At what age do we begin to compare our bodies to those of others? When do we begin to realize that our body may not look exactly like someone we see on television or in a movie? Thirteen, eleven or maybe even as young as nine? According to the Huffington Post, a new survey conducted by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years reveals that children as young as three have exhibited body image issues.
Toddlers have been reported calling themselves, as well as other children, fat. Close to 20 percent of childcare providers in the study said that they have see children reject food because they believe it will make them fat. These findings may be upsetting, but they come at no surprise. The way we view our bodies has very deep and dark roots in the structure of our society.
Media consumption is embedded into Western culture. Television, films, music and the Internet constantly feed to us the most acceptable way to look — a mold that, when not followed exactly, results in social scrutiny that can last a lifetime. As children become older and reach their adolescent years, they gain access to social media, which manifests social comparison. Years before that, children have access to television and story books, both of which often lack body diversity and promote the princess and superhero body type.
Once we reach college, our obsession with obtaining a perfect body has already made us ill. Although our collegiate years should be a time for us to develop in good health, unhealthy habits are trending across college campuses. According to Newsweek, a trend has developed in which students attempt not to consume many calories during the day so they can make room for caloric alcoholic beverages.
Results derived from the Benenden National Health Report 2016 also found that 41 percent of college aged students only eat well to improve how they look, not to benefit their actual health. According to sophomore political science major Kaisara Walton, it is very easy to limit what you consume because of the pressure to be thin, even though you may not be completely nourishing your body. Walton explains that social comparison is a big motivation to stay fit and and she describes the road to body acceptance as a “day to day journey.”
The Fitwell Center and Student Psychological Services (SPS) hold events for Body Image Awareness Month in February. Last year, informative and productive sessions worked on educating our student population as well as finding solutions to self esteem issues. SPS also offers a Body Beautiful group for women to “explore sources of negative body image” and “find ways to break the body shame cycle.”
It is very difficult to combat the unrealistic standard that is ingrained into us as early as the age of three. Nutritional education and outreach programs for those who have or are developing disordered eating or exercise habits are essential on every college campus. LMU has done a good job in providing services, but shifting the culture within the student population is going to take a little more work. Facilitating a weekly discussion about these issues that is accessible to everyone could help break down body insecurities. If we are constantly exposed to unhealthy expectations, we can combat that with constant exposure to healthy ways to love our bodies.
This is the opinion of Vinkya Hunter, a sophomore communication studies major from Oakland, California. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.