Wednesday 24 April 2019

Achievements are the measure of success, not waistlines

'Every woman I know (myself included) says they'd be happier if they could 'just lose a few pounds'. We are never happy with our bodies and it seems that men are beginning to feel dissatisfied too.'
'Every woman I know (myself included) says they'd be happier if they could 'just lose a few pounds'. We are never happy with our bodies and it seems that men are beginning to feel dissatisfied too.'
Sinead Moriarty

Sinead Moriarty

At a party I recently attended, one of the women had just returned from running three marathons back to back. Another guest had just lost two stone. Guess who got more attention?

The woman who had lost two stone was surrounded by a crowd, frantic to know how she had achieved her weight loss. Meanwhile, the incredible marathon runner sat alone.

We live in a world obsessed by body image, where people feel that if they don't look a certain way they have failed in life.

Every woman I know (myself included) says they'd be happier if they could 'just lose a few pounds'. We are never happy with our bodies and it seems that men are beginning to feel dissatisfied too.

While women look at supermodels and wish for bodies they can never achieve, men are now looking at male models, like David Gandy, modelling snugly fitting underwear that would barely fit a two-year-old, and feeling equally despondent. But poor body image doesn't just lower your mood on a Saturday night when you can't fit into your clothes, it also effects other areas of your life.

A new UK study has shown that one in four women feel that their negative body image has held them back from having a fulfilling relationship.

A quarter of women surveyed also believe that feeling negative about their appearance stopped them from going for a job they wanted.

Just as changing rooms around the world are full of women in tears because they don't like what they see in the mirror, so too are interview rooms.

Why can't women feel better about themselves?

The main reason is that being thin has always been associated with success - fat equals failure. Add that to the bombardment of airbrushed magazine covers and size zero celebrities and watch how 'normal' women's self-esteem plummets.

We are also constantly being faced with advertising for slimming products promising us a better, happier life if we lose weight.

In 2013, the US Weight Loss Market was valued at a staggering $60.5bn - there are a lot of people who are desperate to lose weight and willing to pay any amount to achieve it.

The new study also found that 36pc of 25 to 34-year-old women avoid exercise because they feel insecure about the way they look. They don't want to put on togs to go swimming or go to an exercise class with other, thinner women.

As bad as it is for adults, there is even more pressure on children today because they don't have any control over their image. Anyone can take a photo of them and post it online.

In the Dail na nOg Body Image Survey, almost half of the 10 to 21-year-olds surveyed said that their body image interfered with their participation in activities like swimming, dating and putting up photos on Facebook.

While girls want to be thinner, boys want to be more muscular and both sexes suffer from negative body images when they don't achieve these goals.

The boys surveyed said that bullying was the most negative influence on their body image, while with girls, it was the comparison with others that upset them the most. Psychologists advise that parents never speak negatively about their own bodies and try not to comment on how other people look in front of their children.

But even the most careful parent is going to have a day when they mention feeling fat or talk about wanting to 'lose a few pounds'.

However, we must try harder as studies are showing that children of parents who often make critical remarks about their own bodies, or those of others, tend to end up being very critical of themselves.

Body image is a very serious issue and a negative body image can be dangerous and end up having serious consequences, especially among the young.

Teenagers are fragile enough without having to worry about bullying or being negatively compared with others. Low confidence can affect every aspect of our lives. A negative body image can lead to unhappiness and depression.

We need to teach children - and indeed ourselves - to focus on the positive aspects of life. We must look at what we have achieved as opposed to what we weigh on the scales.

We should measure success by actual accomplishments not by the size of our waistline.

Hopefully, at future parties, the woman who ran all the marathons will be the one surrounded by people asking questions and taking notes.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss