Sunday, November 10, 2013

Conflicting Messages

In Hispanic culture, a fuller figure is considered much more desirable than the stick thin body type that is commonly portrayed as desirable in American media. It is not uncommon for young Hispanic American girls to receive a message about body image from the media that conflicts with the messages being sent by the community. Personally, while I was growing up, I found I never really knew if my body was supposed to look like Jennifer Lopez or Cameron Diaz.

While the size zero body type was being portrayed in the media as “ideal” my family and friends were always warning against being too thin. My boyfriend’s grandmother has always complained that I was too skinny. Recently, I have put on some weight from being stressed out by school and work. Despite how awkward and uncomfortable I feel in my own skin and my desire to resume my healthy eating habits, all my boyfriend’s grandmother does is tell me how pretty I am and how happy she is that I am not so thin anymore (I wasn't unusually thin to begin with).

I feel this stems from a big issue in the Hispanic community. A perfect example of this is when a small child is overweight, they equate it with being healthy because it is assumed that they are well fed. On the other hand, skinny children are viewed as unhealthy or malnourished. Some studies indicate that this cultural perception may be a factor in the rising number of obesity among Hispanics.

“Family life has traditionally occupied a central place in Hispanic culture, and this has influenced dietary behaviors through home preparation of meals and the practice of families eating together.” Read more here.

Food is a BIG part of Hispanic culture. Most gatherings revolve around some sort of cooking or eating activities regardless if it is a holiday or not. Family = Food. For example, on Sundays, my family gathers at my mother’s house and cooks and eats dinner together. This makes it pretty difficult to not only maintain a healthy diet but to sort through the conflicting messages about an ideal body type and the influence of family blinded by a cultural perception that there is no harm in putting on a few more pounds.

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