Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Perfection" more elusive than ever

By Mary Garvin
The Lions Roar, School Paper

The idea of healthy weight loss has become seemingly more and more popular among the media, and students have not been ignoring it. Though most media sources are taking the "healthy" approach to weight loss such as a dieting and work outs, what are students more concerned about? Health or appearance?

"It used to be all about the dangers of eating disorders and now its all about who's in shape and who's not,” sophomore Kasey Presley said. "Every time I get a magazine or turn on the T.V., there's always something about some celebrity who gained weight or lost it and now they're supposedly anorexic. It hasn't always been like this, but now the media is all over it."

Presley says se is more concerned about staying fit than being skinny. Staying in shape, however, is not a priority for all students. In fact, physical appearance and what it takes to be “beatuiful” trumps all health concerns for sophomore Kaci Carlton.

“Right now I’m not really concerned about my health or staying in shape,” Carlton said. “I just want to be skinny. Sometimes I’ll do things I know I shouldn’t just to lose weight. I feel like there is an image of “the perfect weight” out there and I’m constantly struggling to obtain it.”

Risky weight loss techniques such as 'hunger strikes' and 'bingeing,' have been popular in the past, but after recent deaths of run way models and teens practicing annorexia and bulemia, more healthy ways to achive that mysterious “perfect weight,” are becoming prefered. Instead of weight loss turning into a taboo subject, the topic apears to have skyrocketed and became one of the prominent topics in teen magazines.
“I read a lot of Seventeen and Teen Vogue and in every issue they have a huge section on healthy eating alternatives and work out plans,” Presley said. “Everyone is just so obsessed with their weight. At least now people are taking a healthy approach to it.”

But even with the new stream of healthy encouragement, Carlton still feels pressure to be skinny from friends and family, but mostly from herself. She feels that if she were skinny, she would be prettier and more popular.
Like Carlton, eighth grader Hallie Roach's weight is always on her mind.

"When I walk into a room I feel like people automatically reject me because of my weight," Roach said. "I keep thinking that if I were skinnier, it wouldn't be that way."

Algebra teacher Jessica Reiger remembers physical appearnance being relevant to popularity in her high school years, but she doesn’t remember the media as being the strongest cause of that belief.

"I just remember people being looked at as skinny or fat, not as in shape or out of shape. I certainly don't remember the media being so crazy about weight loss and diets," Reiger said. "When I started working out and running it was to lose weight, but now, running is my passion, and when I don't eat healthy, I honestly feel like I'm eating poison."

Last year Reiger started a running club for high school students who wanted a new hobby or wanted to lose weight and stay in shape. Since Reiger has been working out and eating healthier for the last few years, she says that it has changed the way she views herself.

"I don't believe that I feel better because I have lost weight. When I work out, I feel like I can take on the day. It gives me confidence," Reiger said.

Working out and running does increase endorphins (chemicals in the brain that produce the feeling of happiness), which Reiger said is why, in addition to the feeling of accomplishment, working out makes her feel so good.

“I run because I love it and also to stay in shape to run in marathons, but I haven't always been like this. Definitely not in high school,” Reiger said. "I eat healthier so I can properly fuel my body for those workouts. Even though I started out with weight loss being my goal, now it's just a bonus."

Junior Kallie Noble, as a member of four different varsity teams, never has an “off season,” and thus is always physically fit. In her case, it's neither to stay healthy or skinny, but to be in shape to better her performance in sports.

“Its important to me to have a fit and athletic body, but not necessarily skinny and slender. Just strong and fit,” Noble said. “I don’t worry about my weight and I eat whatever I want because I know I’ll just run it off later.”

Like Noble, junior Jason Brothers is just trying to stay in shape. While most girls are trying to lose weight, guys like Brothers are trying to increase their weight.

“A lot of guys use protein shakes so they can gain more weight to build muscle,” Brothers said. “Sometimes people think if you’re bigger you’ll be a better athlete, but that's not true. I’m skinny and still a good athlete. My priority is more of staying in shape rather than getting bigger.”

Last year the school conducted a state required Fitness Gram. The test included six different sections to test physical fitness such as sprints, push ups, sit ups, and jump ropes. This test was made in response to the growing child obesity rate and will now be mandatory every year for each school in the state of Texas.
Baseball Coach Fairchild said that Albany High School did well in the rankings last year due to the high number or participants in athletics.
Reiger, however, doesn't completely agree with the new Fitness Gram and believes that the school is leaving students shorthanded.

"If a child takes that test and finds out they are over weight, it kind of leaves them thinking 'Well, what do I do now?'" Reiger said. "Not everyone competes in sports. I think the school should teach a healthy living class or something to teach students what to do to stay healthy."

Eighth grader Hallie Roach has found her solution to weight loss; her mother. Over the Christmas break, Roach and her mother, Shelia Edgar, acquired a new knowledge of health in general and shed pounds together with the help of diet plans like LA Weight loss.

“My mom and I work out together and diet together,” Roach said. “We don’t necessarily diet, we just talk to doctors about good eating habits. We also read through brochures from [organizations] like LA Weight loss and get good tips from them on what not to eat, and we kind of take it from there.”

Roach said that committing herself to a stricter diet and work out plan was hard at first, but after a lot of encouragement from her mother and sticking to it, she’s getting closer to her goal every day.

“I learned that there are a lot of misconceptions about losing weight. I did a lot of research and learned what’s healthy and what’s not," Roach said. "My mom made me realize that if I decided to lose weight, I had to make sure I was doing it for myself, and not because I felt pressured into it. Diets don’t work, lifestyle changes do."