You probably noticed a trend in my past few posts… it’s focused on the issue of “Body Image” and how it affects your health, fitness and outlook on life.

It’s an essential part of feeling your best. Let’s call it ‘loving the skin your in’

Anyway, I’ve recently come across an interesting report that sheds a light on this very same topic that’s worth a look.

The “Changing Perceptions” report is all about focusing on positive body images and promoting a healthy self-esteem among young women.

It covers things like:

  • Why some store’s clothing of size 16 are close to a 12 (hint: did you know that a US size 4 is a 38 in Italy?) See page 4 & table on page 5
  • Proof that catwalk models and celebrities look just like us (are you dieting to ‘fit in’ or are you dying to be thin?). Plus, a simple yet powerful technique to shift your ‘self-talk’ – page 6
  • How prime-time TV reprograms culture (this is crucial if you’ve got kids) and how you can spot this even in cartoon characters; Pocahontas vs. Snow White! Plus, how some advertisers exploit the “paedophilic fashion” effect – Page 7 – 8
  • How some magazines have been pushing the “fashion and beauty are one and the same” concept and how it relates to ‘tween’ stores – an eye opener and another reason for the increased body dissatisfaction among women – page 9
  • Think you wann’a get a sun tan (or even whiten your skin)? Think again. 6 tanning options reviewed (and their dangers) – example, is it true that Spray Tanning contains unsafe amounts of lead and arsenic? Page 10, 11
  • When model’s transformation is more than just designer outfits, layers or makeup and hours of hairstyling… even models have bad days, yet this one step covers it all producing an ‘unreal’ perfect woman (part of the ‘brainwashing’ effect to believing you’re not good enough!) – page 12
  • What’s worse than people’s negative comments… when everyday you cross paths with someone that’s got something negative to say about your personality or appearance… here’s how to turn the tables in your favor – page 20

You can download your report by going here (then scroll down to “Changing Perceptions Magazine.pdf”)

Have a great day,

M. Jamal

Do you feel comfortable in your skin?

Do you ever compare yourself to other women you meet or pass by?

Sometimes it’s hard to stop such thoughts from popping into your head – especially with every other mag, billboard and TV commercial trying to portray a ‘super woman’ figure that’s hardly realistic (see my earlier post When Gorgeous Jessica Alba Isn’t Thin Enough!!).

How about turning that cycle around and loving yourself on a deeper level?

Learn to Love Your Body.

Well, I found this interesting video that gives you 5 steps to loving the skin you’re in (check it out and see the “in front of the mirror switch your thoughts” example)

Here’s another one that expands on the same concept (how “what’s considered beautiful has changed over time and where the ‘thin & skinny’ came into the picture”… plus… “food choice drivers”)

Would love to know what you think about the issue of Body Image: Do you ever struggle with this? Do you ever find it frustrating?

M. Jamal

P.S. Check out this Dove ‘Body Image’ Ad shoot.

It’s sort of taking a peak inside the beauty industry. I thought it’s worth sharing with you as I glanced at this comment: “Its amazing that we base our vision of beauty on people that don’t really exist…”

What do Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart, supermodel Kate Moss, and Nicole Richie have in common?

They all have super-slim bodies that are virtually unattainable – and the unfortunate thing is, television and other media have become so pervasive that women all over the world desire to attain these physiques at all costs.

This portrayal of the “ideal body shape” in celebrities applies an unpleasant cultural pressure for women of all ages to be thin.

Even the more mature stars of the hit TV series “Desperate Housewives” feel the demands, because they know that in La-La Land, ‘looks’ are everything.

Pressure starts from childhood

Women who were on the “chubby” side during their growing-up years know the pain of enduring teasing and being called unfriendly names by their playmates.

In school, girls compete for the attention of young men who predictably avoid overweight girls. They search for social acceptance and often end up relentlessly aiming for a hard-to-achieve body weight, often harming themselves in the process.

In a study conducted by Hargreaves and Tiggemann, it was found that media affects the people around girls (i.e., men and boys) in the way they hold unrealistic expectations for an ideal partner.

When asked about the characteristics they looked for in girls, the item, “slim figure” surprisingly ranked higher than “intelligence.”

Aggravating the situation is the over-zealousness of some sectors to fight obesity.

Their good intentions may actually backfire when overweight children are singled out, subjecting them to measures such as controlled diets and strenuous exercises.

This can lead to stigmatization and may pressure kids into trying out extreme diets.

This, apart from the direct effect media has on women, continues to destroy the self-esteem of women who don’t – and can never have – the unbelievably frail physiques that these celebs have.

Where in the 17th century, famous painters such as Peter Paul Rubens glorified curvy and well-endowed women, today, the ideal size has been whittled down to Size Zero – that is, one with a waistline of 23 inches, which is similar to that of an 8-year-old girl’s.

A Size Zero is nearly impossible to achieve today unless one goes on a strict diet or has had some sort of operation.

In the 19th century, ladies had to wear uncomfortable corsets to simulate hourglass figures.

In the 1920s, women starved themselves and even bound their breasts to attain the ideal body shape at the time.

And perhaps one of the more controversial weight-loss methods by celebrities was that of opera singer Maria Callas allegedly ingesting a tapeworm to lose almost 80 pounds during the years of 1953-54.

Rather than be criticized for the sudden drop in body size, she was even hailed by the likes of opera conductor Nicola Rescigno and Sir Rudolf Bing, GM of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, who remarked that Callas was an “astonishing, svelte, striking woman” after the weight loss.

Waifish is again what’s “in” this 21st century, and many parents are concerned.

Even Barbie has become slimmer since she came out in the market in 1959!

Solution to the problem

Of course, we all know that there are health problems linked to obesity – risks of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.

But crash dieting also leads to severe health problems, and is without doubt not the answer to weight problems.

To keep women from desperately emulating reed-thin celebrities, the images and messages that the media portrays about the ideal figure have to be changed.

Media should use an extensive variety of models of various sizes, shapes, heights, and looks. This approach would enable viewers to visualize a broad range of acceptable body shapes.

Some countries have already acted on the alarming cases of anorexia in models.

Organizers of Madrid’s Fashion Week did not hesitate banning girls who were underweight, while designers in Italy required their models to submit medical evidence that they did not suffer from eating disorders.

But supermodel Gisele Bundchen is firm on stating that media is not entirely to be blamed for women’s obsession on slimming.

She claims that because of her strong family base, she never experienced eating disorders such as anorexia (excessive dieting) or bulimia (self-induced vomiting after binging). Indeed, family members should play a role in boosting the confidence of girls as they are growing up by providing them with the needed love and support.

M. Jamal

The nearly uncontrollable urge to put unhealthy food in your mouth is physiological in nature, and it has toWoman Craving Chocolate do with the reward system in our brains.

The moment you pop the food you’re craving for into your mouth, your brain releases the chemical dopamine, which is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter.

Upon its release, a feeling of satisfaction and happiness is experienced.

This is why we’ve heard of psychologists wanting to treat obesity at the root, which is first finding out why patients are depressed or stressed out.

Patients tend to deal with their problems by giving in to their cravings – and worse, gorging – and end up gaining weight uncontrollably or contracting diseases in the process.

Cravings In Pregnant Women:

In a survey conducted by the site, www.babycenter.com.uk, it was found that 40% of the respondents yearned for sweets, 33% chose salty food, 17% wanted to get a fill of things spicy, while the rest had a hankering for sour stuff.

There are theories linking pregnant women’s cravings for what their body needs at the time.

For instance, they say that chocolate cravings are to fill the need for B vitamins, red meat cravings are to satisfy the need for protein, and one who can’t get enough of peaches may be running low on beta-carotene.

Still, if this theories were true, then all pregnant women should be craving fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables, shouldn’t they?

The physiology of cravings and their origin in pregnant women, therefore, is still largely unexplained, but because they almost always disappear after childbirth, it’s the everyday cravings that concern researchers more.

Why Cravings Can Be Harmful:

Studies have shown that women are twice more likely to be affected by food cravings than men, and these are usually preceeded by feelings of depression or ennui.

Men, on the other hand, tended to crave certain types of food when they’re happy – think celebrating after a won game or a promotion!

The implication here is that when women diet, they tend to become depressed about the minuscule portions they are allotted and their desire to eat the foods they miss becomes so intense.

In relation to the theory on cravings in pregnant women discussed above, it’s also possible that a woman on a crash diet who has become deficient in sugar glucose will binge on foods considered unhealthy because of their high sugar content.

Most crash diets, therefore, rarely succeed because once a dieter had gone through the requisite duration, they inevitably give in to all the cravings they have held back for so long.

Simple Ways To Curb Cravings:Do You Crave IceCream

  1. Acknowledge the craving and “partly” give in.Experts from Tufts University believe that rather than ignore it, it’s better to give in – with a little control.

    Say, for instance, you can’t help yearning for a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia before watching a new DVD release, indulge in a cone serving instead of buying a tub.

    Don’t buy a tub and leave the rest in your freezer – it will only call out to you in the middle of the night.

    Practice restraint, not deprivation.

  2. Think of other happy thoughts.Craved food isn’t the only dopamine releaser.

    You also stimulate feel-good hormones when you exercise. While exercising strenuously, you can experience a stage known as runner’s high – when you’re taken to a point beyond a threshold which activates the production of feel-good hormones.

    You can also imagine a relaxing day at the beach and enjoy a fruit shake instead.

  3. Learn to substitute. Speaking of swapping overly sweet or salty foods for healthy shakes, you can curb cravings effectively by looking for food items that may taste the same but are less harmful to your body.

    Instead of a tub of richly buttered caramel popcorn, for instance, you can go for Lesser Evil “SinNamon” kettle corn or pop your own kernels at home using some olive oil and just a touch of kosher salt.

Finally, never discount the power of suggestion.

Perhaps just by reading the food items in this article, your cravings had just become worse!

This means that you should avoid watching the Lifestyle Channel with all those cooking shows, if you can help it. Keep away from magazines plastered with advertisements of luscious desserts.

And if you can’t avoid the wonderful smells of that corner bakeshop on your way to work every day, always have a muesli or granola bar ready in your jacket pocket.

M. Jamal

P.S. Talking about the ‘partly give in’ concept, have you tried substituting raisins for chocolate? I tend to do this on those nights when I’m working late and just have to get some sweets.

Cherries work nicely too. I tend to grab a bunch, close the fridge… eat ’em… and… somehow restrain myself from going to back to the fridge right away. (Well, it’s more like promising myself NOT to open the fridge after one minute)

I’d give myself some 15 minutes or so and then decide if I really need a second serving. Usually that doesn’t happen.

What’s your food cravings like? Sweet? Salty? And… have you figured out any tips that help you avoid over-indulging? Would love to hear your thoughts…

It seems like a natural follow up to last week’s post “5 Myths About Weight Loss”

I’m about to share with you an interesting video clip that goes behind the scenes of the weight loss industry. You’ll hear about:

  • The 19th century Belgian mathematician formula used by the government. This same formula actually marks Russell Crowe and George Clooney as obese!
  • Fat people who Exercise Regularly vs. Thin People Who Don’t; who’s better off?
  • When big, fat doesn’t automatically translate to unhealthy!

Some intriguing insights that ought to shift you from a ‘weight loss’ perspective into a ‘lifestyle’ change perspective.

Here’s the video. Would love to hear your thoughts on this one.

Have a great day,

M. Jamal