Samantha Stewart, registered dietician and superhuman, addressed the unrealistic health expectations set by social media and society in her session at the 2021 Soirée Women's Leadership Symposium, along with how to combat them through love, kindness and acceptance.
“We’ve become obsessed with the idea of being in control,” she says. “There’s an obsession with perfection.”
Stewart parallels the idea of being a superhero, exceeding every human expectation, to how people are expected to live today. There’s an infatuation with the quickest and best way to achieve picture perfect health.
“We’re actually defining health by what it appears to be on the surface,” Stewart says.
She lists social media as a factor that pushes unrealistic expectations and leads to habits that strive for an unattainable perfection.
“We gravitate toward these messages telling us who we should be and what we should look like," Stewart says. "I feared I was not good enough or beautiful enough unless I took up less space in this world.”
The pressure to be superhuman and the obsession with perfection does not stem from social media alone. Conversations in society about food, health and the latest trends also contribute. Instead of acknowledging that food allows for growth and how hunger is normal, we tend to focus on how we’re going about our eating habits wrong.
“Food nourishes our body. Unfortunately food has become the route for an all-too-easy way for us to throw shame and guilt on ourselves and one another,” Stewart says.
It’s a cycle: We take in and believe biases about food, then push them onto others, who then do the same.
A 4.5 trillion dollar health and wellness industry profits from preying on those biases and fears. They gain from our loss of trust in ourselves.
“They provoke your deepest fear that what you are doing right now isn’t good enough,” she says.
But, according to Stewart, there are ways to replace this fear and desire for perfection with love, kindness and acceptance.
Love: Love serves as a reminder that commitment and value trump judgement and guilt.
“We only have one body in this lifetime. Love it hard for what it gives you.”
Kindness: Be kind to yourself and to others.
“Listen to your body. Who you are is measured far beyond what it appears to be on the surface."
Acceptance: Acceptance allows you to see a situation for both the good and the bad, and adopt a non-judgemental awareness.
“Think about the freedom that would come with no longer categorizing things into good and into bad.”
These tactics do not mean you are complacent, Stewart says, but in fact, they promote change. They promote grace and understanding with your view of health, and inspire us to look beyond the norm.
“Show this world what it truly means to be a superhuman.”
To watch Stewart's full SWLS session, click here.