Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder? Pt. 1

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It is no surprise to most of us that our social media dictates a lot of the standards we adopt as a society as to what qualifies as outward beauty.  Today, the standard for women is lean yet ample breasts. The standard for men is largely either thinner or muscular with six pack abs.., but this wasn't always the case. From the age of the Renaissance to around 1910 obesity was in.  With various famines that circulated about due to environmental causes , diseases like small pox or what not, obesity meant wealth, health and power and being thin and even muscular meant you were the poorer, working class struggling to eeek out an existence (http://blog.sermo.com/2015/07/02/history-obesity-renaissance-1910/).  So thin wasn't sexy and people weren't stressing out over missing the gym so they could fit into a slimmer swimsuit.  It wasn't "Pump You Up!" as the famous SNL skit goes, but it was more "Plump You Up". Can you even imagine this in our culture today of rock hard abs and Jenny Craig?

Yet, among the voices, even celebrity voices, you will hear the cries that deeply shallow resent;"personality", or the inward person, really matters more than physical beauty.  "Yes!" we say with the sense of saying an "Amen" after a prayer we have said a hundred times.  Meanwhile, we go back to our calorie counter all under the guise of "good health".  After all, there is no way a gem of a person like me is even largely focused on my looks, right? Of course not, it's all for health purposes!  If we were truly honest most of us still struggle between these two campaigns of inner and outer beauty around our own self worth.  As a single man, I get all sorts of advice on seeking out a life partner.  The advice goes somewhat like this: pick someone you aren't physically attracted  to don't settle and get what you want to find a level of some physical attraction but largely look for inner qualities.  Meanwhile, what level do I put myself under? Well, nifty me should be a hearthrob because honey, I can rock both, don't you know? OR I should be able to because, darn, I'm cool so I'm going to give it my all! And if I'm working that hard, you better be too! And then, is it too much to ask that my partner put in the same efforts. Meanwhile, we wonder why we spend so many nights alone. If I were honest, I would admit that I would put on the top of my list to Santa someone who immediately get's my heart rate up just by looking at them.  Not many people are going to admit that, but I believe this is what most single people raised in our culture secretly want. We don't often drool over the middle of the road of sudan. We drool over that hot sports car.  The heart throb is on our secret Santa wish list. Some of us will take less, but it is still on the list thus we make sure we live up to being that for someone else...and when we aren't or can't because of some health or time issue, well...there is no greater self wrath than a fat man scorned.

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15 seconds out of our day or week, we will remind ourselves that is the impact we make with our heart and soul that really matters while the rest of the time we can easily get consumed with diet, exercise, weight training and weight loss.  It is, of course, not a bad thing until it consumes all our time and our judgments of ourselves and others.  It would be interesting to see the the whip marks for every-time we inflicted ourselves with self hate over body issues if it left a mark like a whip does. Self flagellation. Its what we are really doing after all. Yet is being thin and those low carb diets mean you are healthy?  An article by Time Magazine "Why Being Thin Doesn't Mean Your Healthy", Alice Park talks about men and women and genes. "In a genetic analysis involving more than 75,000 people, an international group of scientists led by Ruth Loos at the Medical Research Council in the U.K. found that lean people with a specific genetic variant were at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease despite their lower body fat."   Scientist now suggest that it is not how much fat to loose for good health but rather the kind of fat to lose.  The article goes on to say that genetically speaking, there is really not much control we have on how we store fat or what kind of fat we store.  We have no control over that but yet our advertisements don't take any of that in consideration because losing fat sells so just buy the product. (http://healthland.time.com/2011/06/27/why-being-thin-doesnt-always-mean-being-healthy/).

And if you fail? If you fail because your genetic make up doesn't fit the program or you don't have the right direction to guide you...well, that's on you because they just want your dollars.  And I ask you, is that really the kind of life you would want any loved one to live under? If not, then I have another question for you-if you wouldn't do it to a loved one, then why do you do it to yourself? Think about this question and I'll come back to it later in the series, but feel the weight of that question. I feel it just typing it! 

Yet, we see the celebrities our mouths water over. We know the popular good looking people who are the most prized in our circles because of their good looks, gym-rat bods, etc.  I remember walking into a venue where I was given a handshake and the stud behind me was given an enthusiastic, full embrace even though that person knew me much better.   We've all been on either side of that coin.  Where because of looks, gender or even race, we get better options, we get more opens doors in social circles ...or not.   But, we often disguise that base awareness with the idea of we are just being "healthy" by our obsessive focus on our bodies.  And it's okay, in my view, to want a rock'en body with abs and health too but the problem becomes with the obsession and the harsh judgement of self and others that stem from the obsession.  As well, many aren't practicing real good health to get the results they want as they are taking whatever fad get's them to appear to have those results despite the health implications. 

So first, rather than just talk about the past when fat was in, let's look at some places where fat is in NOW. The list may surprise you. I'm not presenting this to you to propose that we should swap out our standards of beauty for Fijji's.  Rather, I want to first break the ingrained notion that our standard of beauty here in America was written somewhere in the 10 commandments and began with Adam and Eve's diet of forbidden apples.  If there are different standards of what beauty is, than that helps us to see just how deep this notion is that beauty is in the eye beholder and depending where you live What I hope to show you by the end of series is that someone other than ourselves has grabbed ahold of our eyes and not for our benefit.  With that reveal, we can than move on to get in control of our own lives and focus on being truly happy, content, and healthy as well as being more loving to the world around us. 

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Places Where It Is Always 'Fat Tuesday'

Today there are still areas where obesity is "in" across the world.  For example, in Mauritania, West Africa where droughts and famines are high, fat is considered a sign of "prosperity".  Women are prodded to pack on the pounds so they can marry into wealthy familes and have an in with people of high socio-economic status.  "Girls as young as seven years old are force-fed in order to put on weight" at various "fat farms" which the BBC reported on. 

In places like Nauru and Tahiti, the plumping of women in particular, has to do with long traditions of being healthy for child bearing. For men, it was considered good for strength competitions. It just so happens to be convienant  in these two countries since their environmental situation corners these people into eating more fat building foods.  That's called taking advantage of your circumstances I suppose. 

Three other countries that prize fatness for health and fertility reasons and thus social-economic high status is Iraq, Kuwait, and Fijii. In Kuwait, a report was done showing 74% of their population was overweight.., but they like that way!  It is all a sign of prosperty and men see their large wives as visualize symbols of their opulence. 

You might be surprised to learn that Afghanistan also sees obesity as a sign of better socio-economic status and thus being overweight is seen as more desirable than being thin or six pack abs.  It is actually projected that the weight of their citizens is expected to increase over the next 10 years.  Another surprise for you may be Jamaica which has a cultural history rich in favoring obesity.  65% of their women are classified as obese and they actually favor women with steatopygia (generous hips and a big booty). If you are thin in Jamaica and are not sick or poor, you are "seen as stingy and socially subversive".  

In Samoa, and Tonga in the Pacific, fat is also in.  South Africa, because omuch of the largely negative advertisement about famines and the devastation on the body around HIV,  has given life to the stigma of being thin that was once propogated about poor blacks during Apartheid. Here too fat is seen as being prosperious, good health, and a tie to wealth and priveledge. 

(information gathered from http://www.futurescopes.com/dating/finding-date/2452/countries-where-being-fat-attractive)

Next, I will get into why and how we can break this struggle of valuing beauty over substance.