Health: From the Inside-Out

A health and beauty comparison taken from

The above picture was posted on, a virtual bulletin board in which people can post images, ideas, tips or general interests and share them with others.  You can keep track of your interests by creating various theme boards from “craft ideas” to “gluten-free recipes” to organize your interests.  If you like a picture or idea that was “pinned” by someone else, you can re-share it through a number of cyber, social mediums such as Twitter or e-mail.

The image and accompanying script above comparing the so-called beauty of two individuals based on their lifestyles, has already been “liked” five times and re-pinned by at least one individual.  In the image on the left, a woman with tousled hair and a face without make-up is said to be a TV guru who advocates for a healthy-conscious lifestyle including diet and exercise.  The woman on the right who is assumed to be of the same age, is a TV cook who eats just about everything but is wearing a low-cut dress, her hair styled and make-up done.  The punchline of the entire image reads: I REST MY CASE!

I think there are two very important discourses here that co-exist, a feminist one and a health one.  Western culture, being a highly visual-focused society, consistently uses a wrong point of reference to define “good and bad health”.  We see this most prominently in our attack on obesity.  We make assumptions that those who are considered  over-weight are leading un-healthy lifestyles, eating the wrong foods and lacking in physical activity, when in reality, our arguments to these claims can hardly be backed up by substantial research or facts.

According to this image, health leads to beauty.  In reality, I think we all know how far from the truth that statement is but with advertising, these concepts are rarely implied without the other.  Take for instance lite yogurt advertisements or  issues of Women’s Health magazine.  In addition to being “fit” and therefore in “good health”, the woman is generally represented by the typical image we recognize in media to be considered beautiful.  Therefore, according to widespread images within media, “good health” does equate to beauty.  These images tell viewers that if you eat the right things and exercise regularly, the skinny, beautiful woman inside of you will be revealed.

Yogurt advertisement of a thin, “beautiful” woman.
A cover of Women’s Health Magazine taken from Google Images
A cover of Women’s Health Magazine taken from Google Images

So in hindsight, the initial image that sparked this blog post does support my argument in some aspect, that health should not be measured by external observations.  The image, in essence, contradicts the message we are getting from magazines such as Women’s Health, that skinny means healthy and desirable.  However, the feminist discourse within this that makes the image seem problematic, is in the comparison of beauty with health, wether it in disagreement or agreement with such body-image stigmas.  Clearly the creator of this image and caption is questioning what media is telling us, yet the pressure for women to look beautiful is still brought up in the comparison.  I still wonder what it was about the image that generated five “likes”, (although I admit that is quite an insignificant number in cyber-world) and what exactly was the message they implied from it.  I have yet to be convinced it is anything positive.


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