We’re creatures of the physical as well as the mental and emotional, and so it’s not surprising that we are hard-wired to find certain qualities attractive based on their implications for passing along our genes. We’ve talked about this at some length in our book. We know that men are drawn to a certain hip-to-waist ratio and to glossy hair because both suggest that a woman is healthy and fertile. We know that women tend to be drawn to size in a man as well as maturity and material wealth because both suggest the ability to protect and nurture offspring. We might not love the idea that our perception of beauty hinges on ancient evolutionary imperatives, and that’s not what we’re suggesting; there is clearly much more to attraction and romance. But initial, visceral attraction is clearly fueled by primal instincts. We’re not really all that far from the veldt and the savannah, after all.
But when matchmaking takes its first tentative steps into basing the art of the hookup on the science of evolutionary biology, some folks get uneasy. We find it fascinating, because anything that casts new light on why we find some people magnetic and irresistible…well, it’s our raison d’etre. In the latest issue of Time, we found a story about a Swiss company called GenePartner that uses genetic matching to help people find that partner who makes their heart go pitter-pat.
The company partners with several matchmaking websites to test the DNA of applicants and matches people based on their genes for creating HLA, or human leukocyte antigens, a key component of the immune system. The idea was sparked by the famous 1995 experiment in which women who were not taking birth control pills (and so were experiencing their normal hormonal levels) preferred the scent of men who had certain genes that were different from their own. Based on the notion that “opposites attract” has a genetic component, GenePartner thinks that people will be attracted to others with different HLA genes than their own, because the couple’s children stand to inherit a more robust immune system and therefore be more resistant to disease. It’s that survival of the fittest thing again.
The company has developed a computer algorithm that matches the lovelorn with ideal potential mates based on HLA profile. This concept is hardly demonstrated conclusively, but it’s certainly interesting. From a scientific perspective, it may not explain attraction but it could certainly shed some light on why some parents have better luck with healthy offspring while others seem to have nothing but health disasters. What about HLA screening to predict the chances of immune disorders like lupus and multiple sclerosis? Dating is peachy, but that seems more important to us.
If nothing else, this technology could save a lot of people the time and trouble of filling out a long questionnaire or writing up a charming profile while trying to locate that one photo where they’re not making a funny face. Just pony up your $99, get your kit, swab your cheek for a tissue sample, mail it to Switzerland and get your very own GenePartner ID. Sweaty t-shirt not included.
It’s always nice to know that the theories we put into our book, The Beauty Prescription, actually make sense in the real world. In one of the chapters, called Beauty 911, we talk at great length about taking care of your inner and outer beauty in times of stressful transition: death, divorce, job loss, etc. During such times, it’s easy to let your beauty go, to neglect your health, to succumb to anger and sadness, and to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Our advice was to be mindful of these truths and to take steps to preserve your physical health and appearance as well as your emotional equipoise, because when you can keep control over something while everything else around you is spinning out of control, you feel better. And you are better.
A woman we know named Ann (we have changed her name to protect the not-so-innocent) has become our personal poster child for the principles of Beauty 911 because of something that happened to her a couple of weeks back in Miami. Ann has been going through a terribly traumatic divorce, the kind of personal betrayal that is emotionally shattering. For many weeks, she was depressed and couldn’t stop crying. Life as she knew it had been upended by the dissolution of her marriage. Frankly, we were worried about her. She’s a strong, smart lady with tremendous inner and outer beauty, and to see her thrown for such a disabling loop was a reminder that every one of us is just a phone call or a test result from having our existence cast to the four winds.
Fast forward to a few weekends ago, when everything seemed to change. Ann had started to get her sense of self back, get her feet back under her and find some of the fire we knew well. She had stopped being a victim and was beginning to morph into a fighter. It was good to see. To blow off some steam, she went out on a Saturday night with some friends to some nightclubs in Miami’s wild South Beach district. Now, if you know anything about South Beach, you know that it’s like Mardi Gras year-round. This is a place where the plainest women become objects of fierce sexual attention from gorgeous men, and Ann is hardly plain. She had decided for the evening (and here’s where the principle of Beauty 911 comes in) to adopt a new identity—to give her divorcing self a night off and cut loose as someone else for a while. So she introduced herself as Asia D’Cuba and had a great time.
About midnight, “Asia” tired of the scene and headed for the street. But as she stood there she was having trouble fastening her sweater. She didn’t see a huge white Mercedes pull up, but a deep voice from the darkened car said, “Can I help you with that?” Ann, tickled by the attention, leaned forward provocatively and a huge, dark-skinned hand came out of the window, fastened her sweater clasp, then moved to her breast. That was more than she had bargained for, and she jumped back. The voice and hand, it turned out, belonged to a professional football player about 25 years old (who shall also remain nameless) and who Ann knew had just signed a multi-million dollar contract. He invited her to check out his car, but she politely declined. After all, there are only so many things a middle-aged woman under an assumed name will do on a Saturday night!
Still, Ann was secretly thrilled. She, a fortysomething soon-to-be divorcee who had been feeling old and unattractive, had been hit on by a twentysomething NFL stud! We thought it was hysterically funny and really sweet, and wonderful for her growing self-esteem. We also think it’s a perfect example of Beauty 911 in action. Ann took herself out of a comfort zone that had become depressing, took a risk, found her playful side, and rediscovered her self-confidence. All these things combined to make her atttractive enough to capture the attention of a rich young man who could have picked up on any woman in South Beach. Crisis? What crisis? The only person we feel sorry for now is Ann’s soon-to-be-ex.
It’s a myth that women worry more than men, but being more communicative than men, women do tend to talk about their worries more. And while talking about our worries can ease them, it can also reinforce them as we hear about the troubles and concerns of others. So how can women break the cycle of worry—or from a mental and physical health perspective, stem the damage that can occur due to unrelenting anxiety, especially in a time of such dire economic difficulty? Since worry seems to be rampant right now, we thought we’d answer some of the most common worry-related questions that we hear:
Q: How can women stop worrying so much?
A: It takes a great deal of self-awareness to realize that you are a chronic worrier. The trouble with worry is that our culture tells us that responsible people are supposed to worry, so if we’re not worried, we feel as though we’re ignoring problems. However, worry accomplishes nothing. It is a useless emotion. One way to stem the tide of worry is to be aware of the uselessness of worry, but one of the best ways is to find ways to relax what Buddhists call the “monkey mind,” the racing thoughts that lock us in a maze of anxiety like rats. Meditation is wonderful for this.
Q: Is worrying “contagious”? Is there any way to avoid catching it?
A: It can be, if you let the worries of others start you worrying about the same issues. This can be a sign of a generalized anxiety disorder, in which people worry about extremely unlikely events. One of the best ways to avoid the worry “contagion” is just to avoid spending time with people who are chronic worriers.
Q: Are people born worriers, or made?
A: A little of both. People who worry constantly about even the most remote possibilities may suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, a medical condition that we think can be inherited. But worry is also a habit, and women who grow up in an environment where one or both parents worry about everything and instill fear of the unknown in their children may see that as a normal way of thinking and regarding the world. So worry appears to be part nature, part nurture.
Q: What do people do when they worry—eat more, drink more, etc.?
A: There’s no single pattern of behavior. Look at your own friends: some are probably “stress eaters,” who eat more when they’re worried, while others lose weight during stressful times because they can’t eat a thing. Where we become concerned as physicians is when someone begins doing something potentially self-destructive because of worry, like self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
Q: Have any studies or polls been done on worry?
A: Yes. One of the more recent ones was a study of global poll results done by the University of Kansas working with the Gallup Organization. It found that the link between positive emotions and good health is very strong. You can find more about the study at www.news-medical.net/?id=46535 or at the University of Kansas website, www.ku.edu.
Q: Do people worry more today than in the past? Did people worry a ton during the Great Depression?
A: There isn’t much hard data about worry rates from today versus 60 years ago. But the consensus is that people today tend to worry more than their parents and grandparents did because of global media and the Internet. For example, during the Depression there was no TV or Internet. Most people’s worlds were confined to their neighborhoods or cities. So while they may have worried about their own economic situation, there was probably less of that “the sky is falling” anxiety that we find today when every news report talks about rising unemployment and the moment a financial collapse occurs, it’s all over the Internet in minutes. With more knowledge and more awareness of the world come more reasons to worry, if you’re looking for them and if your emotions overcome your rationality.
Q: Can worry impact your looks? If you’re constantly furrowing your brow, can it cause wrinkles? I’ve heard that if you force yourself to smile, you activate areas of the brain that make you happier, plus you avoid those worry wrinkles to boot. Is this true?
A: Worry can indeed impact your looks, but not as directly as you might think. Frowning and furrowing your brow can certainly imprint lines in your face over time, but wrinkles are really caused by the natural effects of aging as our skin becomes less elastic over time. You can’t avoid them. The more direct impact of worry comes when worry causes you to neglect your self-care: to eat poorly, not cleanse and moisturize your skin, abuse alcohol, take up smoking or fail to protect your skin from the sun. Also, keep in mind that frowning and worry affect your Inner Beauty, too, as people perceive you as someone negative who is not enjoyable to be around, regardless of your looks. As for smiling, it’s always a good idea, because smiling tells your brain to release serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good neurochemicals that improve mood.
Q: What worries have you struggled with in the past and how did you cope?
A: We all struggle with the worries that come with aging: parents becoming ill, our own bodies starting to show signs of age and the loss of some of our youthful beauty, and certainly right now, economic worries. In general, we find that no matter what the worry is, the “Three Ps Rule” really helps us handle whatever comes along: 1) Perspective. Step back and get some perspective on the situation. Is it really as bad as you fear? What are the facts? 2) Plan. What scenarios could play out and what will you need to do to be prepared for them? 3) People. Don’t try to deal with things alone. Share your fears and talk to the people who care about you. It’s amazing what a difference support makes.
No surprise here: women differ from men in the way our brains respond to beauty. In yet another blow to the attempts to create a gender-neutral society where men and women are basically identical reflections of one another in different clothing, a new study has discovered that when they see beauty (as in a painting in a museum), men’s brains light up in the areas linked to absolute spacial location, while women’s brains activate in areas connected to determining relative location. It’s a subtle difference that may reflect the evolutionary differences in the two genders.
The study, which can be found here, was conducted at Spain’s Universitat de les Illes Balears and published on February 23 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was small but provocative. Ten men and 10 women looked at images of modern and classic paintings, as well as photographs of landscapes, artifacts and urban scenes, while the researchers recorded their reactions with a magnetoencephalograph, which monitors real-time neural activity by measuring magnetic fields generated by electrical currents in the brain. This is superior to using functional magnetic resonance imaging, which reads blood flow to brain areas and has been somewhat discredited recently.
Across the board, beauty produced coordinate-processing activation in both men and women, and category-processing in women exclusively. The reseachers speculate that from an evolutionary and survival perspective, this may stem from differing roles that males and females played in hunter-gatherer societies. Men were the hunters, and so had to develop strong spatial senses to find and kill prey. Women, meanwhile, had to survey the landscape for safe tubers, roots, berries and nuts to gather, and so had to use comparison-centric parts of their brains more adept not only at location but memory and analysis. Fast forward 5000 years and you get different brain responses to beauty.
Interestingly, the differences don’t seem to affect how men and women preceive or react to beauty. Both sexes described their perceptions in the same way and described beauty as pleasurable and stimulating. So from a Beauty-Brain Loop perspective, what does this mean for us? It does suggest that we women are wired to find beauty on more relative, subtle terms in both men and women—it isn’t as absolute as a perfectly chiseled chest in a man or a long pair of legs in a woman. We’re more apt to think in terms of beauty in categories and to find different types of beauty in our environment, while men’s definition is more narrow. Hence the male role in the dating scene as the hunter, the search-and-conquer soldier on a mission.
We won’t suggest that a study like this defines anything about how we ultimately see beauty. First of all, it was small and needs to be replicated on a larger scale. Second, we don’t believe in being so reductive about women, men or beauty. We are partially shaped by our hard-wired brains, of course, but also by our experience and our choices. How we choose to define beauty is ultimately what determines the beauty we see in others and ourselves.
It doesn’t take much detective work to see that diet books are an obsession in our culture. All it takes is walking into your neighborhood Barnes & Noble and looking at the front “dump bin,” the pyramid-like stack of nonfiction books near the entrance of most stores. There, at any given time, you’ll find six to ten diet books stacked up like cordwood: flat belly diets, over 50 diets, five-minute diets, diets for men, celebrity diets and more. Diet books are among the most consistently popular genre of nonfiction, even though time and time again, we’ve seen that fad diets rarely work for keeping weight off over the long term. Heck, our publisher even talked to us about a diet book as a follow-up to The Beauty Prescription.
What does our seeming obsession with diet books say about us as a culture? We’ll give you some multiple choice options:
We’re obsessed with being as thin as the celebrities we see on the covers of magazines (forgetting that they have chefs and personal trainers and many hours a day to devote to just staying in shape).
We’re eager to believe the hype about a fast, easy weight loss miracle if it hides the simple truth that to lose weight over the long term we have to eat less and move more.
We consistently feel bad about our bodies thanks to pressure from a culture that promotes unrealistic body images.
All of the above.
We don’t know about you, but we’re going with #4. Basically, the multi-billion dollar diet industry (which encompasses a lot more than books) thrives in a rich soil of wishful thinking and willful self-deception, as we convince ourselves that THIS diet, THIS time, will do the trick and keep us thin and healthy without sacrifice. This all points to a national problem with accepting some realities about weight, health and beauty. These are as follows:
You don’t have to be thin to be healthy. It helps, but there are plenty of people who are endomorphs (the body type that retains fat and loses weight slowly) who are fit, eat well and exercise regularly. There are also plenty of thin folks who smoke to suppress their hunger or simply don’t eat enough and are malnourished.
It’s more important to be active than thin. Studies have shown over and over that physically active overweight people do better on tests for heart disease and diabetes risk factors than thin sedentary people.
The only way to consistently lose weight and keep it off is to permanently change your lifestyle. Move more, eat less, give up some unhealthy foods and dedicate yourself to working out 5-6 days a week for life. There are no shortcuts, sorry.
It is far more attractive to be a bit overweight but happy and accepting of yourself and your inner beauty than to be thin, always worried about what you eat and beat yourself up when you gain an ounce. Self-love is beautiful; self-loathing is not.
We would love to write a diet book for the inner self, perhaps about losing the excess “pounds” of guilt, resentment, shame or envy that seem to drive so many women in our culture to starve themselves in the name of beauty. Perhaps someday, we will. Tell us, what kind of diet book would YOU like to see?
A few weeks back, we blogged about a new reality show, “True Beauty,” premiering this year on ABC. Supposedly, the show would feature the usual collection of contestants who, while they thought they were being judged on their external good looks, were actually being judged on their “inner beauty.” Well, we’ve seen the premiere episode and it wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for. We applaud the producers, including Tyra Banks, for bringing the issue of inner beauty to the fore, but we had something different in mind. And since we try to be positive on this blog, we’re going to offer our constructive criticisms on how “True Beauty” could become a truer test of bona fide Inner Beauty.
Make the setting more natural. Right now, the show’s setup is pretty typical: take a bunch of people, stick them in a house, and let personal conflict erupt. Instead, we’d love to see the show be more natural and unforced. Follow the contestants around in their personal lives with hidden cameras and audio to see how they interact with others. Inner beauty is about self-esteem and seeing the beauty in other people and the world around you. Do the contestants treat themselves well or engage in damaging self-talk? Do they treat others with compassion and respect? Do they maintain a positive frame of mind? Those are questions you can’t answer in an artificial setting.
Expand the palette of people. This might not be able to happen until next season, but we’d love to see people who aren’t all great looking be on the show. The contestants right now are all varying degrees of gorgeous, and that doesn’t reflect reality. It sends the message that inner beauty only matters if you also have outer beauty, and that’s not a healthy message to send. Add a plus-sized woman, a geekier guy and maybe even a disabled man or woman to the cast next year and we think viewers will relate much better.
Take more time. The first contestant was expelled from the program after one week and after one not-so-beautiful act (failing to hold a door for someone). Even though it follows the the “Survivor” format of “knock ‘em down one at a time,” that doesn’t seem fair. Inner beauty is a matter of thoughts, attitudes and actions over a long period, not one isolated incident. Heck, even the most inwardly gorgeous of us is inconsiderate or mean-spirited from time to time. Again, we know this violates the “who’s going to be booted next” ethos of reality TV, but it would give each person a fairer shake.
We’re not TV producers, and we haven’t thought these ideas through completely, but we think that in general the result would be a “True Beauty” that was more true to its name: a test of the genuine inner beauty of a group of people. It would also send a more positive message to the audience: that real inner beauty is its own reward, even if you don’t win a spot on People’s Most Beautiful list.
In our book, The Beauty Prescription, we talk extensively about something we call “Beauty 911.” It means that when life knocks you flat with a tragedy or a bad turn of events, it’s important to devote a little of your time and strength to letting yourself be beautiful—to taking care of yourself. This may seem trivial when faced with something like the collapse of a relationship, a financial catastrophe or a frightening health problem, but who made the rule that hard times were supposed to be endured with stone-faced stoicism? What’s wrong with breaking the tension by spending an hour getting your hair blown out, buying a great pair of shoes or laughing with a friend until you feel nauseous? Nothing, we say. In fact, giving yourself permission to care about your inner and outer beauty during a period of great stress is probably one of the healthiest coping mechanisms we’ve ever heard of.
It’s all about control. We live with a tentative, fragile illusion that we’re in control of our lives, but we’re really not. Most of life is a roll of the dice. We can’t control the stock market, the actions of other people, the weather or the DNA in our cells. So when something happens that shatters our neat, controlled bubble, it’s devastating. We feel like we’re floating without moorings, utterly vulnerable and alone. In fact, it’s important to remember that while we may cherish the idea that we control the outcome of each day, there are only two things we can control: how we prepare for what happens and how we respond to what happens. When something destroys your sense of peace and predictability, it’s essential that you regain some small bit of control that you can hold onto. Focusing on your beauty gives you a little of your control back.
Let’s face it, even if you’re diagnosed with cancer and facing rough treatments, you’re still the one in control of what you eat, how you dress and how you look. No one else can make those decisions for you. Even if your home is foreclosed upon, you can still get your nails done and make sure your makeup looks perfect. You can and should take time to meditate, work out, moisturize, and do whatever you must to look and feel as good as you can. Beauty is a pillar anchored in bedrock that you can cling to when everything else seems to be pitching in the wind. You say, “Well, at least I know I look great!” It’s not a solution to your problems, but it’s something that can help you make it through the day…and some days, that’s all you really hope for, isn’t it?
Trauma also tests our inner beauty. It’s easy to blame yourself for things that aren’t your fault and to wallow in guilt. This can cause self-esteem to take a dive and pull you into a dangerous downward spiral. It’s just as vital to tend your inner beauty: spend time with a Beauty Buddy, be with friends, talk with a therapist. Find ways to become more objective about what’s going on and you’re likely to find that, even if you share some responsibility for what’s gone wrong, it’s not all your fault.
Beauty treatments are great for boosting your inner beauty and are also wonderful antidotes for the harmful effects of the stress hormones that flood our bodies during times of trauma. Just having your toes done and being around other women in a supportive setting releases oxytocin, creating feelings of warmth and bonding. And what could be better than a massage to knead away the tightness and exhaustion that come with life’s trials? We know women who have gotten cosmetic treatments right before therapy for cancer, because knowing they looked their best was part of their act of “girding for battle,” going into the fight with guns blazing. More power to them. Confidence, self-esteem and inner peace are critical if you’re going to make it through life’s tsunamis. Beauty 911 is something none of us should be afraid of dialing.
Here’s a shocking revelation: men like physically beautiful women. And if reinforcing one stereotype isn’t enough for you, here’s another: apparently, women are attracted to wealth. So says Indiana University cognitive scientist Peter Todd and colleagues from Germany, England and Scotland, who used a speed dating session in Germany to compare what men and women said they wanted in a mate with whom they actually chose. The results of the study will be published shortly in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Now, we’re not sure how scientific speed dating—where people have “mini dates” of 3 to 5 minutes with as many as 30 other singles—really is, and the sample size of only 46 people isn’t exactly conclusive, but the results are certainly in line with what we’ve said in our book, The Beauty Prescription. The researchers say that when they were surveyed before the speed dating, participants gave socially acceptable answers to what they wanted in a significant other—intellect, sense of humor, and so on. But when it came to selecting people in a face-to-face setting, the men went for physical attractiveness most often, and the women were drawn to material wealth and security.
This isn’t surprising to us. We’ve written about it, and the results of this study are in line with the predictions of evolutionary psychology, which say that based on our desire for survival, ancient men were attracted to clear skin, glossy hair and physical symmetry because women with those features were more likely to be healthy and thus more successfully bear lots of children. As for the women, who were physically weaker, they were drawn to men with a greater ability to provide, protect and provide security for the family. As Todd said, ancient males and females who chose mates in this way would have had a better chance of producing lots of offspring, giving them an evolutionary advantage.
Reductive? Sure, but it illustrates that at first glance, we’re still driven by our sense of innate beauty, that hard-wired ideal that’s a product of millennia of evolution. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s part of who and what we are as men and women. But the limit of studies like this is that we should take them at face value and no more, because they don’t measure the other aspect our beauty sense, evolving beauty. Speed dating is about instant impressions, and when we have nothing else to go on, it makes sense to choose the guy with the $3,000 Rolex or the woman with the great cheekbones and dazzling smile. What this study doesn’t do is follow up to see what happened after these men and women spent more time together, after they got to know each other and saw the more subtle aspects of each other’s beauty: wit, spirituality, sex appeal, physical surroundings, relationships, career and so on. Time changes how we perceive beauty, which is why women who are not supermodels usually find their own Prince Charmings. Once we start to see the entire person, not just the facsimile that we see in 3 to 5 minutes, we find that beauty exists at many subtle, intriguing levels, inside and out.
Something to be aware of if you ever decide to speed date. For our part, we’ll stick to the slow version.
Back in 2007, Dawn Vandehey was six months pregnant with their second child. Dawn was running errands and walking through a parking lot to her bank when a woman she had never seen before stuck her head out of her car window and said to Dawn, “I just want to tell you that you look beautiful.” As you can imagine, Dawn was walking on air the rest of the day because of that unsolicited and very sweet compliment, especially at a time when she, as she says, “Had a belly like the Buddha.”
Now, Dawn is a tall, athletic-looking, beautiful redhead with bright green eyes. Men notice her when she walks down the street. But this wasn’t a man. It was a woman and a stranger, and people as a rule in our society don’t pay others compliments out of the clear blue sky. Also, Dawn didn’t have her usual sleek figure; she was sporting what’s commonly called “the waddle”: that very pregnant walk where women in their third trimester jut their hips out in front of the rest of them in order to reduce some of the pressure on their back. It’s functional, but lacking in the come-hither department. Yet in spite of this, someone was moved to favor her with a spontaneous bit of recognition of her unique beauty. Why?
In great part, it was because Dawn loved being pregnant. She handled it with incredible poise and grace and joy. She enjoyed every aspect of it as much as she had enjoyed carrying their first daughter. She was serene and happy and felt the most beautiful she had ever felt. In other words, the Inner Beauty stage of Dawn’s Beauty-Brain Loop was in overdrive. Her self-esteem and contentment shone from her like a beacon, encouraging her to take care of her body and dress well and look as great as she could in spite of her pregnancy. Inner Beauty also gave her a radiant self-confidence, and it was this that we believe the unknown woman in the parking lot responded to.
Inner Beauty has the power to do that for all of us. It’s the place where true, lasting beauty begins, beauty that transcends time and trends and the inevitable changes that come with aging. Some women, regardless of their age or station in life, are always beautiful and magnetic: Catherine Deneuve, Jane Seymour, Tina Turner, Bette Midler. What do they have in common? They are carrying on a passionate love affair with themselves and their lives; they adore who and what they are and enjoy lives filled with meaning, purpose and challenge. Because of this they are driven to stay fit and healthy and care for their skin. Most importantly, they give off a contagious energy and fire, a hunger for living that makes us feel better about being part of the human race. Because if they can be so amazing at 50 or 60 or 70, maybe we can, too.
This might be the secret behind Inner Beauty’s power to make others see us as beautiful. When we feel that we’re the best we can be, others look at us and think, “Maybe I can be that fabulous someday, too.” Try some of these to capture that beauty:
Reflecting on the good you have done for other people
Looking at what you have achieved in your life rather than where you have failed
Giving yourself one moment each day to think about your blessings
Setting aside some time each week for quiet contemplation
Finding ways to improve the lives of others, especially those less fortunate
Taking optimal care of your health through diet and exercise
Finding healthy ways to release stress—mediation, walking, prayer
Making the physical space you inhabit the most beautiful it can be
Inner Beauty inspires and elevates. And you don’t have to be pregnant to have it. You just have to be happy.
In The Beauty Prescription, we talk about the Dove ad campaign called Real Beauty that ran in 2007, showing how beautiful real women with curves and gray hair and non-model figures can be when they’re not made to be embarrassed about themselves. We loved this campaign and know lots of women who did, but it turns out that wasn’t the end of the story. Dove and its parent company, Unilever, have also been building something called the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, which intends to reach out to 5 million young women around the world by 2010. The goal is one we couldn’t support more enthusiastically: to help free young women from self-limiting beauty stereotypes that lead to low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, eating disorders and a generally negative self-image. So far, the program has reached more than 2 million young women around the globe and continues to raise money for its efforts.
This is exactly the kind of thing we support in our book, our medical careers and our private lives. We both have daughters, and we shudder to think of them growing up burdened by the same expectations of a perfect face and body that we’ve seen scar many of our patients. To combat this, Dove is doing things like creating online-only short films (one of which won two awards at Cannes) and partnering with organizations like the Girl Scouts to produce nearly 2,700 self-esteem building and educational events in the U.S., U.K. and around the world. Concerned moms can go to the Fund’s website and find all sorts of tools they can use with their own girls.
This is a cause not just worth supporting but worth emulating. It’s wonderful to see a corporation focus on using its influence to improve the lives of the people who it hopes will buy their products. Sure, they are doing it with a profit motive and trying to win hearts and minds, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Dove could have just done a public service announcement and called it a day, but they didn’t. They’re using their resources to make a positive difference, and for that they deserve to be lauded and supported.