NOLWAZI MNGADI

We’ve heard this many times before: your body is a temple, treat it as such. As human beings are wont to do, some people tend to go to extremes to take care of themselves and others go running as far away as possible in the other direction. Perdeby took a look at these body extremists and asked why people go to such extremes to treat, or mistreat, their bodies.

Body modification, or body alteration, is the practice whereby people alter their bodies (usually non-medical) for a number of reasons, including sexual and aesthetic appeal. Body modification ranges from plastic surgery, piercings and tattoos to the more cringe-inducing nipple removal. People who undergo the more extreme body modification procedures are believed to have a mental illness called body dysmorphic disorder. These people are unusually preoccupied with their bodies and believe that they have body defects. This disorder causes anxiety among patients. The decision to alter their bodies is driven by the desire to look perfect in their own eyes, despite the fact that the alteration may seem strange to other people.

Some of the more extreme forms of body modification are eyeball tattoos, tongue and penis splitting, body suspension and pointed ears.

Eyeball tattooing started out as a way for people to correct defects like scarring of the cornea and leucomas. Recently it has become a way for people to decorate their eyes and change their eye colour. Tongue splitting is a procedure that involves splitting the tongue in half so that there are two independent sections. One man who underwent this procedure had an obsession with snakes and other reptiles and consequently had his tongue split in half to imitate that of a snake.

If you have ever watched Lord of the Rings or other fantasy movies and thought, “Elf ears are so cool. I’d like a pair of those,” then there is a surgical procedure just for you. Dr Lajos Nagy, a New York plastic surgeon, created the procedure to allow patients to get the elf look they always wanted. According to him, having pointy ears also enhances the experience of listening to music. This was later confirmed to be a hoax.

Body modification may be a dangerous way for people to change how they look on the outside, but stranger things are done. There are also people who feel that their inside is not what it should be and therefore have unusual diets and exercise routines.

Proponents of the raw food diet claim that this way of life is much healthier than eating cooked and processed foods. They also claim that those who live on the raw food diet are less likely to contract heart diseases and that diabetes may be reversed by eating this type of food. Unlike vegans, people on extreme raw food diets will eat uncooked meat, raw eggs and fresh milk straight from the cow. There are upsides to the raw food diet, namely that raw food is harder to chew which forces people to eat slower. Eating slower allows the body to process food easier and also prevents people from eating too much because the body is able to register when one is full. Another positive aspect of this diet is that certain vegetables are better eaten raw as nutrients are lost during cooking.

There are also cons to a raw food diet. Food, especially meat and fish, must be cleaned thoroughly before it is eaten. Extreme raw food enthusiasts are at risk of contracting diseases because of the bacteria and parasites that live in raw meat. This is also true of some vegetables.

So, while mutilating and altering your body is probably not the best way to improve your self-image, there is also such a thing as too much of a good thing. It is important to maintain a balance when it comes to our bodies. While you don’t want your temple (body) tearing apart at the seams, it’s also not preferable to have one that could collapse when the slightest wind blows.

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