Standards of beauty contrast social habit

By Robert Clinton , Opinion Editor

History shows what constitutes traditional standards of health and beauty are in constant evolution and at times along that evolutionary path, standards of health run completely opposite of what it means to be aesthetically beautiful.

Ideals of traditional beauty reach as far into the past as ancient Egypt. Records show that during the time of the Pharaohs, the ideal woman was slim with a symmetrical face, narrow shoulders and a high waist.

More resonant images of beauty were depicted in ancient Rome through sculpture as humanity neared the modern era with many of these works of art still on display in museums around the world.

“How I feel about me is totally based on me. It’s not about what the world does or how I’m seen in it. It’s about what makes me feel good — it’s self interest,” political science major Sesen Smith said.

Roman depictions of the goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, often show her with a smooth voluptuous body that conveys the image of someone healthy, well fed and potentially fertile.

Non-existent are depictions of over-developed breasts or bottoms that modern men consider traits of beauty and sexuality.

Modern standards of beauty contradict the general cuisine choices Americans make resulting in an increasingly large populous.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 20 percent of Americans are obese and 40 percent of citizens over 20 are obese as well.

“Some students are trying to be more healthy about what they put into their bodies but it comes down to what they can afford. Fresh fruits and perishables won’t last as long,” Contra Costa College health education professor Miguel Johnson said.

“It comes down to convenience, price and marketing. Kids want large portions — more bang for the buck. If there were other healthier more convenient options, I’m sure students would take them.”

Public perceptions of health and beauty are not exclusively geared toward women.

In sculptures, the most notable figure defining Renaissance masculinity, the marble-carved statue of David by the artist Michelangelo, has a substantially smaller penis than modern people would envision the ultimate male image of the era to have.

That fact is less about David and more what the statement said about him as a man. His sculpture was to be greater than the sum of his physical parts — he was defined by what was inside.

“My sense of style comes less from outside influences and more from within,” philosophy and English tutor Ron Chand said. “I don’t pay attention to what’s going on in fashion. I pick out things that I like at thrift stores and kind of put them together myself.”

Modern America is a far cry from the flat-chested, vertical-lined hips that permeated pictures and men’s fantasies in the 1920s.

Now, over-exaggerated images of voluptuousness, complete with enhanced lips and collagen-filled hips stray far from what size and shape of average American women.

“The way I feel inside is more important than the way people see me,”  English as a second language major Denise Siquaira. 

According to data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics, 70 percent of Americans are overweight or suffering from obesity.

Today, the average weight of American women is as much as the average weight of an American man in 1960, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The average weight for men has also increased from 165 pounds 50 years ago to 195 pounds today, an increase of 17 percent.

Many contribute this steadily increasing weight gain to many leading a more sedentary lifestyle. However, others place the lionshare of the responsibility at the feet of one deteriorating aspect of daily American life — poor diet.

According to polling from Gallup, 28 percent of Americans say they eat fast food at least once per week.

Out of the over 2,000 people surveyed, more than 75 percent believed fast food was bad for them but ate it anyway.

Beverages, desserts, milkshakes and ice cream can be a prime source for unhealthy fat, however, aside from sugar, chemicals used to extend the shelf-life of food products can have an adverse effect on human health.

“It’s not just what you eat, it’s also a lifestyle. The student-athletes here eat a ton of whatever, but they have a relatively high level of health and fitness,” Johnson said.

According to data collected by the Journal of Nutritional Health & Food Science, many of the 10 letter additives listed in small print on food labels are known to be unhealthy.

Despite public information and visual evidence, shown by Americans’ collectively expanding waistlines, citizens continue to consume unhealthy food.

Even in the CCC Bookstore the junk food always sells first.

“Most people buy junk food from here,” Bookstore employee and history major Jin Jorge said. “Only the athletes buy the cliff bars or people who are trying to eat healthy. Most of the Middle College (High School) kids buy all of the junk.”

Some of this consumption can be related to the nationwide epidemic of food islands or deserts dictating what people use to fuel their bodies.

Food deserts are areas, usually populated by low-income residents, that have limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Others turn to less-nutritional food choices out of convenience, with many making concessions to time or income limitations that restrict the ability to prepare consistent home-cooked meals.

This trend doesn’t limit itself to affecting only one generation of nutritionally-deprived families.

Data also shows that obesity rates in parents is directly associated with childhood obesity.

Confronting notions of health and body image in modern America can be a daunting task. Advertisers spoon-feed images of seemingly happy, healthy, young people in advertisements for beer and fast food when, overwhelmingly, the consumers of those products are relatively the opposite in real life.

In actuality, American levels of activity have continued to slide.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, under President Obama, found only one in three children are physically active per day with less than 5 percent of adults participating in 30 minutes of physical activity each day. The statistics are being reinforced in the way American children are raised.