There is no such thing as a perfect body

Six Mile Post, Editorial Board

Love might be in the air this time of year, but that doesn’t mean everyone is feeling it. It might be easy to give chocolates and flowers to our loved ones, but directing that affection inward can seem next to impossible. Self-love feels especially out of reach for the thousands of people who struggle with body image issues.

According to The Guardian, 57 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds feel anxious because of their body image. That’s more than half of college-aged people.

It may have something to do with the media that saturates modern life. Everywhere young people turn, they are constantly bombarded by airbrushed Instagram models, actors with rock hard abs and other unattainable standards for physical appearance. Cosmetics commercials push countless products to “fix” the way you look. Try this diet to help you lose weight. Buy this product to fade your acne scars. Dress this way so no one sees your fat rolls.

Society has become disconnected from the reality of the human body. Normal, healthy features are repackaged and marketed as “flaws” that need to be covered up or corrected. These influences can be felt especially strongly around Valentine’s Day, with increased pressure on single people to find a partner. It’s easy for people to slip into believing their single status is because of their physical appearance.

On top of this, winter is nearing its end. “Bathing suit weather” is just a little way down the calendar. There is pressure to get a perfect “bikini body” even though, as stated by “Men’s Health,” humans are biologically programmed to put on a few pounds during the winter. This is a recipe for disaster as far as body image is concerned.

The problem is that perfect, swimsuit-model bodies aren’t realistic for the vast majority of people, men or women. Cellulite, fat rolls, and stretch marks are all normal parts of a woman’s body, but you won’t see them on a Sports Illustrated cover. Men may aspire to a muscular figure like Henry Cavill and other actors, but on the Graham Norton Show, Cavill said he has to dehydrate for days before filming his shirtless scenes. His extremely toned look in these scenes is due to severe dehydration, which causes the skin to shrink and cling to muscles, making them look more defined.

If the people being held up as having “perfect bodies” can’t attain those bodies without hurting themselves, normal people may feel like it’s impossible for them to measure up. There’s increasing evidence that they shouldn’t even want to.

According to Quartz, Nature News, The New York Times and countless other sources, for nearly two decades scientists have been discovering more and more evidence to prove that being overweight, or even slightly obese, protects patients from several medical problems, including stroke, cancer, hypertension, and heart disease. Contrary to the messages in mainstream media, being fat may actually be desirable.

“[One] analysis incorporated data from almost 100 studies and close to three million people. It was published by the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association,” according to Quartz.

Even if those extra pounds didn’t have health benefits, it’s time for society to accept that beauty comes in every size, shape, color, gender and ability. Feeling good in your own skin isn’t a product that can be bottled up and sold, or at least it shouldn’t be.

When children are young, they’re taught that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. This is a nice sentiment, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to embrace body positivity. People who don’t have a certain look shouldn’t feel like they need to have a great personality to compensate. No one ever needs to compensate for the way they look. Every body is a good body.

Every body has its strengths and weaknesses, but that doesn’t make anyone worth less. It’s time for young people to stop letting media, marketing and social pressures convince them otherwise.