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London Mayor Bans Beach Body Ready Ads

In this file photo dated Saturday, May 7, 2016, Sadiq Khan, speaks on the podium at City Hall in London, Saturday, May 7, 2016. London’s mayor, Khan on Sunday June 12, 2016, pledged to fight until the moment the polls close to persuade Britons to vote to remain inside the European Union bloc, in the upcoming June 23 referendum.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, FILE)London Mayor Sadiq Khan won the praise of many by announcing a ban on "body-shaming" ads. The Protein World weight-loss ad featured a bikini-clad model with a caption that read, "Are you beach body ready?" The Muslim mayor and a father of two warned that the ads could "demean" women and encourage them towards unhealthy practices and ideals.

Seen by many as objectifying women and promoting an "ideal" body image, the advertisement caused an uproar when it appeared around London's transport network. Transport for London Commercial Development Director Graeme Craig said: "Our customers cannot simply switch off or turn a page if an advertisement offends or upsets them and we have a duty to ensure the copy we carry reflects that unique environment."

Protein World spent 250,000 pounds on the ad campaign. Over a four-day stretch, they made one million pounds while protests ensued and petitions circulated.

The Mayor is not without his share of critics though. Some speculated that he used his role as a father to justify his religious beliefs. But the mayor insists he wanted to send a "clear message" to the advertising industry, saying the new guidelines seek to guard against body-confidence issues.

The London mayor is not alone in his efforts. Currently France, Israel, Italy, and Spain have enacted policies aimed at preventing models with unhealthy bodies from working in the industry.

Such advertisements as the ones by Protein World use messages and people to sell more than a product, but a way of life. As character Don Draper says in the hit show "Mad Men," "Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay."

If Draper is right, then Protein World indirectly ties body size to happiness. But if the statistics are any indication, happiness is the last characteristic that would define those who are trying or are beach body ready.  

One study found eighty-one percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Forty-two percent of 1st–3rd grade girls want to be thinner. Twenty-seven percent of the girls felt that the media pressures them to have a perfect body. Fifty percent of teenage girls and thirty percent of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives to control their weight. And in totality, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life here in the US.

Joel Yager, M.D. observed: "Every society has a way of torturing its women, whether by binding their feet or by sticking them into whalebone corsets. What contemporary American culture has come up with is designer jeans."

According to research, today's fashion models weigh twenty-three percent less than the average female. A woman between the ages of 18–34 has a seven percent chance of being as slim as a catwalk model. One study found that people who were shown slides of thin models had lower self-evaluations than people who had seen average and oversized models. Seventy-five percent of "normal" weight women think they are overweight and ninety percent of women overestimate their body size.

The numbers are staggering but the question still lingers: are you beach body ready?

There is a mental and physical component to the question. Protein World is asking you to make a mental assessment of your physical body. Protein World can ask the provocative question, but you can respond with a biblical answer.

With their instigating ad, Protein World is attempting to engage you in an exhausting game of comparison in which you compare each part of your body with the model's. But as many have noted: comparison is the thief of joy.

Instead of allowing comparison to rob you of joy, work diligently and reflect thoughtfully on the beauty of God. The beauty of God, perfectly shining in Zion (Psalm 50:2), is what we have been called to set our eyes upon (Colossians 3:2). With our gaze directed at him, we do not grow weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9) but are compelled (2 Corinthians 5:14) to steward the gifts and resources—including our bodies—well for the glory of his name (Luke 14, 1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

But his approval of us is not dependent upon our obedience to him (2 Timothy 2:13). Or our body size for that matter. You may be unsure about your body, but God is completely sure about his love for you.

He loved us before we loved him (1 John 4:19). Right now, God the Son is at the right hand of the Father petitioning for us (Hebrews 7:25), singing over us with great joy (Zephaniah 3:17), and watching us with great care (Psalm 121).

Summer is coming and the beach is calling, but remember: your readiness for the beach is less about your body and more about your mind.

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