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American Narcissism: Body And Beauty

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It's a brand new year and you've made the now customary resolutions. Not about your future as a person but as a future person. Convinced by years of addictive conditioning and non-stop TV advertising that your unhealthy dalliance with body and beauty is normal, you embark on a no-win, must-lose path, to feed that drug-like obsession with body and beauty perfection. You just gotta look good for that selfie on Facebook!

Fact is that people in America are now fanatically obsessed with body image. Television feeds this nauseating addiction with all kinds of shows that glorify the wraithlike female body while casting scorn on what's now known as the "plus sizes," as if human body size boils down to mere arithmetic. Thanks to the fashion industry, in a way it does. Both males and females are now defined by a magic number in the single digit category. And all you have to do is wander into any bookstore in New York City and you can peruse all sorts of titles about losing weight or achieving celebrity glamor.

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According to the Skincare Foundation, America is home to more than 18,000 tanning salons, with more than one million people frying their skins in them each and every day -- 7 days a week. This accompanied by all kinds of short-term, stupid and unworkable fad diets that promise gullible people the look of body perfection and beauty that only Photoshop can achieve. This is a multi-billion dollar industry driven by chronic narcissism and aspects of the Peter Pan Syndrome that subconsciously thrust Americans into a world of make believe that beauty and body perfection are ageless and everlasting.

But you know what? It crap sells. And young people are the most influenced and affected by the craze. For example, the website states that annually more than 223,000 cosmetic procedures are performed on patients 18 years or younger, and of those almost 39,000 are surgical procedures such as nose reshaping, breast lifts, breast augmentation, liposuction and tummy tucks. That was in 2003 and only in December 2004 did the American Society of Plastic Surgeons take an official stand against breast augmentation for patients under 18. But nose jobs? Tummy tucks? Brazilian butt lifts? No problem.

And if you think I'm just an anti-beauty Joe let me tell you that this cult of the body and beauty is even MORE pronounced in ALL of America's colleges. Body image dissatisfaction, weight concerns, eating disorders, and physical attractiveness have become especially significant issues on college campuses, with up to 90 percent of college students reporting that they worry about body image. For many of these still impressionable and peer obsessed kids, poor body image is undoubtedly a central issue to both young men and women.

To me it is completely mindboggling the way we lose all common sense and reason every time we look in the mirror. While Hollywood and Television pushes a beauty ideal that few can ever attain, thanks to slick camera tricks and filters, a far greater percentage of Americans struggle with obesity than anorexia. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, between 1999 and 2000, 64 percent of American adults were overweight and 30 percent were obese. That number is higher today in 2017. And while unnecessary surgery and extreme diet-plans are not solutions to America's distorted body imagery, neither is stomping your foot, and saying that obesity is perfectly healthy.

At a time when American television shows like TMZ and others preen and bristle with parades of celebrities so smooth and beautiful that even Narcissus would be jealous, glazy-eyed kids glued to television sets dream of just "being like them." Television hosts countdowns for the most desirable celebrity bodies, and beauty magazines scream at us nonstop with captions such as "this is the year you'll get THAT great body you always wanted" it's easy to forget that life doesn't revolve around being hot. There's definitely nothing wrong with looking good, but why the rush to insanity?

Point is the sane thing to do is eat a balanced diet and stop treating food as Public Enemy Number One. This stupid obsession against eating "carbs," the belief that salt is Killer Number One and that "fat is bad," helps drive this ridiculous obsession with body and beauty. Fact is the world is full of different body types. And standards of beauty differ from place to place AND from individual to individual -- beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. So you'll spend a lot less time overanalyzing the nutrition facts on your Kellogg's cereal box or guilt-tripping yourself for every crumb of brownie you gobble up. You'll spend a lot more time savoring your meals.

Instead of thinking "what is this piece of stewed oxtail going to do to me?" sit back, relax and enjoy your food IN MODERATION. Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Just listen to your body. This is not glamorous. It's not about 60 push-ups to get a six-pack set of abs to wow the women on the beach or that curvy, Photoshopped body to make the girls envious at the gym. But it's worth considering the next time you look in the mirror. Its sane common sense reasoning the next time you decide to shove 12 Buffalo Hot Wings, a liter of Coca Cola, and a basket of French fries into your pie hole.

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MICHAEL DERK ROBERTS Small Business Consultant, Editor, and Social Media & Communications Expert, New York Over the past 20 years I've been a top SMALL BUSINESS CONSULTANT and POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST in Brooklyn, New York, running (more...)

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