The “Perfect Body” & Its Effects as Experienced by an Online Psychologist

Psycholoog op Afstand
6 min readJan 21, 2023

In a world with Kardashians who can afford at least three plastic surgeries a day and where photos and magazine covers get treated with filters and computer programs, our idea of “the perfect body” has become skew. And as an online psychologist will tell you, in certain cases, dangerous.

For the past couple of years, there has been grave concern regarding a YouTube influencer that seems to be disappearing before viewers’ eyes with every video posted. But the concern is no longer just about her physical health and wellness, it’s also about her mental health. No matter how many of her fanbase raise their concerns, it doesn’t seem like she’s able to see what they see.

So, what does a healthy body look like? How do Wolverine, Thor and Victoria’s Secret models look the way they do, and is it sustainable? And when do supposed healthy living and weight loss raise red flags? We discuss all in this comprehensive article about body image.

The “Perfect Body”

Many of the public standards we base our body image on have been proven to be false, and have even been slammed by those portraying them. Chris Hemsworth is a wonderful example of someone who lives a healthy and active life, yet even he has said that getting his body into Thor shape was absolutely brutal and not sustainable at all for everyday life. Not only did he have to have 8 meals a day, but he also had to do hours upon hours of various workouts every single day.

When Hugh Jackman had to turn himself into the legendary Wolverine it was pretty much the same thing. His daily diet mainly consisted of eggs and meat and his calories had to be managed to such an extent that not one sip or bite could go unaccounted for.

When it comes to models, the narrative is that they simply eat healthily and stay off the carbs to maintain their almost size 0 weight. In reality, and with every expose regarding the industry, we now know that most models’ days are filled with drinking black coffee, chainsmoking, using drugs, eating cotton balls dipped in juice and having serious eating disorders.

And, if for some reason the model still falls short on photoshoot days, editing software quickly takes care of erasing some flab, highlighting cheekbones and even going as far as changing hair and eye colour.

What we have been fed by mainstream media and that we, ourselves, have placed on a pedestal as the “perfect body” is, in fact, almost completely unattainable and so harmful that no health practitioner will ever condone it.

A Healthy Body

In terms of nutrition, metabolism, exercising, etc. we are still discovering new things every day. The basic facts remain; to look and feel good, we need to eat healthily and remain active. The tricky part comes in when we start digging into the questions of how, what, and when.

This is because the one thing we have realised is that individuality plays a much bigger role than putting someone in an “apple body” category and handing them a diet and exercise plan.

You need to take age and associated metabolic rates into account, genetic predisposition, past physical trauma to the body, gut bacteria, hormone levels, food sensitivities and all sorts of other biological processes.

Today, by understanding how complex a truly optimum healthy body is, we can finally understand why people used to buy gym memberships and just give up after a couple of months. To have a healthy body you need a healthy mind and lifestyle that goes far further than going on a crash diet and working out 3–4 days a week.

And what that healthy body looks like will be different for each of us. That is why personal trainers and dieticians work with the Body Mass Index (BMI) and your own personal history and individual measurements — they even include your level of daily stress in their calculations! So, stop making false portrayals the goal and get an expert to tell you what a healthy body goal for you will look like.

When the Pursuit of the “Perfect Body” Goes Wrong

Some of the most heartbreaking situations an online psychologist often has to deal with is dealing with the consequences of unrealistic societal expectations. And none of them is more visibly obvious than the pursuit of the “perfect body”. The following are just some of the negative effects these unrealistic goals can have:

Body Dysmorphia

Although Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD) doesn’t necessarily escalate, it is often a red flag that precedes eating disorders. Body Dysmorphia is a mental health condition where someone is overly and almost constantly concerned about their appearance.

It is incredibly sad when someone looks in the mirror and can no longer see reality. Absolutely gorgeous people will spend hours obsessing over one eyebrow that is higher than the other (which it isn’t) or try to stop being obese (which they aren’t). The condition is prevalent amongst teenagers and adults, and unlike stereotypes will have us believe, affects both males and females.

The Red Flags to Look Out for According to an Online Psychologist

  • The individual is incredibly focused and concerned about specific areas of their body.
  • They are constantly comparing themselves with others.
  • They either can’t resist the opportunity to do a quick “check” in a mirror or they try to avoid them altogether.
  • They go to extremes to try and conceal their so-called “flaws”. This can be wearing baggy clothes to hide their “obese” body or putting on layers and layers of make-up ‘till they feel “prettier”.
  • They exercise almost to a level of exertion.
  • They’re always seeking others’ approval i.e. “do I look ok?”
  • They’re seemingly isolating aka “hiding” themselves. So, no longer accepting invites to social events, not moving around in daylight, etc.

Eating Disorders — Anorexia/Bulimia

These are disorders most of us are aware of due to their shocking visual nature. The crux of these illnesses is often to control the way one looks by incorporating destructive eating habits.

Whether it is rationing your daily food intake to almost nothing or getting rid of any intake through puking or laxatives, these diseases have devastating (and long-term) health consequences that often turn fatal. As with BDD, these illnesses affect both males and females.

The Red Flags to Look Out for According to an Online Psychologist

  • An extreme change in diet.
  • Severe weight loss, even though nothing in their diet has changed.
  • They are focused on and express an extreme desire “to be thin”.
  • There is a constant and intense underlying fear of gaining weight.
  • Their breath generally smells bad and they are starting to have problems with their teeth.
  • Almost chronic pain and inflammation when it comes to the jaw, throat, and stomach.
  • Being constantly dehydrated.

Playing Around with Dangerous Substances

This is very prevalent amongst those who are in the fitness & professional athlete worlds, with men topping the charts and women sliding in last place (but only because their substance of choice is more socially acceptable).

It can be very hard for some to realise that it’s impossible to reach their (unrealistic) goal with diet and exercise alone. So, in their desperation, they start playing around with anything that might give them the edge they’re looking for.

With individuals involved in the fitness industry and sports such as bodybuilding, the temptation for using substances such as steroids can become overwhelming. When it comes to women of the general public, the thing an online psychologist comes across the most is diet pills.

And we’re not talking about just Green Tea and herbal supplements. These are unregulated (and often illegal) concoctions. But whether you’re playing around with substances reserved for the so-called “pros” or a pill, syrup, candy, etc. you can purchase online or over the counter, these substances have serious health implications.

Not only do these substances have an effect on your mood and general well-being, but the use of these substances can also lead to very serious physical conditions such as cardiac arrest and liver failure.

The Red Flags to Look Out for According to an Online Psychologist

  • A sudden increase or decrease in appetite.
  • Skin problems.
  • Mood swings.
  • A much slower healing rate when it comes to wounds.
  • They bruise easily.
  • They have trouble sleeping.

Reach Out

It doesn’t matter how thwarted your body image has gotten; there is always a way to set it right with the help of professionals. If you see yourself or a loved one in any of the above, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Not only will this prevent the situation to escalate further, but it will limit the physical damage incurred. You are welcome to contact us at info@personalonlinetherapy.com or reach out to us via the Personal Online Therapy website.

Originally published at https://www.personalonlinetherapy.com on January 21, 2023.

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