One of the most natural aesthetic attractions to us is the beauty of the human body. It is a biologically driven inclinationâ€”after all, the body is the first thing that is relevant in all activities, as itâ€™s the medium of action. The definition of beauty, however, is not purely biologically based, as it is also shaped by culture. In ancient China, for example, chubbiness and small feet marked a womenâ€™s beauty. Even today, some tribal cultures still attribute what our society deems as â€śobese,â€ť as a sign of power, status, and beauty.
In modern society, media has helped to promote a so-called â€śperfect bodyâ€ť image for women and men alike. Advances in science and rises of industries like modeling and social media have helped to promote this perfect image. There is a growing abundance of products that are aimed at making this constructed beauty standard seem more accessible than ever. With increasing exposure, many of us start to associate the perfect body shape, and the often too strict diet that goes with it, with the state of being healthy. In an attempt to meet this standard of â€śhealthy,â€ť we start going to the gym, stop eating junk food, abstain from alcohol, etc. While these are generally healthy choices, too many of us become too rigid with the constraints and enter into an incessantly stressed state of mind. When we indulge in a cheat day by eating a cookie or skipping a workout day, we may start to feel guilty and may overcompensate the following day. We may discipline ourselves more strictly in order to prevent a â€śrelapseâ€ť. As such, our lifestyle becomes rigid, but not necessarily healthy, for such regime makes our minds filled with anxiety and stress, which negatively impacts our physical and mental wellbeing.
While exercising regularly can improve overall fitness and physical health, over-exercising can counter the progress youâ€™ve been making by inducing feelings of exhaustion and irritability. On a similar note, dieting ensures more nutritious intake and less empty calories and toxic substances, but over-restricting what we eat can mitigate feelings of pleasure and satiation. Even though a healthy diet and exercise routine do require sacrifices, it is important to keep in mind that they are meant to improve our mood and state of mind. If we do not feel like itâ€™s improved, then the diet or the routine needs to be adjusted. It is always important to remember what your goals are when dieting and exercising. This prevents us from conforming to the invisible influence of the beauty culture and ensures that we are pursuing a healthy lifestyle that suits our individual needs.
Beauty may be determined by culture, but health is an individual matter because health is supposed to improve the person, not the image of the person.
By:Â Ruihong Yuan
Ruihong is a graduateÂ from University of Toronto with a major in Psychology and Physics. He is currentlyÂ looking to gain either clinical or research experiences in psychology. His goal is to become a clinical psychologist with his own practice and research in order to help people improve their lives and explore the mysterious human mind.