With girls wanting a perfect figure and boys wanting to become muscular with washboard abs, people go through hell not realising what they’re putting themselves through. As youngsters, we validate ourselves with how many likes our social media pictures get. We crave that perfect body because we want to be desired by others. We’re influenced by celebrities who have hourglass figures and chiselled physiques. Peer pressure comes into play too and maintaining an ideal body seems to be the key to fit in.
We assume that having the best body will help us become popular, increase our sex appeal, probably help with employment and make our lives easier and happier.
Our skewed perceptions of body images and closely linking it with our self-esteem pave the way for an inevitable breakdown.
WHY WE WANT TO LOOK GOOD
As psychologist Shachi Dalal puts it, “Teenagers develop something known as metacognition, which means a sense of how others perceive them. They become social beings that are constantly being watched by everyone.”
Dalal emphasises that youngsters become more conscious of how they look and feel the pressure of always being watched by an imaginary audience. She blames their intimacy with social media for this.
She is right. As if diets weren’t enough, we youngsters tend to literally work out till we burn out. Both genders find solace in the gym on their way to achieving a perfect body. Whether it’s running an obscene distance on the treadmill or lifting more than our body weight, it must be done every single day (sometimes even twice a day). Working out to become healthy is great, but working out to suit some distorted mindset is not. When we overwork ourselves, we don’t give our muscles time to grow and repair, leading to aches, internal damages and lowering our immunity.
THE NEVER-ENDING DIET CYCLE
We believe that the quickest way to lose extra weight always seems to be dieting. And now with the onslaught of crash diets, our goal weights are no longer a dream. But what we don’t realise is that it starts a cycle, which experts refer to as the ‘diet debt trap’, wherein we can never stop dieting because the moment we stop, we put on the weight we had originally lost. No carbs, no sugar, no gluten, no anything even remotely resembling food. We deprive ourselves of delicious dinners, fearing the weight gain next day, cursing ourselves for having a scoop of ice cream or a slice of Pizza. It’s sad on a new level.
“Teenagers are at an age where they are still growing and need all the nutrients available for growth and maintenance of body tissues. When they crash diet, the nutrients needed are not met, leading to muscle loss and stunted growth. It causes severe deficiencies and in many cases, is also the root cause of anaemia, anorexia and bulimia. The teenager tries a quick fix for weight loss by going on a crash diet and does not know when to stop,” says dietician Jyoti Mehta.
She cautions that young boys are only consuming high-protein foods, loading up on protein shakes for even the smallest workout, pre-workout powder, post workout pills, mass gainers and numerous other supplements to help them become Sylvester Stallone overnight.
“Everything they eat has to go straight to their muscles. But what they forget to undersrand is that the strain these supplements put on their liver can be dangerous, even fatal,” she adds.
WHAT REALLY IS WRONG WITH US
According to Dalal, “Most teenagers have a skewed view of themselves and base their self worth solely on one factor — looks. They ignore other aspects such as academics, hobbies, extra-curriculars and even unique aspects of our personality that help build our identity and add to our amour-propre.” In fact, both Mehta and Dalal reveal that most teenagers come to them with ‘If I lose weight, I’ll become popular’ despite not being clinically obese or excessively fat. This issue has its roots buried deep in the environment that we exist in. Bollywood stars are shamed and given flak for the slightest bulge in their tummies or if they aren’t size zero, and that’s what affects us sub-consciously.
THE WAY OUT
“Building a well-rounded self-esteem by focusing on all the positive factors in your life and filtering what the media gives out is essential to getting rid of this mindset,” says Dalal, adding that one should look beyond just physical attributes.