One of the unfortunate changes that accompany aging is an increase in body fat. Increased body fat is the single greatest reason why so many women diet. 

Abdominal fat increases the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Aerobic exercise promotes the loss of abdominal fat more readily in women compared to men. Women tend to deposit fat more easily in the femoral region, including the thighs and hips. These particular areas are resistant to removal since lipolysis is severely limited. Lipolysis is the breaking down of fat stores and is dependent on the presence of hormones and fat cell receptors. 

Exercise promotes fat loss.

When athletes exercise they increase their energy needs and must meet those demands. This requires an improvement in the athlete’s cell machinery in order to increase its metabolic rate. This increase in metabolic rate is what produces the growth in muscles due to the increased production of lean muscle tissue. This is at the expense of fat which further increases the athlete’s metabolic rate since muscle is a more active metabolic tissue than fat.

Adipose tissue is a metabolically active organ, which, depending on its location can be susceptible to lipolysis.  Lipolysis can be stimulated by catecholamines, alpha-blockers and beta-agonists. There are also gender differences in the rate of lipolysis.

Obesity

America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic with over a third of adult females and a third of males now considered obese.

 

Obesity among African and Spanish American females is even more startling as it approaches fifty percent of the population. In addition to the social stigma to being obese, there are also significant health risks associated with being overweight.

The term obese is derived from a Greek expression that indicated overeating.  Over the millennia, obesity has come to be considered a matter of gluttony.  

Overconsumption is not the only cause of obesity. In fact, obesity is both a nutritional and genetic disease. Overweight, on the other hand, refers to an excess of body weight relative to height.

Obesity involves an enormous excess of body fat and is linked to heart disease, cancer and stroke. Obesity is also implicated in atherosclerosis, diabetes, hypertension and osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints.

Athletes can be overweight due to an increase in muscle mass or too much fat. One is a healthy increase, while the other is not.

The confluence of interests including the food, entertainment and pharmaceutical industries have aligned themselves to create a sedentary society that lives on unhealthy food and inactivity.

Obese women are at a huge disadvantage in life and suffer from low self-esteem.  Even those who are successful at losing weight have great difficulty in keeping it off. In many cases, even a normal caloric diet puts the weight back on.

Fitness and its effect on health forms the backbone of this program. For future generations of girls, the emphasis needs to be more on maintaining health and fitness rather than weight. This concept must be instilled by parents early in their children’s life to avoid the catastrophic consequences that occurs later in life.  

The majority of these ills are the result of sedentary behavior and poor nutrition. Prevention of these problems also requires a stronger commitment from our educational institutions to require more physical activity and less academic responsibilities. This  would be a very positive development and send a signal to children that their health is a priority.

That commitment is now lacking. Girls early on develop a sense of self-esteem that they will need to carry them throughout life. They understand early on that appearance will be a main contributor to their future success. Girls are especially under strong pressure to remain thin, leading many to become anorexic and bulimic during adolescence.  This is in contrast to boys, who can be stocky and still be perceived as being strong, fit and healthy.

A majority of American pre-adolescent and adolescent girls regard themselves as fat. Concern over fat and weight produces a negative body image for adult females as well.  This preoccupation with appearance is misdirecting girl’s energy into being thin rather that being fit and healthy. In addition, motherhood has becomes a time to dread because of the physiological changes that occur from pregnancy.  These normal adaptations to pregnancy are simply an increase in weight and fat to support a fetus’s development, not a sign of being fat. The increases in body weight that occur from exercise, pregnancy and aging are normal developments and should not be perceived as unattractive and a sign of poor health.

 

Perceptions

Early in 2005, Lever Faberge (Unilever) initiated a campaign in Britain for Dove, its new firming moisturizer.. The Dove Real Beauty Campaign sought to set its product apart from its competitors by illustrating the beauty of everyday, overweight women. After its success in England, women with curves became featured on TV and billboards across America.The women were shown celebrating their beauty and their curves by posing in underwear.  The shots were meant to convey a natural beauty to their bodies. The women were not pencil thin as model typically are but were instead overweight. This campaign helped sell their product by rejecting the use of creating unrealistic expectations. The ads stressed that all the photos were un-retouched.

Normally, gender-based advertising uses aspirational techniques to attract potential buyers to its product by manipulating the subconscious. Unilever’s research concluded that overweight women feel intimidated and depressed when they are subject to skinny images and thus provided more ‘realistic’ models to aspire to.

Of course, their only difference was in strategy. Dove motivated viewers to buy its product by offering realistic expectations. It never addressed the question of whether the product was needed in the first place. Both types of advertising reinforce the inferiority of women by promoting the concept that women need these products to look good and feel young.

The Dove promotion set off a debate on a number of blogs and discussions regarding health, beauty and advertising. Unilever was able to capitalize on the originality of their ads to gain media attention. They then paraded their ‘real models’ on TV talk shows to display the normality of these women.