25 Years of Problems Concerning Weight and Shape

Posted December 4, 2012 by Katherine Toll in Building Your Brand

I typically cover the beauty beat for Career Girl Network — I worked in and around the cosmetic industry for as long as I remember and consider myself a fairly advanced product junkie. From a young age, I found myself captivated by the self-confident images in beauty magazines and the promise of a happier life all with a flick of a new lip gloss.

I write the beauty post on a weekly basis and every week I go through the same internal battle – am I helping, or am I hurting CGN by perpetuating the ideology of the American beauty ideal?

I am highly polarized on this topic. I find myself in a constant tug-of-war because while I love my powder and paint as much as the next woman, I also realize the insidious nature of the aspirational messages the beauty industry consistently sends.

I mean, let’s face it – while our media has developed a more diverse eye for how we define a women’s beauty over the years, it still does a fine job of reinforcing certain dogmas: Thin is better than heavy, youth is better than age, married is better than single.

Everywhere women turn we slam into advice, tips, and techniques on how to lose weight, dress to conceal our weight, tighten our bums, flatten our tummies, hide our hips, and lift our boobs. All so we can land the perfect job, find a suitable boyfriend, marry the suitable boyfriend, erase our smile lines, highlight our cheekbones, raise smarter children, host the perfect holiday event, and win our boss’s approval at the next staff meeting.

IT NEVER ENDS – EVER. And all of these messages whisper the same thing over and over – you take up too much space. Constrict, compress, and condense yourself, so you fit. Sound too extreme? I know.

Some of you may argue we know a manipulative marketing message when we see one (or hear or read one). We’re not mindless drones who simply accept what the media feeds us. For heaven’s sake, we all know the wizards behind the media scenes Photoshop the hell out of models and actresses so they appear prettier, younger, and thinner. Right?

Wrong.

Intellectually some of us might know it, but emotionally, not so much. Lest you doubt me, in a 2009 Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology article, “A Critical Review of Evidence For A Causal Link Between, Media, Negative Body Image, And Disordered Eating In Females,” the author’s state,

The prevalence of discontent and problems concerning weight and shape has been so high for so long among girls and women that for 25 years it has been considered “normative.”

Disagree? I challenge you to listen to your conversations this week – especially when chatting up your gal pals. We describe ourselves as “good” or “bad” based on what we ate that day. Carrots are good, chocolate is bad. The simple question of, “How was your weekend?” turns into a rant about the bad food choices we made, or the events we turned down because we wanted to “behave ourselves” and not eat.

In the upcoming weeks, as I post my weekly beauty article, I intend to provide a counter-point discussion here to challenge the conventional notions of attractiveness. The discontent about our weight and shape that I mentioned earlier cannot be allowed to exist for another 25 years.


About the Author

Katherine Toll

Katherine (Kathi) Toll possesses more than 20 years of management and consulting experience within the retail and beauty industry. Her industry experience combined with her special brand of irreverence fuels her mission to find the ‘must-have’ beauty products for Career Girls of all ages. She aspires to remind women the airbrushed perfection of the beauty industry must be tempered with a healthy dose of humor. Kathi holds a general management certification from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, along with an undergraduate degree from Northwestern’s School of Communications.