Body image is a struggle that many will come into contact with in their lifetimes. Not just weight, but anything from height, to skin tone, to body type. These insecurities manifest with different severities, and with different symptoms. We decided to focus on the way individuals felt about their bodies, how it has affected them and how they grow and embrace who they are.
Reality of Shopping
Most people enjoy shopping for themselves. You get to enjoy looking for what best suits your style and taste. Although a somewhat wider selection of sizes have become available over the past few years, and beauty standards have changed. However, these changes mainly address inclusion of more cultural backgrounds. Today, you can still easily find old many industry standards that refuse to yield to inclusion.
A blatant inconsistency you can find with common retailers is the size scale in comparison to the measurements of clothing. For instance, crop tops are a popular staple piece, but they usually run smaller. Some brands stick to only two sizes, where option 1 is considered “S/M” and option 2 is “M/L.” This silently excludes non-traditional body types and anyone considered “bigger” or “plus size.”
The popular fashion brand Brandy Melville, is known for their lack of diversity, and their exclusion of larger clothing sizes. The majority of their crop tops are either “one size fits all,” which typically just fit smaller figures, or are only “XS” or “S”. This limitation in clothing sizes affects the way individuals think of their body. These thoughts can begin as a private dismissal that these styles simply “aren’t for me,” and fester into a much larger issue. These individuals are being marginalized, because of how they look.
This lack of diversity raises the question, “How can this affect one’s mentality?” It’s easy for someone to feel negative for not fitting a “standard.” This self-deprecation in extreme cases, results in eating disorders or body dysmorphia. It also doesn’t help that few stores have one “plus size” section. Instead of integrating that clothing with other sections, they limit the clothing a person of a bigger figure could buy.
We see these issues in mannequin displays as well. Although it’s something everyone is used to seeing, having that “tall and skinny” display is very unrealistic. No healthy female body shapes fit that frame. The Journal of Eating Disorders reported, “The average female mannequin body size was representative of a very underweight woman and 100% of female mannequins represented an underweight body size.” That same journal also stated that “… only 8% of male mannequins represented an underweight body size.”
This applies to “plus size,” mannequins as well. You’re only given a look at what a bigger person would look like in a piece of clothing if you go to that section. There are no representations of an average body size. This type of manipulation sends an unrealistic message to consumers. A preteen might think they need to look that way in order to meet “normal,” standards. This precise line of thought has led to eating disorders at a young age as stated by the Association for Consumer Research.
Interview with Ana Escamilla
Ana Escamilla, 20 years old, is a college student majoring in Education. In her interview with Isabella Martinez, she sits down to answer some questions primarily focusing on how she views her own body.
Writer Leah Cambell found:“An estimated 30 million Americans will struggle with an eating disorder in their lifetime, and a greater number of them are beginning on college campuses” . Many of these eating disorders that millions of college students face is from stress, anxiety, and depression. Additional reasons eating disorders may arise in college students include, “social pressure to make friends, romantic relationships, academic achievements, and fear of the “Freshman 15” [Weight gain accrued during a Freshman year gaining weight]. Oftentimes, students begin suffering from eating disorders when failing to cope with the stresses of life and college that they face.
Financial struggles sow the seeds that begin struggles with eating disorders. Unfortunately that makes sense when accounting for the lack of funds and time many college students have. It’s a lot cheaper and quicker to pick up fast food or order a pizza than it is to go grocery shopping and cook, especially for only one person. Many college students are so occupied with classes, homework, clubs, extracurricular activities and friends that they don’t often have the time, finances, or in some cases even the space (i.e. dorm rooms) to have a fresh and healthy home cooked meal.
With that being said, and as common as eating disorders are, the universities aren’t doing as much to help as they could. An NEDA study asked students whether they had eating disorder resources on their campus and the vast majority of the responders said no.
Journey Into Body Positivity
Nikki Fink’s journey into body positivity began in her teenage years when she was super obsessed with going to the gym and even starting to look into competing in bodybuilding shows eventually. Three years later she felt a change in her life and decided that the mindset she was stuck in for the last three years wasn’t healthy and she began to learn more about body positivity.
“Honestly I don’t want my kids to live their life like I did, so I want to set a good example for them. “
Nikki began to learn to be more body-neutral in the current body she had instead of always trying to change it. She now is still working on being comfortable in her skin. There are good days and there are bad days.
If Nikki were to give people advice to people who are beginning their body positivity and self love journey, she would tell them to not get discouraged if you have bad days. It’s a journey that you go on through life.
Nikki workouts to celebrate her body and moves to feel good, rather than punishing her body. She looks at all food as “good” food and there is no such thing as “bad” foods. Nikki has an empowering voice in the body positivity community. She hopes to be able to help other people on their journey and get them to love the skin they are in. We only get one body so we should embrace it and take good care of it.
“Embrace and love your body. It’s the most amazing thing you will ever own.”
Body Positivity Survey Results
We conducted a survey on social media asking how individuals felt about their bodies. From the 41 responses, 14 stated their body image issues started in middle school. We also found that social media played a big factor in the way people felt about their bodies, with 24 individuals responding that it has affected the way they view their body. Our responses indicated that 26 people felt the need to change their physical appearance in order to “fit in”.
We asked our participants what body positivity means to them. This is what some had to say:
“It used to mean thin and looking like the model type but now it’s about accepting my body shape and living a healthy lifestyle so my body is full of healthy foods rather than stressing about how I look I try to focus on how I feel physically”
Body positivity is not only feeling happy in your own body, but to know that people have different shapes and sizes and it’s okay. Not everyone will look the same. I originally only believed that it meant to be happy with yourself, but I never could be. But being surrounded with people that don’t have bodies like the photoshopped ones on social media helped me to see that a rounder stomach, a rounder chin, and even a small chest are okay.
“At first, to me, body positivity meant being extremely comfortable and happy in my own skin. However, this has been very difficult for me to achieve, and I think can be difficult for most of us. For me now, body positivity means honoring my body’s needs and celebrating all that my body can do, regardless of how it looks. I have been more at peace thinking about my body less instead of trying to love every single thing about myself when I can’t.”
Throughout our research, we came to the conclusion that no matter the body type, individuals can have body image issues. From our results, we have learned that social media and branding have an affect on the way we feel about ourselves. But we have also seen positive growth and change in the right direction as people and society become more accepting of who they are, no matter their shape or size.