By: James Lipsett

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This phrase has been used for generations and it still rings true to this day. Or so one would hope.

But in this ever-expanding world of lingerie ads, ‘top model’ reality shows and dieting regimes, the general perception of beauty has changed.

Skinny is in and if you don’t have six-pack abs or a size zero waist, you have some work to do. While this notion alone is distorted to say the least, the real issue lies with how people-especially youth-are trying to attain the ‘perfect body’.

There are countless methods that have been tried. While there’s nothing wrong with losing weight the healthy way-with proper nutrition and exercise-there’s plenty wrong with starving yourself, throwing up after meals and basing 90 per cent of your diet on water and lemon juice.

I myself have struggled with negative body image issues while growing up. I was always chubby, never obese, but always a little thicker than what everyone else seemed to be at the time. Young children tend to make a point of picking on anyone who’s different, and I endured the fat jokes. My best friends in first grade started making fun of me and stopped inviting me over; I was always picked last in gym class; and all of the girls would poke my belly, laugh and run away.

My self-esteem plummeted and I started to withdraw from everyone. Instead of watching what I ate and becoming more active, I shut myself in my room and refused to eat when my parents cooked dinner. I even threw out the lunches my mom packed for me at school. I became unhealthy and started to get sick often. But no weight was coming off. That’s when the depression set in.

What started out as petty teasing about being chubby turned into a problem that I’ve had to deal with for my entire life. The frightening thing is that what I went through isn’t nearly as drastic as what others are experiencing due to negative body image.

Eating disorders have become a commonality among youth, teens, young adults and even children. Bulimia, anorexia and extreme dieting are killing people every day. Just for the chance to attain that ‘perfect body’. Isn’t there something that can be done to turn this around?

I say yes, there is. There needs to be a general change of attitude. Sure, there are a few campaigns out there that are helping the cause, like the Dove ads featuring full-bodied women and Jenny Craig using curvy celebrities to promote their balanced dieting system. But there needs to be more, and it should start from the ground up.

Health classes in schools should have more positive body image lessons added to the curriculum. High schools should have more assemblies to promote body image positivity. Colleges and universities should host more events that inform people of the importance of accepting yourself and others for the person that they are. Simple ideas like these have the potential to make a difference.

There is more to life than looking like an A-list celebrity. Next time you look in the mirror, don’t think about how your thighs could be smaller or how arms could be bigger. Look at the face staring back at you, the face of the person that your family and friends love for who you are. Learn to love yourself.