In a survey of undergraduate women at British universities conducted by the Succeed Foundation, which addresses eating disorders, almost a third said that they would trade a year of their lives in exchange for the ideal body. Unsurprisingly, a majority of the women in the survey were dissatisfied with their looks. 78 percent of the women were “normal weight,” but 79 percent said they wanted to lose weight – clearly there’s something wrong there and almost all of the women – 93 percent – said that they’d had negative thoughts about their bodies in the past week. I wrote a few weeks ago about a study that revealed that half of women avoid sex because they feel bad about their bodies, and this follows right in that story’s footsteps.
According to an article on LiveScience,
Many women were also willing to make other sacrifices for the ideal body, the researchers found. About 13 percent said they’d give up 5,000 pounds ($8,138) a year in salary in return for their perfect body. Eight percent would give up a promotion at work, and 6 percent would give up earning a degree with honors. Nine percent were willing to give up time with friends and partners, while 7 percent said they’d trade in time with their family. Another 7 percent said they would sacrifice health to reach their ideal weight.
This study is far from representative – it only surveyed 320 women between the ages of 18 and 25, so perhaps it can’t be extrapolated beyond the population of college women it examined. But the idea that even this small number of women would trade real, tangible benefits – a promotion, a higher salary, health, time with their family – for the “ideal” body (without really specifying what that means) signals, once again, that our obsession with “thinness” and bodily perfection has gone too far.
As a 22-year-old college student, I can speak firsthand to the ways that the struggle for the perfect body impedes women’s abilities to take care of themselves, to forgive themselves, and to realize their goals. As Sadie Stein points out on Jezebel, it doesn’t seem as though “thinness” is “a means to anything, so much as an unattainable end in itself.” Which means that women will be constantly giving up important elements of their lives in order to grasp an ideal that will, by definition, always remain out of reach.
Photo from Flickr.