A decorative images showing a bunch of diet medication next to a tape measure.

Anthropology: How Diet Medication and Body Shapes Effect Social Acceptance

In recent weeks, news spread of new diet medication and its positive effects. Others tell of the unseen scams of diet medication, that they have the opposite effect of their intention. Nonetheless, the use of diet medication to achieve the ‘perfect’ body image causes concern. They have always been placed under scrutiny and suspicion.

For centuries, men and women appealed to different standards of body image. Their approved body image remained a means for holding status. Throughout those years, different innovations came to light to achieve such standards. For example, diet medication or diet pills.

With social media and its abundance of influencers, young viewers strive to obtain the body image of those they watch. Rather than following an exercise routine and eating right, they choose diet medication. This option may or may not negatively affect their health. It causes concern for parents and medical health professionals.

Many strive for the ‘perfect’ body. It is evident throughout history, no matter how unrealistic the expectations.

The History of Female Body Shapes

A colourful image of a blue background with white silhouettes wearing the undergarments of different areas, showing the different body types through the years.
image source: thegreatist.com

During the Elizabethan times, the 16th century, women desired a bell-shaped figure. It required a larger lower half, a small waist, and a flat chest. At the time, special innovations worn underneath their clothing achieved the desired body image.

In the 17th century, corsets or ‘stays’ became the rage. Petticoat hoops and rolls fell out. As a result, it gave the lower half of the body a more natural shape.

In the 18th century, hooped skirts were flat at the back and the front. This brought a wider shape to the woman’s hips.

During the 19th century, the Victorian era, the ideal body shape was plump, fleshy, and full-figured. Corsets made waists small, which accentuated the hips and buttocks. In other words, the pursuit of the hourglass figure began.

20th Century

At the beginning of the 20th century, there came ‘health’ corsets. These no longer restricted women’s movements and breathing. However, they still produced the ideal small waist.

Between 1900 and 1950, slenderness became fashionable.

In 1910, women obtained athletic and fit builds while remaining slender.

In 1920, ‘flappers’ aimed for a thin, boyish figure with little or no curves.

Between the 1930s and 1940s, they sought for slightly curvier figures with a bigger bust and slender hips.

In the 1950s, a new girdle influenced the hourglass figure’s return. Undergarments started emphasizing the breasts instead of the waists.

The 1960s saw the rise of the mini skirt. Therefore, there was no need for petticoats and curves.

Between the 1960s and 1990s, slenderness became an important trait of physical attractiveness.

In the 1970s, women sought a slightly more natural shape. The hippy lifestyle was fashionable. However, for mainstream society, women aimed for a small waist and hips, but large breasts.

‘Working out’ was popular in the 1980s. People strived to sculpt their bodies. Women went on diets and developed exercise routines. They remained thin but more muscular. Nevertheless, their curves remained in the ‘right places’.

In the 1990s, the weight-loss industry was booming. Women aimed for the tall, skinny look. As well, they wanted a bigger bust. It was a rare body shape and difficult to achieve naturally.

21st Century

During the 2000s, thinness was the ultimate body shape goal. Teenage girls and women resort to extreme and expensive methods when diets and exercise gave slow results. Such methods include plastic surgery, gastric reduction, and radical diets.

Although curvier figures made their fashionable debut, many young women still strive for the skinnier figure.

The History of Male Body Shapes

A colourful image with a light blue background, showing the changes in body shape through the years for men.
image source: chemistclick.com

In Ancient Greece (800 BCE to 146 BCE), men aimed for muscular, thin-waisted, and very lean figures. They wanted to immortalize the images of gods and legendary heroes.

However, the level of muscle required proved to be realistically impossible.

During the Elizabethan Age (1558 – 1603), being a peasant meant having large arms, as well as a strong, defined upper body.

Contradictingly, in high society, powerful legs marked the upper classmen. High society men maintained shapely thighs and strong calves. They avoided the ordinary peasant look.

During the Golden Age (1800s and early 1900s), the trending look for men was a wide waist, generously sized stomach, and a large frame. It showed their high economic status.

In the Golden Age of Hollywood (1920 – late 1950s), the camera made people appear larger on screen. Men were to be athletic, lean, and clean cut. However, they did not need to be muscular or toned.

The Age of Counterculture (mid-1960s – 1970s) made thin and slender figures popular. Men saw no need to tone muscles, trim waists and slender chests, arms, and legs.

The 1980s was the Decade of the Bodybuilders. Men ‘built up’ their figure. In other words, large muscles defined masculine perfection.

Between the 1990s and 2000s, millennials brought an athletic and muscular-defined look.

However, starting in 2015, there came the ‘Dad-Bod’. Although the athletic and muscular look remained popular, there was a rebellion against such a look. The ‘Dad-Bod’. This appearance is not defined or chiselled, but not unhealthy. Its attainable appearance resulted in its popularity, an anti-shaming concept.

What is Diet Medication?

A decorative images showing a bunch of diet medication next to a tape measure.
image source: everydayhealth.com

Diet medication is a pharmacological agent that reduces or controls weight. It alters weight regulations, a fundamental process of the human body.

This type of medication can affect the body in one of two different ways:

  • altering appetite and absorbing calories.
  • interfering with bodily processes that affect weight.

All in all, it suppresses the appetite, increases the metabolism, or prevents fat absorption.

Diet medication is also known as anti-obesity medication, weight-loss medication, or diet pills.

Women are known to use diet medication.

Men take diet medication, but it has different affects on them. While suppressing their appetite, the current generation’s diet medication keeps their energy levels high. Wanting to suppress their appetite, they also want to continue attending their gyms to maintain their athletic figure.

The History of Diet Medication

An opaque advertisement from the 1950s for diet medication.
1950s Diet Medication Ad. image source: neurofantastic.com

In the 1800s, thyroid extract was the basis of diet medication. It increased the metabolism.

However, it had unexpected side effects. For example, abnormal heart beats, high blood pressure, and death. The medication continued to be available until the 1960s.

In the early 20th century, around the 1930s, there came dinitrophenol. It became a popular treatment for weight loss. It produced a thermogenic effect within the body. In other words, it burned off fat. As well, it had its side effects, such as accidental deaths from hypothermia, severe rashes, damage to the sense of taste, and cataracts.

During the mid-1950s, amphetamines became the drug of choice.

Initially, WWII soldiers took amphetamines to stay alert. Unfortunately, it suppressed their appetite. Soon after, it became a drug to help people lose weight.

Additionally, aminorex fumarate appeared, a treatment for obesity. However, it triggered pulmonary hypertension, affecting the heart. It withdrew from the market.

Thyroid pills reappeared in the 1960s. It was taken with diuretics, laxatives, and amphetamines.

The 1970s brought ephedra. Initially used to treat asthma, it was prescribed for weight loss.

Due to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, it did not require FDA approval.

However, it caused cardiovascular and neurological problems. It led to the FDA declaring it an unsafe substance.

After, phenylpropanolamine, a chemical derived from ephedra, became a popular appetite suppressant. It discontinued after reports of hemorrhagic stroke and increased hypertension.

In 1973, fenfluramine was approved as a weight-loss treatment. It had the highest popularity in 1992 when it combined with phentermine, resulting in fen-phen. Its side effects included pulmonary hypertension, heart lesions, and valve abnormalities. Eventually, it removed itself from the market in 1997.

In the 21st century, many diet pills have a herbal formulation.

How Herbal Based Diet Medication Works

Distribution companies of diet medications claim incredible results from their products because of natural ingredients.

To curb cravings, they add chickweed, bee pollen, and fennel.

Adding guar gum and psyllium makes an individual feel full before eating too much.

Speeding up the metabolism requires the addition of caffeine, guarani, synephrine, as well as B-complex vitamins.

To slow down the body’s production of fat, companies add green tea, hydro-citric acid, and flack seed to their products.

Chondroitin stops the body from absorbing the fat in the foods eaten.

How Diet Medication is Abused

A colour photograph showing a bowl of pills being eaten, with someone holding a spoon in the bowl, depicts drug abuse.
image source: weighterafters.com

Diet medication, however beneficial it may be, is not exempt from drug dependency and abuse.

In the attempt to achieve the ‘perfect’ body, consumption of diet medication can be taken to the extreme. Where exercise and a well-balanced diet are hardly an option, the excessive intake of diet medication is a concern. It raises alarms on substance abuse having possible negative effects on the body.

For years, there has been concern and suspicion surrounding products ensuring weight lost, and for good reason.

However, some need to take diet medication for health specific reasons, to better their lifestyle. Those that abuse the medication, focusing on their appearance, remain unaware of the effects it has on their body.

Those with eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, are those that are unaware. They remain preoccupied about losing weight, about reaching their ideal skinniness.

The signs of diet medication abuse are:

  • Taking more than the recommended dose of diet medication.
  • Using diet products that are not recommended for individuals who are at a normal weight or underweight.
  • Obtaining prescription weight loss medication without a doctor’s supervision.

Additionally, there are certain combinations that show the abuse of diet medication, such as:

  • The combination of multiple weight-loss medications.
  • Combining diet medication with laxatives or diuretics.
  • Adding illegal stimulants, such as methamphetamine or cocaine, with diet medication.

Regarding an overdose, it causes a rise in blood pressure at dangerous levels. Therefore, there is a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Fat blocking medication taken with laxatives or diuretics results in diarrhea, fluid loss, and electrolyte imbalance.

Continued abuse of diet products has a higher risk of liver and/or kidney damage. It further increases the possibility of life-threatening organ failure.

Guidelines for Diet Medication

Doctors help determine good candidates for weight-loss medication prescriptions. Going to a doctor for this prescription is a healthier choice. They look at the various requirements of a subject before they determine which medication is suitable. They focus on three separate observations:

  1. If the patient’s body mass index (BMI) is 30 or greater.
  2. If the patient has a BMI of 27 or greater and obesity-related health conditions.
  3. Doctors see if their parent is unable to lose weight per week after a six-month diet, exercise routine, and behavior changes.

Rules for Diet Medication

A decorative photograph of a doctor holding his palm out in a halt stance, signalling to be careful when choosing medication.
image source: the fix.com

Diet Medication Does Not Mean A Healthier Lifestyle

Diet medication should not replace a healthy lifestyle. It should remain an alternative for uncontrollable eating habits, as well as a strong food addiction. Additionally, it should not replace healthy eating habits.

It is best used as a temporary method for weight loss, rather than long-term or permanent.

Know the Side Effects

When taking diet medication, be aware of your body’s reactions. Some side effects are temporary. However, others are serious enough to cause liver or kidney damage. Always consult with a medical health professional before starting a routine that includes diet pills.

One Will Not Work For All

If one pill works for one individual, it does not mean it will work for another.

In other words, not every pill works for everyone. Some people require the addition of other weight-loss methods, such as exercise.

The Best Option Is a Prescription

The most effective option for taking diet medication is to have a prescription for it. These have a better effect than over-the-counter ones. Therefore, consult with a medical health professional.

Doctors consider all medical conditions and medications before determining what is suitable.

There are significant risks to taking any medication. Diet pills are not an exception. On the other hand, they prove to have certain health benefits. Some people use them to change lifestyle habits and be rid of bad eating habits. These are beneficial to those struggling with obesity and food abdication, but only when used the right way.

Through the years, we see that certain body figures are impossible to attain. In the beginning, clothes and undergarments helped. Nowadays, it is not only down to clothes.

Social media might play a role, portraying a ‘true’ image of beauty. It could just be a lack of self-confidence from unresolved issues. Nonetheless, the right diet medication should only be taken if absolutely necessary, under a doctor’s supervision.

The Conclusion on Diet Medication and Body Image

A colourful image depicting five yeas to obtain a healthy lifestyle: maintain a good heart beat and breathing, put yourself on a schedule, take the right medication, eat healthy, and exercise.
image source. mypar.com

It is evident that through the changes in ideal body shapes, new diet medications emerged. Not all took those medications, but it was often the choice for the majority. Even now, organic diet medication is the main option.

Men and women alike aim for the ‘perfect’ body set by societal standards. Although diet medication has turned organic, it still has benefits and risks. Moreover, medical health professionals try to stir their patients away from diet medication. They encourage regular exercise, eating a well-balanced diet, and obtaining a healthy attitude to combat obesity. Often, these goes overlooked.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look your best. The reason for concern lies with the methods used.

Diet medication might be the answer many are looking for, but only for those that need it. Those that want it might cause more damage to their bodies. Nothing is worth damaging your health for outer beauty.

Time proves beauty norms have not changed. The desire to acquire the right body type lives on. It could change in the next five or ten years. The standard could change and become more unrealistic in obtaining.

Should it come to that, hopefully the younger generation will be influenced to thrive with their body image instead of worrying about it.

Loss of social standing is an ever-present threat for individuals whose social acceptance is based on behavioral traits rather than unconditional human value.

-Melissa Harris-Perry

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