The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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America’s obsession with dieting

Dieting as a means of weight loss is not just a trend in American society, it is an epidemic. American women are obsessed with losing weight and this obsession is encouraged and promoted by the media and advertising companies. Dieting to lose weight is being pushed on young women instead of encouraging healthy eating habits and daily exercise.

Women who are the ideal weight for their build and body type are dissatisfied with their appearances, and this dissatisfaction can lead to eating disorders and depression. According to SMU fitness center supervisor Dolores Henry, “dieting as a means of losing weight is the primary reason most women come to the gym.” Henry wants to see more female students hitting the gym to improve their health and fitness, not just their appearance.

American women are sold the idea that beauty is attainable only if they are a size zero to two. The mainstream media and advertising have sold this idea to the public as a means to market weight loss plans, pills, surgeries and diets. In “The Beauty Myth,” author Naomi Wolfe exposes the idea that the media and advertising companies “sell” beauty to American women by encouraging them to strive to achieve the ideal look.

The size of the average model is 5-foot-11-inches and 117 pounds. The size of the average American woman is five feet four inches and 140 pounds. The physical size of most models is completely unrealistic for the average woman to achieve. According to Wolfe, the “beauty myth” is the idea the beauty can be objectively measured and achieved by all women with enough effort and product. The beauty myth is still perpetuated by the media, pushed by advertising and marketed to younger and younger women.

According to the U.S. Department of Health, almost half of American children between first and third grade want to be thinner. Half of nine and 10-year-old girls are dieting to feel better about themselves. The dieting trend in America has become an epidemic that threatens the well being, mentally and physically, of American girls. According to a Pew Center study, the average American consumes between six to eight hours of media per day. Children are extremely impressionable and are fed a steady diet of media and advertising that shows only one type of women, the model. Most fashion models are thinner than 98 percent of America women. Is it fair to portray such a small minority as the “average?” Advertising and the media believe it is because these tactics have been employed for generations and the effect on the esteem of American girls is undeniable. Between five and 10 million women and girls in the United States suffer from an eating disorder or a borderline condition.

A survey of 30 SMU female students reveal that 28 out of the 30 wanted to lose some weight and were unhappy with their size. The average size of all 30 women surveyed was about 130 pounds. The size most of the women surveyed were striving for was between 105 to 115 pounds.

The idea that beauty is achievable by thinness has caused a boom for the fitness industry at the expense of women’s self-esteem. Dieting fads are developed everyday; the South Beach diet, the popcorn diet, the raw foods diet, the low carb diet. Dieting pills and weight loss surgery are becoming more and more prevalent and are used by younger and younger women. On any given day, half of American women are dieting, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Americans spend over $40 billion a year on dieting products and services. American women and girls have distorted body images and low self-esteem because of marketing tactics employed by media and advertising companies. Four out of five American women are not happy with the way they look.

“You kind of feel like you have to diet,” senior Julia Levy said.

Levy is beautiful at her current weight of 200 pounds, and it is evident by her body type and build she will never be a size zero, but she does want to “get down to about 145.”

Professor Camille Kraeplin teaches a class about woman and minorities in the media and she studies the effect of the beauty myth on American women.

In her class, Kraeplin discusses the way the modern media targets women as primary consumers, perpetuating the beauty myth as a means to keep women preoccupied with their appearance and therefore less concerned with political, economic and sexual equality. As a result of this campaign orchestrated by the media, the average woman has become frustrated with her looks as they struggle to achieve the beauty standard. The modern American woman’s image has been damaged by the consumer culture the media and advertising have created.

The damage to the self-esteem of American women is evident even on affluent college campuses like SMU. Recent studies on college campuses found that 91 percent of women surveyed had attempted to control their weight by dieting. Beauty is not a set standard and thus should not be portrayed as such by any company, especially in the pursuit of economic gains.

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