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Overcome disordered eating and find peace with food
The Perfect Body Illusion
by Harriet Frew on May 22nd, 2020

THE PERFECT BODY ILLUSION  by Victoria Stockwell 

Do you wish you looked like the girl in the magazine? I will let you into a secret…the girl in the magazine doesn’t even look like that.

I should know: I have been that girl.

Representations of the ‘perfect’ female body are pervasive throughout modern society, consolidated and perpetuated by an omnipresent mass media.

Online, this ideal can be found on a variety of platforms ranging from YouTube workout videos, to image-laden websites such as Instagram.

Every week we are bombarded with around 5000 of these ‘inspirational’ bodies which, thanks to our surgically attached smartphones, can be viewed any time, anywhere.

In today’s hyper-saturated image culture, this aesthetic ideal is extremely powerful; and its prolific distribution serves to reinforce our obsession with physical appearance.

Studies suggest that frequent exposure to these ideals places women, particularly adolescent females, at risk of developing a negative body image.

Comparing ourselves to these blemish-free, sculpted physiques can cause dissatisfaction and contribute to low self-esteem.

In a recent survey, 40% of teenagers admitted that they experienced concerns about their own body image after viewing idealised bodies online.

This comparison often encourages weight preoccupation, and may ultimately lead to disorderly eating in our attempts to replicate the ‘ideal’ body.

This body, however, is far from real.

In 2013, when I entered the fitness competition world and began to post images from my own photoshoots online, my friends and family remarked how tall I looked (in real life I measure a petite 5’2”).

Creating the appearance of height, however, is just one of countless illusions that can be produced using the art of photography.

With technological methods such as digital enhancement and airbrushing, it is possible to mask imperfections and homogenize skin tone.

Abdominal muscles can be made to appear more defined by increasing contrast and deepening shadows; and the body’s silhouette can be adjusted by tightening the waist and enlarging ‘desirable’ curves such as a woman’s bust and glutes.

This photographic illusion is also reinforced by the models themselves, who will often go to extreme lengths to ensure that their bodies are photo perfect.

My own gruelling preparations for a photoshoot included tapering calories, restricting certain food groups, and reducing my intake of liquids.

Having starved and dehydrated my body, on the day of the shoot I would then spend hours spraying dark tan, applying heavy make up, and vigorously backcombing my hair.

After squeezing into a pair of tiny hot pants and a luminous sports bra, I would then pump up my muscles to create optimum definition for the photograph.

Once the lighting and backdrop had been ideally positioned, all that would remain was to painfully angle my body to its best advantage, suck in my stomach, and smile.

The potential harm of this image manipulation, however, lies not in the enhancement itself, but in the photograph’s final presentation.

Despite being overly styled and digitally altered, such bodies are frequently portrayed as ‘normal’ in the mass media.

The constant stream of these images on Facebook and Instagram can therefore distort our perception of what is normal and attainable.

It is common practice for us to add a flattering filter, display our best angles, or even change our faces into a cat before posting a photograph of ourselves online.

This can be fun, or even reassuring if we are not feeling confident about our appearance on a particular day. The danger, however, lies in forgetting that most ‘perfect’ pictures on social media are not candid: they are often staged, well lit, strategically posed, and digitally manipulated.

When I find myself scrolling through old fitness photographs feeling envious of my leaner, more muscular physique, I try to remind myself that the body in the pictures was never truly real. I was starving, uncomfortable, and had a splitting headache brought on by lack of food and water.

If, like me, you sometimes brood over pictures when you thought you looked ‘better’; or compare yourself to the seemingly flawless models on Instagram, please remember that this perfect body does not exist…it is merely an ILLUSION.


Posted in Bikini body, Body image, Comparing self, compulsive exercise, Dieting, Eating disorder, over-exercise, Perfectionism, Body building, Photoshop    Tagged with Perfect body, body builder, photo shop, body image, over-exercise, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder


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