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Diet Obsession

The image of a beautiful, thin, fit woman with glowing tan skin and bright white teeth that has been flashed in front of me in magazine ads and television commercials since I can remember has greatly influenced my mental picture of the ideal female figure. I admit today that I was brainwashed into believing these images are truthful, realistic and easily attainable. At a young age I quickly learned that these images were exactly what society expected me to look like and if I failed to resemble any of these ads, it was my fault and I had failed to live up to the expectations of American society. I can happily say that today, after years of dieting, miles on the treadmill and flights in the Stairmaster , I now have a more realistic and healthier approach to identifying beauty. I have watched over a dozen close friends of mine starve themselves, almost to the point of death, to attain these images of beauty. After hours of discussions and contemplation throughout my adult and adolescent life, I have identified some of the many ads that have greatly attributed to this false picture of beauty. I will explain the most important of these ads which I feel had the greatest impact on me growing up in the next few pages.

I will admit that I am a child of the early eighties. I say this because my earliest images from the media are from this decade. This decade was filled with money, flashy material items and most of all, the start of the big aerobic and diet era. I am the youngest of three girls in my home. My mother had been a fanatic marathon runner and had always told me and my sisters the importance of exercise and a healthy diet to look and feel our best. Even though a healthy diet was a commonly used phrase in our house, we had a month supply of the diet soft drink Tab in our basement. This product was, by all means a staple in my house. Even my father had been hooked on the drink and swore off any calorie filled beverages. I was at most four or five years of age when I recognized my family's obsession with Tab was out of the norm. I would go to friends' houses and look in the amazement at the absence of the unmistakable red can. I began noticing the Tab commercials that seemed to be on repeat on television. This commercial included a tall, female with long legs strolling along the beach in a bathing suit holding a can of Tab with a big bright smile on her face. I understood that this "just one calorie" drink attributed to this woman's beauty and apparently healthy body. The humor of this is that this unhealthy drink, which was later understood to cause cancer in "laboratory rats," did anything but promote an image of a healthy woman ingesting this terrible unhealthy product.

My second memory of the media brainwashing viewers into thinking that "quick fix" diet products were the answer to a thinner, more beautiful and healthier life is of the Dexatrim ads. Today, I know that these diet pills or "appetite suppressants" are a n indubitable waste of money, but as a young girl trying to grow up in an image-conscious society, I was naive to the realistic and harmful affects of these pills. The Dexatrim ads were loaded with promises of easy and painless weight loss. The more humorous advertisement which caught my attention was a television commercial that showed a woman blankly and desperately staring into the window of a closed pastry shop. I interpreted this to mean that self-control and the ability never to give into temptation was what was expected of me and if I did not want to be laughed at or looked down upon , I needed to be able to control my cravings. This was only reinforced when I would see my mother taking the colorful Dexatrim pills throughout the day. At one point I even recall asking her if I could have one. Her response was "they are not for people your age." At the time I thought Dexatrim was out there with "R" rated movies. They were a type of product that was okay to use once I entered the adult world.

The next memory that I have is with the aerobic craze that his America in the middle of the eighties. The picture of Jane Fonda in her leotard and red leg warmers was literally everywhere I turned. This was the next "invention" that I interpreted to be the path to the beautiful thin model that I knew, even at a young age, I was meant to be. This exercise regimen with Jane Fonda combined with a healthy balance of Tab diet soda and Yoplat yogurt that ex-model Sherile Teggs swore by, was the formula to a beautiful body and fulfilling the beautiful female image.

Sadly enough the next story could have easily been avoided if there were more information that exists today on the dangers of liquid dieting. I remember Oprah Winfrey proudly walking on stage of her popular talk show after she literally starved herself with liquid "meals" to shed over fifty pounds. Products like Slim Fast flooded the supermarket shelves as well as our magazines and television sets. It was only weeks after I saw my first impressive before-and-after pictures that Slim Fast proudly advertised before I noticed the Slim Fast powder in our family kitchen. I was thirteen years old when my two other girlfriends and I came up with the brilliant idea to start this diet. I successfully hid the diet from my mother but soon enough it caught up with me. I was practicing with my cross country team after school one afternoon and passed out from dehydration and low blood sugar. I never recall the Slim Fast manufacturers stating the dangers of prolonged use but I do very clearly remember the success stories of the numerous individuals featured in Slim Fats ads.

I am not entirely blaming the media for my own misdirected images of beauty and dieting but I firmly agree that they contributed to it. I even myself today falling for some ridiculous claim that " cellulite cream" might actually work, but I can say that I identify situations that the media are brainwashing me. I have come to realize that beauty can be found in all areas of a person, whether it is external or internal and I now I can pass a Slim Fast ads and give a sigh of relief that I have learned my lesson, even if it was the hard way.

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