I believe that mental health is just as important as physical health, yet the western media appear to have a different opinion. Walk into any shop and you will see unrealistic images in magazines and promotional posters of what the media want us to think is the perfect body. These images are almost always edited on computers to such an extent that the picture looks nothing like the model does in real life. Computer software now allows editors to make a female model’s leg’s longer, waist smaller and make a male model look more muscularly defined. This however is nothing new. Before digital photography and photoshop was invented photographers would use different backgrounds, lighting and getting their model to stand in different poses to bring their vision to life. In the Encyclopaedia of Modern Bodybuilding, Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote about how he would have his pictures taken in front of a black background the closer he was to a competition as it made him look more defined, and a white background in the off-season as it made him look bigger.
How does this impact on a person’s mental health?
If you’re a female with ginger hair, five feet tall and a dress size sixteen, you might not feel good if all you see in the media are images of blond women who are five feet ten inches and a size six dress size. In the same way if you are a man and you constantly see images in the media and on screen of muscular men with twenty-inch arms and six pack abbs, it could have a negative impact if you have a beer belly and going bald. The media bombard people with images of what the editor’s idea of beauty is and doesn’t care how it makes people who don’t fit that idea feel. I would also be surprised if the editor’s look anything like the image they promote.
Why does this matter?
Mental health is just as important to physical health as physical health is to achiving your goals. I know from my own personal experience that you can look healthy on the outside but feel terrible on the inside, and if this is not addressed it will lead to more severe conditions. When I was twenty I had six pack abbs and an athletic looking body. Although I looked healthy I became so obsessed with looking like a fitness model that it resulted in a severe case of depression. I completely avoided alcohol, junk food and was able to tell people exactly how many kilocalories I had eaten in each meal. I could also tell people how much came from protein, carbohydrate and fat. I also avoided social events if it meant I would miss a gym session. I had become one dimensional as a result. I am now thirty-three and although I still do not look like a fitness model I am trying to focus on how I feel just as much as how I look. I still have relapses as recovery from mental illness is a life long journey, but it doesn’t stop me trying.