Gingerbread, eggnog, plates of Christmas cookies, holiday parties with the special dishes made from recipes passed down from generation to generation of your family: it’s that time of year of joy and celebration and — not that it’s always mentioned — stress. Holiday parties can mean getting dressed up and wanting to look your best with perfect “holiday hair” and clothes to match. The “food-centric holiday season” can be extremely hard if you have an eating disorder or have concerns about your weight and appearance.
The now-routine onslaught of images of slender, “perfect” bodies (often made so thanks to a little digital manipulation) doesn’t help. A Rhode Island-based website called My Body Gallery seeks to counter the barrage of images of one unhealthfully skinny model after the next that we’re bombarded with by offering images of what real women really look like. My Body Gallery has a gallery of images that you can search based on height, weight, pant size, shirt size and body type; the images show women of different proportions engaged in real-world activities in real-world settings.
My Body Gallery seeks to provide “an accurate reflection of what real women look like” and to address body dysmorphia. Someone with body dysmorphia disorder ”can’t stop thinking about a flaw” in her or his appearance, even though that “flaw” may be minor and even imagined. Indeed, body dysmorphic disorder is sometimes called “imagined ugliness,” when a person is just not able to see the quite-all-right reality in the mirror, but imagines something else. Even those who don’t have a diagnosed body dysmorphic disorder do not always really see what’s in the mirror: 95 percent of women who do not have disordered eating overestimate the size of their hips by 16% and their waists by 25%, while being able to estimate the proportions of a box accurately.
As further evidence that fixation on achieving a certain body image isn’t exclusive to women, My Body Gallery notes that two out of five women and one out of five men would trade three to five years of their lives to achieve their weight goals.
At a time when we routinely expect that images have been digitally altered as it has become just too easy to do so, and that one-third of adult Americans are obese while some 10 million women and 1 million men have an eating disorder, there is certainly a great need to see what people really look like. The sad thing is that too many of us can’t just look at ourselves and accept the body and the person that we are.
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