Since the turn of the century, we have appeared to exist in a world of increasingly apparent extremes. Whether this refers to political opinion and religious belief systems, or the swelling number of underweight and overweight individuals in US society, the concept of the extreme is particularly prevalent in contemporary culture. Although it is a clear symptom of modern living and behavioral trends, there is little to suggest whether there is an inherent cause or a suitable resolution.
The issue of health and body image acts as a significant example. Statistics released by the US census suggests that less than a third of the adult population are considered to be at a healthy weight and BMI, with the remaining majority either underweight or overweight in comparison. To compound this worrying data, each problem appears to be divided by gender, with males recording 70 percent of their number either overweight or obese, and an estimated 3 percent of females underweight.
Knowledge vs Ignorance
These two very different health issues are born of entirely individual causes. Obesity is a result of ignorance, where individuals do not modify their diet or levels of exertion to match their lifestyle requirements or the accepted knowledge on the subject. In contrast, individuals who are underweight are often influenced by the media representation of body image and type, and adapt their own eating habits and trends to create a body that is more compatible with what the see.
This also explains why the issues are inherent, if not exclusive, to a particular gender. The nature of magazine publications and television advertising is decidedly visual, and uses its imagery to sell a specific product or service. Supposedly attractive female bodies are often used to sell both male and female orientated concepts, meaning that women are exposed to a diverse range of contemporaries displaying a slim and unrealistic body type. As for males, there is far less social pressure to conform to a particular body type, so obesity emerges as a consequence where an individual fails to conceive a suitable diet and exercise regime.
Confronting the Issues of Body Image
Such health issues provide different challenges to society, and one can clearly be identified as harder to solve than the other. While tackling the predominantly male problem of obesity, a simple and concise application of existing knowledge is enough to change behavior over time and cultivate far healthier attitudes to consumption and physical activity. However, tackling a culture so dominated by media and visual advertising to create a more realistic appreciation of the human form is a far more troublesome concept.
One of the main considerations is the sheer volume of imagery and branding that promotes slender and unforgiving body types. The World Wide Web is a diverse and growing resource that boasts swathes of advertising that glamorize a particular aesthetic, in addition to corroborative literature and opinion. As society becomes increasingly dependent and exposed to these resources, so too individuals ideas and conduct adapt to a perceived and accepted wisdom. This creates a plethora of teenagers and young adults who strive to obtain a body type that is in fact unhealthy and clinically underweight.
The effects are wide and potentially devastating. As the number of females in the US who are technically underweight continues to rise significantly, so too does the number of young and impressionable adults who feel uncomfortable and unattractive in their own skin. This poor body image is often a portent for more advanced types of depression and unhappiness, and also a trigger for variable forms of eating disorder and health complications in later life.
Resolution through Education
In terms a resolution, it is wholly unrealistic to expect to change the landscape and methodology of contemporary advertising. There is far too much money and wealth involved in the requisite processes, and so it is a more manageable aspiration to tackle the levels of perception and independent thinking within society. By doing this, the US can alter the way that advertising and its imagery is viewed by its public, and actively encourage a society that disregards an advanced body type as unrealistic and unhealthy rather than ideal.
Education is a fine way to do this, especially if it is aimed at young teenagers who are most vulnerable to the visual and literal endorsements of magazines and media outlets. This demographic is the most open and sensitive to new thoughts and ideas, and by promoting the values of healthy eating and clinically acceptable body types can help to change attitudes and ultimately behavior. Through teaching and implementing accepted knowledge, it is possible to address the issues of negative body image without attempting to challenge the common trends in advertising culture.