Updated: Sep 14, 2020
By Tunmise Alabi
Tyra Parker via Voices of Gen-Z
My arms are too fat, my stomach isn’t flat enough, my thighs are way too big. If I could just lose 5 more pounds. I think I can do 10, actually, 15 and I will look completely different! You know what? Let me lose 20 pounds just to be on the safe side.
At one point in our lives, we have all questioned our weight and with it, our self-worth. What are the origins of this fallacy that our self worth is intertwined with our weight? Why do we constantly compare ourselves to people we don’t even know? How did we learn such a toxic trait? The short answer: exposure. The majority of Gen Z grew up exposed to revolutionary technology from a young age and as a result, joined social media at a crucial time in our mental development. Due to this, we have become attached to comparing our livelihoods to the picturesque lives of influencers that overpower social media — this including our physiques. According to King University, “87% of women and 65% of men compare their bodies to the images they consume on social media” and do so unfavorably. It is not a secret that influencers edit photos to look their best, but when we compare ourselves to these photos, we are comparing an unrealistic image of a person on the internet to our real bodies we see first hand.
Social media has increased the number of people we interact with, allowing us to consume more unrealistic standards to compare ourselves to. Aside from social media, traditional media — such as TV shows — is also key in perpetuating unhealthy ideas of what an acceptable body should look like. Shows like My 600-Lb Life, The Biggest Loser, and Khloé Kardashian’s Revenge Body are all examples of pop culture glorifying fast and drastic weight loss.
Episodes of the TV show My 600-Lb Life feature someone who weighs 600 pounds or more and follows them for a year on their journey to drop weight and start a healthy lifestyle. In theory, the show is fine, but it becomes problematic when the show’s participants are shown as undesirable and that being fat, in any way, is inherently unattractive. Though the point of the show is to promote a healthy lifestyle, it primarily succeeds in exploiting the struggles of overweight people for money. This show has serious health implications because it shows a year’s worth of weight loss in a short period of time, thus successfully perpetuating the glorification of quick weight loss.
Furthermore, Revenge Body with Khloé Kardashian focuses on two people who are supplied with personal trainers and stylists so they could have a “major transformation. The medical concerns of this show are straightforward: it shows the after image as more desirable than the before. This may not seem like a big deal, but when a TV show glorifies a specific body shape and or weight, it is saying “this body type is attractive and ideal, and this is not”. Both of these TV shows, My 600-Lb Life and Revenge Body With Khloé Kardashian, aim to make people aware of the dangers that stem from obesity but also bully their viewers into being hyper-aware of the food they eat and their current weight. To achieve the stereotypical “ideal” body type, many people turn to quick-fix diets that promise loads of weight loss in less than a month.
With bodyweight and physical appearance being thrown at us in every aspect of our lives, it has become a trend to look a certain way. Suddenly, high school kids are focused on having the slim-thick model body type that was made popular by influencers such as the Kardashian-Jenner family and others. It is also worth mentioning that this body type is usually achieved through unhealthy habits and/or plastic surgery.
The concern of some members of Gen Z is now having an Instagram model body type and not being healthy. Though we subconsciously know that the slim-thick body type is near impossible, the hope that we can grow to be a part of the “skinny class” pushes us to try to achieve it anyway. Our diets always end in disappointment because we have fallen for yet another blatant lie.
So how can we break the cycle of exposure, low self-esteem, and the feeling of failure? How can we, as a generation, aim to destroy such harmful standards? A good first step is to assess the reasons we want to begin the weight loss process in the first place. The goal should be getting healthy and not just losing weight. Focusing on how we want to physically feel is more important than how we will look. It is also important to never single out what we dislike about our appearances. The next time you aren’t feeling confident remember that you would never criticize your friends and family the way you judge yourself. Be kind to yourself! Don’t point out large thighs, those are the muscles that let you play soccer with your team, or just dance with your friends. The body you’re poking at with a disapproving eye is the body that lets you live your life, interact with your best friends, and do what you love to do the most, whatever that may be. Don’t punish yourself for the body you were born with, love it, take care of it, and screw the things that want you to change for their profit.
Written by writer Tunmise Alabi