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Beauty Syndrome, Body Image and Self-Esteem by Michael Nanko PhD

Beauty Syndrome, Body Image and Self-Esteem by Michael Nanko PhD

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Published by Michael Nanko
Psychology of Physical Attractiveness and its Effect on Body Image, Self Esteem and Health
Psychology of Physical Attractiveness and its Effect on Body Image, Self Esteem and Health

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Published by: Michael Nanko on Dec 06, 2009
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BEAUTY SYNDROME Michael J. Nanko. Ph.D. 1' In this society, we are bombarded awry with books, magazines, televisioncommercials, printed advertisements, movies and beauty contests that instruct us as to what makes for a beautiful person. Billboards and commercialstell us what to wear, how to look and what "beautiful" products to use.We know that people will often go to extremes to do what they can to look more attractive. This ranges from padding breasts to hair removal or hair implantation to wearing life-threatening corsets and to cosmetic surgeriesfor altering most any aspect 
the human body. Every major magazine isnow overrun with ads for cosmetic surgery or other alternatives to beauty enhancements.Much research over the past two decades has shown that a person's physical attractiveness mediates or helps to determine many of his or her lifeexperiences. The phrase "What is beautiful is good" was coined 
Dion,Berscheid and Walster (7972). They found that the physically attractivewere perceived to be more socially desirable, than persons of lower attractiveness. Physical attractiveness has been found to be associated with a host of favorable qualities, such as popularity, likability, competence, persuasiveness, ability to succeed, and as better adjusted in relationships.The attractive people tend to draw or attract material benefits and rewardsbestowed by society. These rewards may even be monetary in nature, throughbetter paying jobs, higher tips, etc. (Stillman & Winsley, 7980; May, 7980).The physical attractiveness stereotype is pervasive and can be seen across amyriad of social and psychological contexts. In educational settings,teachers have been found to rate attractive students more favorably thanthe less attractive on expected potential and on various academic predictionmeasures (Adams & Cohen, 7976; Clifford, 7975; Ross & Salvia, 1975), and in the area of physical training performance (Martinez, 7987). The attractivehave been found to benefit from their appearance in simulated juridic decision-making studies as recipients of more lenient sentences and verdictsthan the less attractive (Efran, 1974; lzzett & Fishman, 1976).There is also evidence from the mental health arena that the more attractivean individual is perceived to be - - the more emotionally adjusted they areexpected to be. At least a handful of studies have investigated therelationship of physical attractiveness and judged the adjustment of mental  patients. Martin, Friedmeyer and Moore (1977) found that patients whowere judged to be good-looking were also judged by hospital staff to be better adjusted and have better prognosis. Attractive persons are sought more often as dating partners and they tend toseek friends, date and marry those who are among the more attractive (Berscheid,Dion, Walster & Walster, 7977; Cavior & Bablett, 1972; Murstein, 7972). In thebusiness context, Dipboye, Fromkin & Wiback (7975) discovered that the physically attractive are chosen more readily for job openings.(Add MN PAresearch here) Moreover, work produced by attractive persons are ratemore favorable, competent (Anderson & Nida, 1978; Landy & Sigall, 7974).Other research suggests that an individual may increase his or her own prestige and the impression managed by mere association with a physically attractive person (Geiselman, Haight & Kimata, 1985; Sigall & Landy, 7973;Strane & Watts; 7977).
-2-Beauty at what price?  Just as the unattractive people are discriminated against as demonstrated in the social psychological literature, so too, are those who are obese.Obesity, or being overweight, is intricately tied into the beauty game inthis culture. For the most part, one cannot be fat and physically attractivein this culture. However, one can be physically appealing from the head down which can reduce at least one prejudice. It is interesting, if not criminal,that unattractive persons and obese persons both suffer from prejudice and social stigmas that cross most contexts. These individuals are prejudiced against and receive less social reinforcements at school, work, in datingexperiences, and in perceived adjustment. It is not only the lay person that finds the obese and the unattractive as less desirable humans, for example,obese persons are evaluated as more psychologically disturbed by healthcare professionals and the implicit assumption is that they bring it all onthemselves.Physically attractive people, especially women, must look a certain way.Magazines like Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Playboy, and the like, come over loud and clear as to what is sexy and attractive. Today, fat is out and thinis in. Most all facets of the media portray attractive people as trim,sometimes unrealistically so. Ads for health and fitness clubs always portray trim and attractive people in their copy; however, some cognizant advertisingexecutives believe this approach may, under certain circumstances, keep people away. What does this all mean to the populace who strive to beaccepted, liked, perceived as attractive, and who want to be desired? To!mach and Scherr (1984) asked women multitudinous questions about beauty and what it means to them. What they got was near-unanimity that all women felt they need to be thinner. Most all stated in some form: "I haveto lose weight". The researchers found that even those who looked not at all overweight wanted to lose from 5 to 25 pounds. What was striking inthis near-unanimity was women's identification of their self-discontent with body weight; also the gap the answers revealed between the intellectual and abstract accolades to health and tranquility, and the concrete disgust upon looking into the mirror, the feeling that beauty is 10 pounds lighter.These same women were acutely aware of every blemish on their body. (Insert light stats)Most of the women in the above survey reported that beauty is health,intelligence, personality and fitness. But in reality, most all the womenwere overly concerned with physical appearance spending a significant amount of time preparing their looks via cosmetics, stylish clothing, hairstylingand other tactics.In this society where slenderness is valued as the ideal, children are now being taught that to be loved they must be thin and beautiful. Beauty contestsfor young children abound now throughout the country. Young girls areacutely aware from their parents and the media about what it means tobe attractive. This may mean early introduction of cosmetics and strict dieting during crucial developmental stages. Girls may even be criticized by siblings, as well as parents, for not conforming to beauty standards. They will definitely be criticized at school for being even slightly overweight,overdeveloped, or underdeveloped. For the young person, social pressuresfor attractiveness can have serious physical and psychological sequelae.
One recent study I conducted looked at the attractiveness levels of 50 youngboys and 200 girls, ages 72 to 14. The measures taken of attractivenesswere part of a study conducted to evaluate the efficacy of a wellness program provided to an intermediate school by a community-based hospital. What was uncovered was startling. There was a significant correlation found between the attractiveness
the student and blood pressure. The lower the perceived attractiveness level by the young person, the higher the blood  pressure. This finding was stronger for females than it was for males.Females' blood pressure is usually lower. (Body image, etc. insert)This is the first finding that shows a detrimental physical effect for lowereattractiveness. If future research confirms this result — we will have strongevidence that how a child (especially a girl) perceives herself has actual  physical effects; physical effects that are extremely harmful when they comprise long term heightened blood pressure. More negative consequencesto beautism may be unfolded in subsequent research.Some could state that fatness is a health risk and we are ruining the healthand mobility of our youth by not reinforcing such behaviors and values.However, we must also investigate the issue of damage done to women'sappearance and health by amphetamines and dangerous diets, tight girdles,silicone implants, liposuction, and other cosmetic surgeries. There are many means being tried to attain slenderness and beauty. Fat or leanness carried to extremes can create illness of both mind and body. This is clearly evidenced by the incidence in eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, etc.) inthis country.We must question the desperation of the women who find thinness or voluptuousness important enough to subject themselves to drugs and surgical  procedures with dangerous side effects. Beauty can hardly be viewed as alife-threatening ailment or situation. Perhaps, the only way to understand thesituation is to agree that such conditions are, in fact, perceived by somewomen as life-threatening, as so dangerous that seriously damaginginterventions are justified, any risk worth taking to alleviate them.Being overweight, (which is not "attractive") based on the attention given to it by the media and health industry could be regarded as America's Public EnemNumber One. Health, the most frequent rationalization for the preference for thinness, is based on dubious grounds (see Garner et al., 7985).Several studies have challenged the assumption that obesity is a significant health problem and have concluded that the fervor of treatment effortsreflects our prejudice rather than realistic response to the risks inherent to thecondition (Bennett & Gurin, 7982). In fact, psychological stressassociated with being obese in our culture, rather than obesity per se, could contribute in a major way to increased risk of illness, including hypertension.
Furthermore, the constant fluctuations in weight that come from failed attempts to lose weight may actually pose a greater risk than obesity. Dietinghas also been found to lead to binge eating and compulsive eating in someindividuals. Wardle (7980) found that binge eating is more prevalent amongdieters than nondieters. Binge eating may lead to dangerous consequences,including bulimic bingeing and purging. Some diets which are followed,to reach that wonderful state of thinness, have even been found to be fatal (e.g., Beverly Hills Diet).

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