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The Problem of Image

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It's time to face facts; whether we like it or not we are living in an aesthetic age where appearances matter. The discussions surrounding body image and the pressure to look slim have become almost a part of the everyday; size zero is arguably less shocking than it once was and the curvy woman has become a figure to celebrate symbolising a female who is proud of her shape. Yet there still are some horrifying stories about body image that are being too quickly overlooked.

BBC Radio Nottingham ran a headline on the 20 November about an increase in cases of women with 'drunkorexia'.

This is the horrible term given to girls and grown women alike who eat less before a night out so that they can consume the alcohol they want without worrying about their calorie intake. Despite being a university student familiar with the dilemma about alcohol and calories, I was shocked. The people I know are careful to eat a substantial meal before going out and are often prone to the odd slice of toast when they're back (if not a cheeky pizza). For one night at least, nobody cares about calories. (Sounds like heaven doesn't it?)

So then I was even more shocked to realise that this 'drunkorexia' is not a new phenomenon. The Mirror actually ran a very short article on the problem back in October 2011. They mentioned a survey of students that found 16% "saved calories" so they could drink without gaining weight. I always used to think that if you were that concerned, it would be better to either not drink at all or to be clever and go for a low-cal mixer with your standard vodka drink. Oh how wrong was I...

But surely this takes weight issues to the extreme?
Well, yes it does. But there is another side to this story. By eating less before a night out, individuals don't only avoid weight gain but they also get drunk quicker. For some people, this is a cheap double positive. The health risks associated with this just aren't taken into consideration.

Surely now, with so many new (or seemingly new) weight phenomenons we must realise that there is something seriously wrong with the way we view ourselves.

Ironically, the media we consume these types of news stories from is also the media blamed for the pressure to have a perfect body. Yet I think this is slightly unfair; they can't be completely to blame. Friends also are a major factor, albeit unintentionally. For instance in a University environment studying a course that has predominantly female students, you can't avoid the odd conversation about calories. One week someone new is dieting (or buying the red milk which means they're subconsciously thinking about dieting) or skipping the odd lunch or so. I myself have been guilty of all three things. But when we discuss this repeatedly with close friends, inevitably at some point they will ask themselves if they should be doing a similar thing. Et voila. The problem of image and weight is placed in their minds until they start to wonder whether they should be considering their calorie intake too.

On the 13th November, the BBC wrote a feature that contained five photos that sparked body image debates. These ranged from images of pregnancy, disability, cellulite and anorexia; each one shocking or beautiful in their own right, but most importantly each one different. As part of student radio, we discussed this feature in our news show and went out to find out how students felt about body image. The overwhelming majority declared that they were happy with the way they looked. Yes they felt the odd pressure from media and friends to look good but they also had a grasp on reality and one key concept.

Everyone is different.

Problems like 'drunkorexia' and other eating disorders - both mental and physical, should be countered and we should be more aware of the health risks associated with these. However, with the 'natural beauty' campaigns that now attempt to take over the media, we should also be wary. These 'real' women are more often than not curvy. Not everybody is curvy. Just as not everybody is thin. It's about time the message was changed. Curvy is not the 'natural' woman, but neither is super skinny. Every woman is the natural woman; every woman has their own unique body shape which should be celebrated not changed.

Variety, after all, is the spice of life.