“I need to lose weight.” “My boobs are too small.” “My thighs are too big.” “Tomorrow I’m starting my diet.”

This “fat talk” is an unhealthy epidemic that is prevalent today. It lowers self-esteem and puts too much emphasis on physical appearance when a person should be judged on character, not pant size. Society pressures the public to alter their physical appearance, and too many women and men feel the pressure to fit this ideal physique.

In our society today, “thin is in.” The fashion and film world creates unrealistic standards of size. Where zero is the new two and four is the new six. Models and actresses are much thinner than the average woman. Many advertisers promote rail-thin women as beautiful when it is often unattainable for most women. In fact, according to the Social Issues Research Centre, less than five percent of the female population naturally possesses the ideal body type portrayed in advertising. The average weight of a model is 23 percent lower than that of an average woman. This picture of perfection is not only unattainable, but discouraging.

A 2002 UCSB study found that 21.1 percent of UCSB women meet the formal criteria for diagnosis of an eating disorder. Females are not the only ones who suffer from eating disorders. The national college statistic states that five to seven percent of males on college campuses struggle with an eating disorder.

The U.S. culture could be to blame. In Fiji, larger women were once desirable. However, after Western television arrived, symptoms of eating disorders among teen girls increased 500%. The U.S. spends billions of dollars a year on cosmetics, fashion, magazines and diets. The media emphasizes physical appearance in order to coax the public into buying that product or diet pill to fit the perfect ideal. In fact, according to the Social Issues Research Centre, more than 80 percent of 4th grade girls have been on a fad diet. TV shows that feature plastic surgery as a way to improve self-esteem lower it more. Between 1992 and 2003, plastic surgery procedures in the U.S. increased 424 percent. It is not surprising that 80 percent of U.S. women are unhappy with their body.

Loving your body is an everyday activity. It includes being comfortable in your own skin, participating in some sort of exercise each week, and eating a balanced diet that provides necessary nutrients for a healthy life. However, it is not healthy to use restrictive diets, which fail over 90 percent of the time. Don’t feel bad if you don’t follow the food pyramid every meal.

The UCSB Health Education Dept.’s Healthy Eating and Living organization advocates the 80/20 rule. Follow the pyramid guide 80 percent of the time and the other 20 percent of the time is up to your discretion. If your roommate just made an amazing batch of brownies, enjoy it! College life is stressful enough without the added stress of low self-esteem. So love your body and understand that the media’s portrayal of the “ideal” physique is skewed. Come celebrate Love Your Body Day this Wednesday on the Women’s Center Lawn.

Katie Klein is a junior environmental studies and communication major.