"My dad is 96 years old, and he's just happy he's got a body that's healthy and working. That's all that counts. When you have a body that's healthy, happy and functioning normally, you'll realise that health is wealth". Doctor Simpson's advice is straightforward. You need to be healthy, not have a 6-pack, 3-pack or a thigh gap.
Has having the perfect body come at a cost to our health and mental wellbeing?
Unfortunately, not many people are content with a 'healthy body'. They want the 'ideal' body, or whatever's trendy (i.e., Kim Kardashian) and most will go to any length to achieve one.
The fitness industry is currently worth more than $100 million, with personal trainers (most not properly educated) everywhere you turn, and lately, more ‘nutritionists’ popping up than ever before. The food we eat (or stopped eating) has changed drastically as a result.
Dr Simpson says that ‘Our notions about food and how the body works typically aren't as good as what we think they are’ and he couldn’t be closer to the truth!
There are so many diets, so much food advice and so many conflicting views on food that nobody knows where to start. And the idea that one diet can fix everybody's problems has been thrown out the window.
Enter Bigorexia: an unhealthy obsession with The Perfect Body.
In the race to sculpt an ideal body, the food we eat has become a key factor. On apps such as Pump Up and Instagram, photos of “healthy” dishes have become a huge success among users and created many Instagram Celebrities.
These include images of raw foods, such as exotic fruit salads, colourful bowls loaded with food and the all too popular ‘green smoothies’. Apps with thousands of subscribers now specialise in staging these images of “healthy” meals.
Often, these illustrations are guided by the hashtag #eatclean. The clean-eating philosophy consists of eating only “whole” or “unprocessed” foods. These words have only a rather vague definition, which is based on the radical idea that most of the food products at our disposal are impure. The ‘clean eating’ philosophy has gone further and turned into the 'veganism clean eating trend'.
So how do we explain this fad for controlling our bodies in ever more extreme ways? According to the philosopher Isabelle Quéval, author of the 2008 essay “The Body Today,” we have gone from living in a world in which the body was subjected to the vagaries of life to the possibility of having a malleable body that is transformable according to the food we eat, the sports we play and our medical choices.
As a result, our bodies have become the tool with which “I will be able to build a destiny for myself,” she explained in Télérama magazine. It would constitute, more than ever, a reason to “protect, heal, grow … and, especially, make it last.”
However, for Quéval, it is difficult to escape from a phenomenon that, over time, has become a real moral injunction.
In the current climate, the majority of young people believe that “you have to be thin, young, beautiful and fit to succeed in your relationships and professional life; there is strong pressure for everyone to meet these standards,” she wrote in the French magazine.
This pressure has seemingly created a construed view on reality and subsequently caused a wave of eating disorders, mental health issues, physical health issues (such as IBS) and overall unhappiness amongst our young people.
Greek City Time's Lifestyle Journalist Despina Karp discussed these issues and much more in PART 2 of her chat with Dr Terry Simpson in her Virtual Chats series on our YouTube Channel. Watch it here:
Topics covered in Part 2:
- 'Toxic fitness industries'
- The dangers of Body Image in an Instagram Influencer World.
- What should the ideal man or woman look like and is it even relevant to being healthy?
- 'Health coaches' giving out terrible nutrition advice
- Why you should be sceptical of health and fitness individuals selling you stuff on social media
- The history of diets
- The 'Fruit & Rice Diet'
- How do we tackle the obesity epidemic?
- HIIT training, safe for long-term use?
- Why you need to find an exercise that you enjoy
- Dr Simpson's '30-second vegan talk'
- Why we need to reward 'whole food' companies
- How will we feed a planet of 9 million people?
This article is not intended to provide specialty medical advice, and the points in this article may not apply to everyone.
Always seek professional medical advice when in doubt.