People are commonly told, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” But how often can this be believed when countless individuals face extensive pressures to measure up to a societal standard of beauty that is seemingly impossible to achieve?

The concept of a “perfect” or “ideal” body has been one that has haunted the minds of billions through societal norms and institutions. It has also blindly led people down a rabbit hole of self-hate, low self-esteem or even self-inflicted harm.

The stigma of an ideal body has historically been placed in order to engage men and women in practices to approximate an inexplicably radicalized, narrow and unachievable beauty standard. Research has displayed countless pieces of evidence regarding the inertial properties of bodies that can be used to estimate three comparatively differing body types: ectomorphic, endomorphic and mesomorphic.

Ectomorphs are typically slimmer and taller. Endomorphs are on-average; shorter and retain stubborn fat and mesomorphs are stronger and thick-skinned. This is significant as it points out that the non-inclusive image of an ideal body heavily blankets the fact that different body types have different capacities for achieving the widely renowned “ideal body.”

Endomorphs cannot biologically change their chemical makeup to have a physical appearance similar to an ectomorph. Yet these somatotypes, or body types, are still often used in industries and society vernacularly and are manipulated to create the pursuit of mythical perfect body size. This may end up damaging one’s physical or emotional well-being.

On top of this, it is important to acknowledge a long history of colonization that has “westernized” beauty standards around the world. Many beauty standards for men and women are currently celebrated not from an objective, biological or evolutionary standpoint; but rather through an intangible blindfold that prevents the naked eye from decolonizing the paragon of body standards.

The pills and diet industry, along with the overuse of social media apps, has created an image of the “ideal body” which has become one of the most overrated notions of society.

Capitalists have mastered the trade of manufacturing insecurities and projecting them onto people to provide them with “a solution” for their disillusioned problems. This paradigm has created another type of fabricated impression of an ideal body to help promote commodities such as dietary supplements and certain foods or cosmetics that “help lose 25 pounds in 2 weeks.” Not only has this contributed to a separate sphere of economic conglomerations and profiteering, but has encouraged an “easy way out”— that in turn creates more medical problems such as slowing the metabolism and inducing a person to use more of the product.

One of the largest of these industries is dietary supplements. Many who have watched television or have heard a vast display of marketing are sure to have heard the phrase, “eat whatever you want, never worry about exercise and still lose weight with this pill.” Unfortunately, scientific research has discredited such claims. These products are categorized as dietary supplements, not as drugs. According to the current Food and Drug Administration regulations, “this [entails] nobody has to prove that they work.”

A number of quality studies have explored the efficacies that are very limited for herbal products and dietary supplements, yet they all conclude that these pills provide nothing but a placebo effect. The reality can seem too demeaning — having either not lost any weight or fluctuating in size resulting in additional utilization of more pills. This guarantees industries a market to generate profits and a frontier to expand upon their “weight loss services.”

While the fallacy of weight-loss pills promotes economic growth through the exploitation of insecurities, they often result in low self-esteem with the increase in intake of pills. The industry almost directly correlates with negative body images as companies project an idea of a “healthy” or “pretty” body.

Exposing the fallacies of weight-loss or fad diet companies that have inadvertently promoted the idea of a single type of healthy, beautiful body — brainwashing the minds of its consumers to believe that their bodies will never be enough. In reality, this is not the case. Whatever the case may be, the harm of marketing commodities seems to morally outweigh the measures of profits. Not only are many people not successfully losing weight, but they are losing a stable mentality.

The exponential rise of social media has furnished different effects on body image and the development of eating disorders. While intended to globalize the outreach of influencers and progressive ideas, social media has often become an outlet to which a person’s body image is hurt because of the continuous exposure to the “perfect body type.”

On top of this, photoshop and filters are readily playing into this negative stigma. Social media has stimulated the development of distorted body images as it furthers societal thoughts that promote flawless features and physiques. Many often feel the pressure to conform to the unrealistic expectations promoted through digitally altered photos. This only teaches individuals that it is appropriate to hide “flaws” at all costs instead of embracing them.

Not only have traditional media outlets promoted a “thinness” narrative that may influence its audience to internalize patterns of physical beauty, but they have encouraged a rise in dissatisfaction with their own bodies when they are unable to meet societal standards. Thus, shows that in the constant search for the “ideal body,” risky behaviors such as eating disorders, body dysmorphia and body dysphoria may be adopted.

Yet despite numerous pieces of evidence pointing towards the idea that the “ideal” body type does not exist, this thought is seemingly most overvalued due to the fact that it creates problems.

Rather than seeing the beauty surrounding everyone, a person is masked by insecurities, doubt, and self-hate. All in all, proving the notion of the “ideal body” standard to be absurd and overrated.

Prishaa Vala