When Fred said, “I’d love to get a shave,” I knew he was on the mend. That was true about all my patients in the hospital: Once they showed interest in grooming, I knew they were over the hump of anxiety about their recovery. They felt free enough and well enough to focus on their appearance. But when I heard skinny 16-year-old Sharon say, “I’m so gross! I wish I could cut myself in half,” I knew her body image reflected her mind’s torturous state of self-loathing—clearly not a healthy thing. When 7-year-old Aubrey, who lost her leg in a horseback riding accident, received a special little doll her parents customized to also have a prosthetic leg, she cried with joy. “She’s just like me,” she wailed. She felt deeply accepted and loved. Body image plays a huge role in how we perceive ourselves. Sometimes that image is accurate, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s benevolent, sometimes not. Either way, it reflects our sense of self and mirrors our state of self-acceptance.

THE BIOLOGY OF BEAUTY

Body image generally centers around attractiveness. Biologically speaking, attraction plays a huge role in the procreation of the species. For most animals, “attractive” is synonymous with “healthy” for that very reason. Not so for us anymore. Today’s world is steeped in an appearance-oriented culture that pretty much says it’s more important to look good than it is to be healthy. Dentists and plastic surgeons profit off of our vanity as well as our shame. Larger-than-life movie stars and supermodels hold up an ideal to which we strive, and for which we feel bad if we fall short. But now hear this: normal teeth are not naturally whiter-than-white. Breasts are not naturally large and symmetrical. Baldness is real. And not all real women have curves. So, the image we strive for isn’t even natural anymore. Plastic-fantastic dominates the field. Even our attraction sensibilities have become warped. We have all been Photoshopped.

Today’s world is steeped in an appearance- oriented culture that pretty much says it’s more important to look good than it is to be healthy.

BEAUTY IS A BEAST

In an experiment, hired actors selected several sets of 12 jurors to rule in a fake trial. The script was identical each time. What changed was the defendant; in some run-throughs, it was a good-looking woman, and in other enactments, it was not. (Who determined what “good-looking” was, I don’t know). In 9 out of 10 juries, the attractive defendant was acquitted. But the less attractive defendant was only acquitted 2 out of 10 times. Is justice blind, or are we? Clearly, good looks yield an advantage. I knew a woman who got breast implants as “a business investment” and, in fact, her real estate business improved after her surgery. Was it simply because she felt more confident? Or did people treat her better because she was objectively more attractive? More people make dietary changes to lose weight than they do to improve their health. That’s even true of many guests who come to Hippocrates. Their real focus is on shedding pounds and not on shedding toxins. We’re here to set things right again.

HEALTHY IS BEAUTIFUL

This is where education and some down-home soul-searching come in. Let’s get back to nature, where healthy and attractive go together—where healthy is attractive. Shoot, let’s take our maturity to the next level where a beautiful inner life, not just outer appearance, is how we measure attractiveness. Skinny little Mahatma Gandhi, you’re beautiful! Seven-year-old Aubrey with one leg, you’re a sweetheart! Every guest who has ever come to Hippocrates, you’re awesome! You’re beautiful for making a healthy you and a healthy planet your priority. You’re so beautiful when you reveal your vulnerability and open up. You’re beautiful, and your body is, too. God bless Hippocrates alumnus Kris Carr and her Crazy Sexy Cancer movement. Healthy is sexy. Healthy doesn’t only makes us feel good. It makes us look good, too. Go for healthy. Get off the appearance train and step into the deeper current beyond appearances. Body-conscious doesn’t have to be body-critical. Next time you look in the mirror, make friends with who you see. 

| BY ANDY ROMAN, MS, RN |

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