August 6, 2021

Letting go of Unrealistic Beauty Standards


It is difficult to live in this society and not be influenced by its constant overt or subliminal messages about unrealistic beauty standards. It is incessant. No matter the culture, socioeconomic status, gender, or age – it is everywhere. Even when you take the time to unfollow and unsubscribe from toxic messages about your body, even when you do not necessarily believe your worth is based on how your body looks- the message is powerful enough to break through those barriers.


Shall we get into these a little bit? We understand that we are a nutrition-related practice, but the connection between these two topics is strong. Unrealistic beauty standards have a powerful influence on many individuals. The underlying feeling of shame can keep people in a vicious cycle of intense eating restriction and then uncontrolled binge eating episodes. Nutrition becomes a weird passage to achieve these unrealistic beauty standards even when these nutrition interventions are not evidence-based. 

Let’s name a few:


Unrealistic beauty standard 1: The assumption that skinny = healthy.

What a load of crap this is! Here’s a true story to bring this to life a bit. I witnessed a determined woman suppress all of her hunger cues and starve herself to be “healthy”. I saw her being praised by her doctor and family for “looking great” and “doing the right thing for her health.” The doctor and the family knew what this person’s eating habits had been for the past few weeks. They KNEW that she was suffering from fatigue and feeling faint while walking. They KNEW she was starving. Meanwhile, I am watching this situation unfold with my eyes popping out of my skull in disbelief! How could they congratulate her on engaging in disordered eating behavior?!

I don’t care what your BMI is, you should NEVER starve to pursue health. Can we please think about this for a second? Starving. The thing that will cause most animals in the wild to die is the very thing we are telling grown humans to do to be “healthy.” Huh?


unrealistic beauty standards

This is the reason why our collective societal obsession with skinny bodies is SO harmful. This one, out of many unrealistic beauty standards, is no joke! The obsession with our bodies looking thinner can be dangerous enough to lead to malnutrition while other people praise you for it. You could be walking into a social gathering with your hair falling out (inadequate protein intake), hardly any energy to walk (inadequate energy intake), scaling skin (zinc deficiency…AKA, malnutrition) – and people are like: “Wow, you look great! Keep up whatever you’re doing! You look so healthy!”


What the actual fork? Can we make a collective pledge NOT to comment on people’s weight changes or body shape? We can’t possibly know what that person’s inner dialogue or mental state has been while trying to achieve some of these body changes. Maybe they are in a really good place and it’s wonderful. Maybe it’s been literal hell.


Our societal pressure to achieve these unrealistic beauty standards is so intense that we simply cannot  trust that these messages are working as harmless motivators. This pressure isn’t an innocent motivator. These marketing campaigns have a goal. It’s not for you to be “healthy.” The goal is for you to spend money to change your body. Therefore, let us move away from the constant message that skinny is healthy. Skinny is skinny. Health is something entirely different, my friends.



Unrealistic beauty standard 2: A specific body shape is attractive.

I was presenting in a group nutrition class where someone asked me what foods made their behind bigger without affecting their belly size. Umm… It took everything in me not to blurt out: “Your genes will do that, not the food.” The crazy thing about this specific unrealistic beauty standard is that only people who already have THAT specific genetic predisposition benefit from it. It also changes with popular opinion. Big butts are in now, but maybe in a decade we will go back to shaming those who have big butts again like we did before. Tall is best. Muscles are okay in women if they look toned but not overly muscular. Men should show muscle. We care about women’s toned legs and men’s toned arms… for some reason.


Insert nutrition trends related to these desired body shapes and a massive eye roll from us at Nutriving. Have you heard of protein bars specifically marketed for women? Or protein powders for men only? Or hormone balance nutrition interventions for a desired body type shape? Or supplements for a specific desired body shape? It’s so heartbreaking to see these marketing campaigns use unrealistic beauty standards to coax people into buying specific nutrition products that have zero scientific evidence behind them and quite simply do not work. Side note, protein is protein. Don’t fall for the pink or blue protein bar wrapper.


Unrealistic beauty standard 3: Clear skin: acne is caused by junk food consumption. So, shame!