Josh Bowen: Body Image

bowenLast night I had the pleasure of seeing my little brother tie the knot with his beautiful bride. These are moments that you never forget and no matter how “tough” you are, will always bring a smile to your face. These are the times in life you just need to “smell the roses” so to speak to enjoy the moment and live in the moment. A great feeling from yesterday, for sure. Now onto the task at hand..

I was in an airport recently and I went to the magazine stand to look for some reading material. There were dozens of different magazines covering subject’s matters from money to parenting to exercise. However, I started to see a trend that did not set well with me. It seemed like every magazine cover was obsessed with physical characteristics highlighted by “Ripped Abs in 30 days” “Lose 30 LBS without Dieting” or my favorite, “Reduce Your Belly Fat by Eating this Fruit.” If that isn’t bad enough, the covers of these magazines make things worse. On the “Muscle Mags” you have an Incredible Hulk like figure with muscles in places most people don’t have places. On the other side of the coin the magazines aimed at women have relatively thin, almost emaciated cover models. What is going on here? What is the “media” trying to tell our society?

Now, I have no issue with the people on the covers of these magazines, they are in great shape (in most cases) and it’s their job to look like that. I myself have trained; physique athletes, a Miss America contestant and other “body conscious” athletes. I have no issue in competing in something that judges your body in some way. What I do have issue with is the projected image of what is beautiful and in shape. It is unrealistic for the average person that picks up one of these magazines and expects to look like these people. Most of these individuals have been athletes all their life, have put in the hard work to look the way they do and have a great genetic profile. Should that stop them from trying? No! But should it convince them that because they saw this on a magazine cover that they are inadequate if they don’t look this way? Our society’s opinion on what is acceptable, beautiful and realistic is warped.

I am by no means a small man; I am 5’11 and 200 lbs with relatively low body fat. By most standards, I am a bodybuilder (I do not compete). I was blessed with somewhat decent genetics but how can I expect to look like these individuals in these magazines? I cannot. This public opinion has caused people to go on a quest of something unrealistic and causing people to forget about what’s important; overall physical and mental health. Our self-image has become distorted because of what we see and what has been projected as acceptable. This happens to both women and men. Referring to women, it is unhealthy to look like a stick and have no muscle tone. Quite frankly it is more attractive to have muscles and maybe, just maybe a little body fat. This is just my opinion.

The reality of it is its OK to have a little body fat and have a little extra weight to lose. I cannot tell you how many times a client has brought in a picture of a Victoria’s Secret model and said, “I want to look like this.” My reply is, “No you don’t.” The perception of what is attractive and what is beautiful is altered by what we are shown everyday. We have a generation of young girls striving to be “skinny” and an age group of young boys wanting to be the largest my ripped person on earth. This is not healthy.

My conclusion is this; I am not attacking exercise related magazines, model related ads. movies with buffed up actors or actresses or the individuals in them. They work hard for their bodies but to expect to look like them for most people is unrealistic, de-motivating and in some cases doesn’t look good anyway. So from me to you, love who you are, continue to work out hard and use good nutritional tactics. Keep working towards your goals but don’t be discouraged by these “perfect” cover models. Love who you are, continue to challenge yourself and love your body.

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