How Is the Fashion Industry Affecting Your Body?

Fashion, Opinion

https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/how-the-fashion-industry-affects-the-bodies-of-young-women

As I was reading this fantastic article, taken from the 1993 Beauty Issue of I-D magazine, I couldn’t help, not only completely agreeing with everything Avril Mair says, but also finding that many of the issues are still of extreme prominence today. I find myself asking the question, has anything actually changed?

I mean, apart form the obvious differences, the increase in statistics of Eating Disorder sufferers, and the celebrities who we are choosing to idolise, the basic principles remain the same.

“A woman’s experience of her own body arises from how she believes it compares with the magnified images of women that surround her on billboards, on television, in films, magazines and newspapers.”

“A consumer society in which women’s bodies are used to sell products while being presented as the ultimate commodity creates all sorts of body image problems.”

These quotes, taken from the original article, seem obvious, common knowledge to us today, but yet that doesn’t make them any less accurate. Even though the issue of the negative body image caused by the media has been recognised and addressed in recent years, making us aware of what we are being sucked into when we open up a magazine or switch on the TV, this realistically hasn’t changed a thing. Consumerism is all around us, in the digital world we live in, it is impossible to avoid and impossible to live without. Just because as a society we are aware that the media can have a negative effect on body image does not stop it from happening, or even help us recognise when it is.

“No matter how many ‘feminist’ features magazines may run, body fascism is reinforced by the advertisements, the fashion stories and the beauty pages”

The truth is, women’s magazines are still full of diet tips and the latest fat-busting work-outs, they are still full of photographs of celebrities looking their “flabbiest” at a size 10. The models filling the fashion pages are still painfully thin, they might not be size zero anymore but they are certainly not the same size as you or me. Yet even though we are now more informed, more aware, and we know it’s all an unrealistic expectation, we can’t help ourselves but be sucked in. Because it’s consumerism, and at the end of the day we are consumers.

Today, the diet industry is still without doubt, one of the fastest growing industries in the world and we still face the problem that almost half of British females are on a diet at any one time, yet most of these are not obese or even over-weight. The UK diet industry is worth £2 Billion, yet as a nation we are still only growing fatter.

As for the men, it goes without saying that the affect the media has on male body image has certainly not improved. Men suffering with eating disorders is still something which is rarely discussed, viewed as shameful and not masculine, but the same time it is a problem which is only expanding. The worrying thing is, we can have no real idea of the scale due to the only small numbers of men who feel comfortable enough to speak out and seek help.

21 years on from when this article was written, I am struggling to recognise any major developments in the effect the media has on our body image, in fact, this piece could of been written today were it not for the few differences.

If anything, I fear the media has only become more obsessed with our bodies and how we should look, whether it be “too fat” “too thin” “plus-size” or “anorexic” the media is constantly comparing, judging and sending out subliminal messages to its audience, and now with the power of digital and social media, it is almost unstoppable.

Avril Mair was right, enough was enough a long time ago.

 

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Fashion Loves Fast Food

Fashion, Food, News, Opinion

 

Model Lindsey Wixson holds the Moschino iPhone case

No you’re not mistaken, that is a photograph of a fashion model with a packet of McDonald’s fries in her hand. In this case, the golden arches come in the form of an iPhone case, but they have also been strutted down the catwalk – as part of Moschino’s Spring/Summer collection – in various other shapes and sizes. Take the handbags disguised as a happy meals, for example, around £900 will get you the most expensive McDonalds you’ve ever had. It doesn’t stop there. It seems that this summer fashion is all about fast food, but not about eating it.

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Moschino started the trend, boldly brandishing the golden arches on their accessories and making dresses out of giant sweet wrappers, but now other designers are jumping on board. Charlotte Olympia has handbags in the shape of Chinese takeaway boxes and Anya Hindmarch has taken it even further by introducing handbags made out of crumpled crisp packets. I can’t help feeling that fashion celebrating fast food this way is just, slightly, hypocritical.

Of course these new lines of accessories have already caused a great deal of controversy, with health campaigners accusing the brands of glorifying fast food and promoting bad eating habits. This comes at a time when the NHS has just announced plans to lower the threshold for gastric band surgery in a bid to cope with obesity, meaning another 800,000 people could be eligible for the weight loss operation. I think it’s safe to say that it is not the models and editors who are sporting these accessories that are cause for concern, it is more likely to be the kids who will get their hands on the fakes (being sold for as little as £3) and buy into the whole fast food concept.

McDonald’s is a brand which hardly needs extra advertising and I’m inclined to believe these handbags are not going to make huge differences to the number of Big Macs sold. That said, there’s something very distasteful about this trend (and I don’t just mean the cheeseburgers.) For me, it is a combination of the glamorisation of fast food in this intrepid way and the sheer irony of the whole thing. I’m just not lovin’ it.

 

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“There Are No Good or Bad foods, Only Good and Bad Attitudes”

Food, Opinion

I first heard this statement from a dietician and it has stuck with me ever since. It is perhaps, the sentence which has allowed me to have a healthy lifestyle and a better relationship with food.

Every day we are told by the media what we should and shouldn’t eat, and every week there is a new diet craze, instructing us that if we eat anything other then cabbage for the week then we will remain fat, forever. We are endlessly being warned about the foods that give you cancer, make you obese and only end in diabetes. Then, there is the other end of the spectrum. The “super foods”, the “I’ll make you skinny foods”, the foods we must be consuming every day in order to live to a ripe old age. Yes, it is important know what is good for you and what isn’t so good, and it is important to pass this on to our children, but what actually needs to change in most cases, is the attitude, not the food.

It’s simple, people who have a good attitude when it comes to food are fitter and healthier, both mentally and physically. We don’t need a complex study to determine this, it is an obvious fact of life. Whatever food someone may be eating, whether it be ”bad” or “good”, if their attitude is distorted and unhealthy, they are always going to struggle with themselves, it could be by binge eating, obsessive dieting or in extreme cases, eating disorders.

Society doesn’t need to separate foods off into “good” and “bad” groups, so that one group is forced  upon us and the other is forbidden fruit (although not so much fruit, in this case) and it is clearly not working as a way of getting Britain healthy – we all know how the human brain works, when we tell it it can’t have something, it only makes us want it more. It shouldn’t be a case of having to eat something you don’t like just because it is “good for you” or being miserable because you are constantly denying yourself food, and we shouldn’t be overcome with guilt if we have dessert. I hate the phrase “everything in moderation” but it definitely applies here.

What we should be doing is trying to change our attitudes. Recognising if we have an unhealthy relationship with food, and trying to change it for the better. This won’t happen over night, and it is up to the individual as much as it is up to the media, but eventually we would all be healthier and happier, for longer.

The Men Who Lie to Make Us ‘Thin’

Food, News, Opinion

Despite the T.V being plagued with programs about diet, weight and exercise, of late, I find myself helplessly sitting down to watch each one. Whether it be critising people’s weight or targeting the size zero pandemic, the media is obsessed with the body, and therefore, so are us individuals. I usually try not to let myself become too wrapped up in these shows but The Men Who Made Us Thin, on BBC Two, really grabbed my attention.

Journalist Jacques Peretti investigates the people, from past and present, who are partly responsible for the world’s fixation with fad diets. It is no shock to most of us to hear, not for the first time, that diets are only a short term fix, but to hear the of the incredibly successful diet brand Weight Watchers say, “If the diets worked, there would be no business for us” is something else entirely.

Although I did find it shocking that they would speak so openly about this, I can’t say I was surprised. What is perhaps more shocking, is that the program also pointed out that some doctors are actually prescribing, the joining of Weight Watchers to overweight patients as a weight loss technique. Surely, any medically trained professional would know much better than that? Surely they would know that only 16% of these dieters keep the weight off long-term. After learning that Weight Watchers is actually owned by Heinz I had to ask myself the impending question, is the fact it is owned by a food company ironic or does this tell us all we need to know?

For almost 60 years, the diet industry has been preying on people’s self-hatred, shame and insecurities, in order to make a sickening amount of money from the selling of their diet products. The brains behind the product know that dieters will seek it out again and again, looking for that euphoric hit experienced at the start of a diet. This infatuation is what some believe to be a main cause of eating disorders.

These issues might seem so detached to them that they never think of the consequences. I can only hope that this is the case, because when children as young as six believe the word ‘fat’ is a disgusting then there is clearly a problem.

As someone who likes to think I know a bit about dieting, I learnt a great deal from Peretti’s investigations and I am not exaggerating to say it has impacted my life, or at least, changed the way I think. Now when I’m flicking through a magazine and see the latest diet plan, I no longer let the words draw me in. Despite knowing for a long time that these diets are superficial, I have finally accepted it. The only proven way to loose weight and be healthy in the long-term, is a healthy attitude.