We are, simultaneously, a population with gravely high obesity rates and major insecurities surrounding weight and appearance -- no matter how high or low it may be. While some people blame media influences, others suggest that our own minds are working against us in the battle of the bulge.
On April 19, Britain held the first ever government-sanctioned Body Confidence Awards. The nominees were in categories across media -- magazines, advertisements, fashion campaigns -- that helped to project a diverse and realistic image of women's bodies.
But women aren't the only ones facing discomfort with their size and shape. A survey from FITNESS Magazine and Yahoo! Shine reveals that both men and women view themselves as too heavy, far from their goal weights and yearning for the body confidence of beloved celebrities, like Halle Berry. But how do they get there?
Certainly, it's unhealthy to beat ourselves up for not looking like the beauty standards we see on television. But as Tara Parker-Pope recently wrote in the New York Times, our distorted images of ourselves can go another way, too; it can prevent us from seeing our problematic weights as a pressing issue to be addressed. Parker-Pope wrote:
Many of us are surprised by our size when reflected in the mirror or a store window — it’s like thinking that a recording of your own voice sounds off. And while psychologists have worried for years that media images of superslim starlets would put the nation’s collective self-esteem at risk, it turns out that something altogether different has happened. As the population becomes fatter, study after study shows that instead of feeling bad about ourselves, we have entered a collective state of denial about how big we’re actually getting.
Indeed, services are cropping up to address this blindspot. For example, My Body Gallery provides images of women of every conceivable shape and size. A visitor to the site can enter their own measurements and view a database of anonymous photos of women who share their size. The creators hope that users will see an accurate reflection of their measurements if they observe them on someone else.
"In a world full of images of how we "should" look, it can get difficult to tell how we DO look," reads the site. "Our hope is to build a site where women can see what real women look like ... Most women have spent so many years looking at themselves in mirrors that we can no longer see what's really there."
So how bad is the problem? Browse through these results from the FITNESS/Yahoo! survey and tell us in the comments: do you think you can evaluate yourself accurately?
According to the survey results, 41 percent of people believe that they would be happier at their "goal weight" than they are right now. What's more, 18 percent believed their sex lives would be improved, 7 percent thought they would make more money and 5 percent were under the impression they would have more friends.
While almost half of all women said they had a "fat day" -- a day on which they felt heavy -- at least once a week, only 28 percent of men said the same. This, despite similar rates of overweight and obesity across genders. What's more: 58 percent of women said they wanted to lose between 10 and 20 pounds.
40 percent of women and 22 percent of men admitted keeping oversized clothes in case they gain weight. Meanwhile, 20 percent of women and 9 percent of men have bought clothing that was too small as an incentive to lose weight.
While humility can be a virtue, it can quickly veer into self-criticism. Among the women surveyed, 31 percent believed they looked fatter than other women and only 10 percent thought they looked "better." Meanwhile, 16 percent of men compared themselves unfavorably to other men.
It seems even the photos not destined for publication are getting curated: 51 percent of women and 21 percent of men said that they had deleted a photo of themselves because they worried they looked fat in it.