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Perfect Bodies

Perfect bodies. They’re everywhere.
In adverts. On Instagram. Television. Magazines. They’re impossible to avoid.
Last month, Protein World’s ‘Beach Body’ billboards hit the headlines after being plastered all over the London Underground.
These have since been banned. Taken down. Never to be seen again.
Yet damage has been done and there are countless other offending examples besides.
That damage?
How’s about the huge rise in hospital admissions for teenagers with eating disorders?
Figures revealed in recent days have shown that, over the last 36 months, this number has almost doubled (from just under 1,000 instances in 2010/11 to more than 1,800 in 2013/14).
This spike is being blamed, in the main, on social media and the significant increase in images and apps available online that are putting pressure on impressionable adolescents.
Most – unsurprisingly, perhaps – are female, 15 the most common age.
Perfect bodies everywhere, the bombardment is taking its toll.
It’s something that ought to concern us all.
Spend a little time online. Research the ‘thinspiration’ sites that encourage teenage girls to post skeletal selfies and promote anorexia and bulimia.
In this arena, eating disorders are glorified and glamorised, celebrated, promoted and portrayed in a positive light.
The truth – the sad truth – couldn’t be more different.
Not that social media and the internet alone are to blame.
There can be no question that, as the ‘Beach Body’ affair has underlined, young people are being told all the time that thinner is better and that there is no consequence to the cost.
Billboards. Magazines. Movies. Television. The focus on the female form is intense and relentless. Turn on the radio. Flick through the newspaper. Tune in to a conversation in the school playground. It’s here. It’s there. It’s everywhere.
Listen to it for a moment through a teenager’s impressionable ears.
Feel the pressure. Imagine the angst. Considered against such a backdrop, the numbers outlined above start to make sense (and for each recorded hospital admission, there are lots more that don’t get that far and, as such, continue to exist beneath the radar).
To the ignorant and the uninformed, eating disorders might appear insignificant, a trifling issue and no great cause for concern.
Yet the truth – the sad truth – is that anorexia claims more lives than all other mental illnesses. One in five anorexics die, either from physical complications or suicide. This is no trifling issue. This is a great cause for concern.
Young people have a great deal to contend with these days and the constant quest for perfect bodies – and the pressure that this can put the impressionable under – is a threat that mustn’t be underestimated.
Be aware. Be prepared.
Perfect bodies. They’re everywhere.

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