Story and gallery by MORGAN STEWART
“In the last decade, there was a 446 percent increase in the number of cosmetic procedures in the U.S., with 92 percent performed on women. The majority being liposuction,” according to Beauty Redefined.
Today more than ever women and young girls are facing unrealistic ideals about beauty and body image. Coming from every media outlet, these beauty standards are becoming extremely harmful to the thoughts and minds of young girls and women all over the world.
Identical twins Lexie and Lindsay Kite recognized this issue and established the nonprofit organization Beauty Redefined in 2013 after obtaining their doctoral degrees from the University of Utah. After great research and study the twins have made it their mission to shine light on the effects of the beauty standards that are portrayed in the media and to start a different conversation about body image.
As young girls, the twins were avid competitive swimmers starting at just 6 years old. The girls loved to swim until their attention moved from their actual performance to the way they looked in their swimsuits, Lindsay writes on the organization’s website. This started the girls’ “preoccupation with weight loss” that consumed so much of their thoughts and actions during their developmental years.
But the girls were not alone. Many of their friends were experiencing the same thoughts and emotions toward their bodies and appearances. The common factor that the girls believe attributed to some of these thoughts was the “easy access to media our entire lives,” Lindsay wrote.
Movies, television, social media and magazines all portray a certain standard for beauty. What is cool, what is not cool, what is thin, what is fat, and even what it means to be successful. And the list goes on.
Today, Beauty Redefined has become a successful tool for spreading awareness of the damaging cultural standards that are portrayed in the media. Lexie and Lindsay travel the world teaching about positive body image and their strategies for developing what they call “body image resilience.”
In an online interview with the women they described body image resilience as “the ability to become stronger because of the difficulties and objectification women experience living in their bodies, not just in spite of those hard things.”
Through their speeches, website, blog, social media accounts and eight-week body image resilience program the twins are helping women and girls all around the world to shut down these ideals and to build positive body image from within.
The Beauty Redefined “Body Image Resilience Program” is an eight-unit online program. The program is designed to teach women how to recognize harmful messages in the media and how to reflect on the ways in which those messages impact their daily lives. Furthermore, the program guides women through the process of redefining beauty and how we think about beauty, health and self-worth.
Though there are many “well-intentioned” people who promote positive body image by telling women to embrace their beauty and bodies, Beauty Redefined takes a different approach. “Beauty Redefined is changing the conversation about body image by telling girls and women they are MORE than beautiful,” Lexie told me. “We assert positive body image is about feeling positively toward your body overall, not just what it looks like.”
The Beauty Redefined mantra is: “Women are more than just bodies. See more. Be more.”
Because media in all forms are becoming increasingly easy to access, the popularity of various social media platforms has skyrocketed in the past few years as well as the negative effects that accompany them.
I asked the women how they felt the rise of social media has been affecting women today. “As image-based social media content like Instagram and Pinterest have soared in popularity, so has the endless self-comparison so many girls and women engage in. That self-comparison is a trap, a ‘thief of joy,’ and leads to unhappiness,” they said.
To avoid the harm of self-comparison and the other dangerous messages portrayed in the media the sisters recommend going on a “media fast.” Avoid the use of any and all forms of media for a few days to “give your mind the opportunity to become more sensitive to the messages that don’t look like or feel like the truths you experience in real life, face to face with real fit people and your own health choices,” Lexie suggested. By eliminating media for a period of time you allow yourself to become more aware of these messages and the way they truly make you feel.
Another tip the women shared with me is to “stay away from mirrors while exercising.” Research has shown that women who work out in front of mirrors are less likely to perform to the best of their ability because their focus is on how they look rather than what their bodies are able to do.
Finally, “use your body as an instrument, not an ornament: When women learn to value their bodies for what they can do rather than what they look like, they improve their body image and gain a more powerful sense of control,” Lexie said. This is the mantra that much of the organization’s content stems from.
Though there are many issues concerning female body image and the way women’s bodies are portrayed in the media, the biggest issues are that “women’s bodies are valued more than women themselves,” Lexie said.
Objectification is the root of these issues and both men and women must fight to stop it.
The sisters believe that “progress for all of society requires valuing women for more than our parts, not simply expanding the definition of which parts are valuable.”