Self-esteem is damaged by society's views of the perfect body

There is huge social pressure on women to be slim, even though we come in all shapes and sizes. And now that kind of social pressure is being felt by men too, wjp are working hard to reshape their bodies.

In the 50s and 60s women's bodies were controlled with girdles, initially made of rubber then elasticated fabric. .A struggle to get on and off. Some great ads here

In the 70s,  dieting become the solution to the problem of women's bodies.. From the 80s thin was no longer enough. Women had to be fit too, exercising hard to get a slim, toned body. Having a thin, toned body is evidence of personal effort.  These changes demonstrate a shift from external control to internal control and the beginning of this need to be toned inside and out.

Inability to achieve this look is attributed to insufficient effort. There is a moral implication here that if only you put in a bit more work, your body would become socially acceptable and in tune with the times. Of course, achieving a slender shape is impossible for many of us, even if we exercised hard. As a result, we can feel defeated, ashamed, humiliated and unacceptable. The message from these social norms is that beauty is is worth limitless expenditure of energy,  and money too. Since the whiff of marketing is nearby these ideas. If we fail to attain the ideal, we are personally to blame. Our fault.

Exercise is great of course. It keeps our lungs and heart strong, it keeps our joints supple, and builds stamina. But being toned is an aesthetic idea. An art form. And not everyone can achieve this aesthetic. Flab can remain on many of us despite regular exercise. Another source of shame and humiliation. If the flab remains then we are just not trying hard enough.

And what about exercise to keep the weight down? The usual response to weight management has been to exercise more and eat less. and you would think that this is obvious simple and straightforward. But it isn't. Our bodies adapt to managing on less so when we cut down our calories, our bodies go into famine mode and just get more efficient, though eventually the weight will fall off. But the Minnesota Experiment shows that once the starvation rations (1,800 for a man) caused all kinds of odd psychological responses, such as hoarding, stealing and lots more. And when the starvation rations ended, they binged.

This phenomenon continues to be demonstrated through a wide range of research projects. Tightly restricting our diets to gain control over our wayward bodies leads to eating disorders. If you are on a diet, doing really well for weeks, you might wonder why all of a sudden you go off on an allmighty binge. Research shows that restricting your food intake (dieting) plays a big part in this. If you are on a diet, doing really well for weeks, you might wonder why all of a sudden you go off on an allmighty binge. Research shows that restricting your food intake (dieting) plays a big part in this. Dieting, depriving and denying yourself are not the only ways to manage your weight. Try cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy with me.

Exercising for weight loss has also been shown to have close links to eating disorders too. There can be a feeling of control from relentless exercising that can give respite from all the self-critical haranguing that we can get involved in when our bodies are just not good enough.

And because there is so much social pressure on our appearance, with the need to adapt our bodies to the fashionable shape of the moment, we can end up unable to see our body clearly any more. The fashion photographer Rankin is concerned about this. Fashion is an art form, he says, and we should not take it so seriously.

And don't forget the businesses that benefit from our body anxiety. We are coming up to the season when we will see gym memberships, slimming clubs and diet books on sale. If they worked, these businesses would have faded away.

Now, the move is towards cosmetic surgery. Technology is here to get our bodies under control. There really is no excuse not to be perfect.

Do you recognise any of this? Write a comment to share with us.

We don't have to buy into these ideas. We can be healthy and fit and lead happy and fulfilling lives without buying into these myths. You can feel great about yourself, emotionally stable and managing your weight without any of this stress. Give cognitive behavioural therapy a try.

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