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America - Land of the Beautiful

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America: Land of the Beautiful        

        The woman standing in line in front of me at Starbucks looked as though she had descended from heaven and walked straight off the pages of this year’s summer issue of Vogue. Her natural looking, perfectly bronzed skin and highlighted blonde hair suggested she either spent hours in the sun or hundreds of dollars at the salon. She was a picture of perfection. The work out attire she wore accentuated every beautiful curve of her body. Her makeup was still perfect, begging the question whether or not she had just worked out or thrown on those clothes to run errands. Society is very influential when it comes to standards of beauty and I believe the societal norm these days is doing more harm than good.

        When the cashier finally signals to the woman in front of me, indicating it was her turn order, I hear her:  “Can I have a grande, skinny vanilla latte—only two pumps of sugar free vanilla instead of four, half decaf, with non-fat soy milk?” I wondered for a moment that if instead of ordering my usual grande mocha with whipped cream, if I were to order the same drink she had, would I look as good as her? I sighed and ordered my grande mocha.

        Example shows that American culture has become so obsessed with the desire to be physically attractive that even Starbucks, an American icon, has named an entire line of drinks according to the idea that skinny is pretty. Starbucks offers most of its basic drinks such as vanilla lattes and mochas in a skinny version. This version uses sugar free syrups and nonfat milk, boldly implying that it will make the consumer skinny. It is common sense that people will not lose weight just by switching to the non-fat, sugar-free version of their coffee drink of choice. Proper diet and exercise are key components to making that happen, unless you plan to starve yourself and live on skinny mochas alone. America needs to put down the rose colored glasses and realize that it takes hard work to be healthy and skinny.

        It seems that more people these days want the results, but are not willing to put in the hard work and effort to get them. Crash diets, cleanses, and plastic surgery are becoming more popular than they ever have been. America is capitalizing on this need for instant gratification by creating TV shows such as The Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover.  For example, on The Biggest Loser, overweight contestants partake in brutal workouts for up to eight hours a day. The contestants are also put on low-fat, low-calorie diets in order to lose as much weight as possible in the shortest amount of time. Each week, they are forced to weigh in on a massive scale in front of everybody, and are either applauded for their losses or shamed for their lack of progress. The winner of The Biggest Loser is the person who ends up losing the highest percentage of their total body weight. They are rewarded very handsomely with a cash prize of $250,000. The show is consistently reinforcing the idea to it’s viewing audience of Americans that being fat is unattractive and will make you less likable. 

         Another startling aspect of America’s obsession with being physically attractive is the growth of the plastic surgery industry over the last fifteen years. Since 1997, there has been a 250% increase in cosmetic procedures performed in America. In 2012 alone, over 10 million cosmetic procedures were done in the US, with 90% of those being done on women. The most popular procedure was breast augmentation, closely followed by liposuction. The obsession to be thin and beautiful was clearly effecting both men and women in America as men accounted for one million of the procedures done in 2012, with liposuction being the most popular procedure performed.

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