Photoshop vs Diet & Exercise

News Flash: the digital “retouching” of images is now the “industry standard” for media publishing. But never fear! This policy does meet with the occasional backlash.

Critics say that the digital retouching of images creates an unrealistic standard of beauty and therefore, contributes to body image issues and an increased risk of eating disorders. Much of what those who deal with eating disorders struggle with is a sense of lack of control. And trying to achieve an impossible and unrealistic ideal perpetuated by the media only contributes to this feeling of lack of control.

But I ask, is Photoshop really the problem?  Digital retouching can, and does, create an unrealistic standard of beauty. But what if this standard were indeed possible to achieve? What then really creates this feeling of lack of control?

This underlying feeling of lack of control is fundamentally created by the “diet and exercise” paradigm itself. This model suggests that you have the power to control your body’s shape and size simply by manipulating your diet and exercise habits. If you eat the “right” foods in the “right” amount and you exercise in the “right” way, you can be whatever size or shape you want to be – regardless of whether that image on the magazine cover is retouched or not.

The problem is not that we observe an unrealistic standard of beauty. The problem is that we believe we can control our body’s shape and size through diet and exercise alone. And so we obsess over our food. Is this high carb? Is it the right carb? Is it low fat? Is it the right fat? Is it high protein? Is it organic? Is it the right amount? We obsess over our exercise. Is it aerobic? Is it anaerobic? Is my heart rate in the correct training zone for the correct period of time? Am I lifting enough weight? Am I doing enough reps? Should I do cardio first? Or weights first? Should I be eating before I work out or after? What about that Pilates thing? All the celebrities do it – maybe I should try it.

We cannot control our body’s shape and size through diet and exercise alone. And so it is right that trying to do so should lead to feelings of lack of control!

We must recognize that we are more than the balance sheet – the sum total of calories consumed and burned – that the traditional diet and exercise model promotes. We are more than a specific combination of nutrients being ingested and/or specific body sculpting exercises performed.

We are thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs. We are Spirit as well as flesh, blood and bone.

When we recognize that the illusion with which we are truly upset is the flawed premise of the conventional diet and exercise model itself, we can start to heal. We can then embrace the totality of who we are and seek to align the various aspects of ourselves in a congruent manner. Only then will we find the feeling of control we seek. And when we find that, Photoshop doesn’t really matter.