either app, or any app that is used for this purpose.

But what I have been noticing is sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle, but is always insidious.

Of course, where there is money to be made, the commercialization of any movement is predictable these days.  What I find unfortunate is that, in the commercialization of Health, companies, bloggers, and other individuals or entities have fallen back to using the woman’s body (Note: YES, they use men’s bodies in their commercialization too, but I think the messages can be very different. I’m going to focus on how they use a woman’s body because it’s what I can relate to) in its ‘most perfect form‘ to intimidate, guilt, or shame women into buying\using their products.  Apparently with little effort, we can have GIANT round firm bums, perky firm breasts, teensy waists, fat-free sculpted arms and shoulders (coughbullshitcough).  I was going to make some comparison to the Goddess Aphrodite, but all paintings and sculptures of Aphrodite portray a fairly rounded body with, GASP, a fat pocket on her belly and soft, impressive thighs. So The New Goddess is to be worshipped which, for the MAJORITY of us is an inaccessible image when contemplating our own current level, and desired level of health and fitness. This can make a lot of people walk away from working on their true health before they’ve even started – not just because of the unattainable images, but because every gimmick they’ve bought into has never, ever worked.

Where the majority of North American (I cannot speak for European or other parts of the world) women have been punched in the face with ‘the ideal physical appearance to even be considered attractive’ images and messages our ENTIRE lives, it takes a super strong and self assured female to come out the other side unscathed. Indeed, even if we know the messages are bunk, we still have to fight our own negative self-talk almost daily. This SUCKS. What SUCKS MORE?  The fact that beauty/worthiness and HEALTH are now being tied up together into one big bow. STRONG is the NEW SEXY! Well, I hope so.  But define strong….. According to Commercialized Health, the following awesome specimen is “Strong” and nothing less will suffice:

Don't get me wrong, she is muscular. But is she Healthy?

Don’t get me wrong, she is muscular. But is she Healthy?

Thus manifests my ultimate dismay: when I seek out information on becoming HEALTHIER rather than more aesthetically beautiful or desirable (or muscular), naively expecting to be DROWNING in messages about doing the best I can, or realistic goal setting and plans to achieve them, and how all these healthy and smart efforts will support my body AND self-esteem in positive ways, I am instead bombarded with messages like the following:

You know - because your boobs are saggy...and that's bad.

You know – because your boobs are saggy…and that’s bad.

Because, hot damn, BELLY FAT is not SEXY. (BTW, I think everyone knows you can't target fat loss, but this image does leave a niggling impression, doesn't it?)

Because, hot damn, BELLY FAT is not SEXY. (BTW, I think everyone knows you can’t target fat loss, but this image does leave a niggling impression, doesn’t it?)

MIRACULOUSLY get an 18 inch waist like a 10 year old....everything else is gross.

MIRACULOUSLY get an 18 inch waist like a 10 year old….everything else is gross.

You know...because chicken wings are for chickens....

You know…because chicken wings are for chickens….

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are also complete articles on how you must be a complete ignoramus if you eat certain things like GMO, meat, store bought salad dressing, non-organic fruits and veg.  Not that laying off excessive meat or meat entirely, or learning how to make your own sugar free salad dressings AREN’T healthier, it’s the SHAME being used to influence people’s choices that is manipulative.

Genres aren’t immune either. What starts out as a true intention to offer healthier (for you and the planet) alternatives to the current fast-food, or convenience food ways of eating gets in the hands of a zealot or ‘business’ and suddenly you are are again deemed a total twat for willfully ignoring their benefits.  From Raw, Vegan, Paleo, and the Supplement crowd, they all have their High Throne and if you aren’t trying to attain it, you’re failing. Try harder, do more, read more, buy more, because what you’re doing isn’t good enough. Never mind that you’re trying in the first place and have made some improvements for your Health.  It isn’t good enough.  That is their message to us and that means they are BIG JERKS!

So ignore it, right?  Find what’s right for you and find like minded people and pay attention to your own journey to attain your happiest health.  Right. But it can be a struggle for some.  Such a struggle for some that there has been a growth in the occurrences of Orthorexia.  As detailed in the mind boggling article below, this eating disorder impacts a person by making it impossible for them to eat anything that they perceive to be unhealthy. It’s the extreme of ‘knowledge is wisdom’, rather than accepting moderation as being part of an acceptable plan or choice.  In the onslaught of information that we can receive today, some of it from under researched and disreputable (but for some reason very popular) sources   (see my post of April, 2015 ), eliminating all food that has been labelled ‘unhealthy’ leaves a person with very little to eat!  What also struck me by the story being told is that the case study subject had her behaviour reinforced by people who told her she looked good when she was severely under-weight.

Article:  Orthorexia, When Healthy Eating Turns Against You.

Now I have to ask all of you, is keeping our heads down and focusing only on our self-improvement always enough? If it’s the best that we can do for the moment (because getting into new habits and working hard at it can take all of our focus) then OK.  But some small changes we can make would be to critically assess our goals or, more importantly, why we set them.  Did we set them to become our healthiest self, or because we (as women AND men) feel a pressure to attain a physical ideal to even be considered as a worthy person or attractive person?  If it’s the latter, then reassess.  Your goals will probably be attainable if you do.

We can also critically assess what we share on social media, and also assess what we read before we even OPEN the article. In short:  Boycott the unhealthy, subliminally insidious messaging that punches you in the face.  If it messes with your self esteem on ANY LEVEL – ignore it AND never, ever share it.  You never know how deep a negative impact those messages could have on others.  We, as a collective, can say “No More.  Screw that.” and make the message loud and clear: we know Health is for Health’s Sake.  Health is to be improved to SUPPORT US, not tear us down.  HEALTH is ENOUGH. Some of us will get 6 pack Abs out of the journey, some of us won’t, but because we are all focusing on what is healthy, we are all awesome.

Thanks for reading. Hug your health, fitness, and wellness coach today!

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