PureInsight | September 9, 2002
With an increasing consciousness, even obsession, with their body image, people today want desperately to believe they can lose weight by taking diet pills rather than through willpower. A recent survey found that 40 percent of Japanese men and 49 percent of women feel they are overweight. However, recent studies of diet pill use show long-term side effects. Some diet pills are even proving to be deadly.
According to a Reuters news report on August 2, 2002, a Japanese man in his 30's died of a heart attack. Japanese officials believe that his death might be linked to diet aids. Various brands of diet pills "have been linked to five deaths in Japan and more than 500 cases of illness." 
On August 12, 2002, Time Asia Magazine revealed two other tragedies linked to diet pills in an article titled, "Asian Killer Diet Pills." A 28-year-old Singaporean TV actress was on a diet drug for two months, which ravaged her liver. Her "life was saved by an emergency transplant after her fiancé donated half his own liver. She now takes immunosuppressants, which keep her body from rejecting the transplant but leave her weak and vulnerable to further illness. 'I feel I'm still living a nightmare,' she says." In June 2002, "a 43-year-old logistics manager at Singapore Technologies, died from liver failure. She had started taking the same diet supplement in April." 
In contrast to today's trend of weight loss, the ancient people esteemed natural beauty. A slender woman was not considered beautiful at all by their aesthetic standards. The eastern and western societies in ancient times advocated health and fitness as the model. This shared aesthetics was manifested in countless artifacts, ranging from the statues of muscular men in ancient Greek culture, to the voluptuous female nudes in the portrait collections at the Musee du Louvre in France, to the praises of natural beauty in ancient Chinese literary works.
The aesthetics in ancient Chinese culture was first recorded in Shi Jing, or The Book of Songs. The following verses in The Book of Songs described the aesthetic standards for men.
"With my large figure,
I dance in the ducal courtyard.
I am strong as a tiger;
The reins are in my grasp like ribbons."
The following verses in The Book of Songs described the aesthetic standard for women.
"She was plump and tall,
In her embroidered robe, with a [plain] single garment over it."
"She was plump and tall,
When she halted in the cultivated suburbs."
"How great is that luxuriant look,
A rosy cheek like peach or plum!"
Apparently the ancient Chinese were partial to big, strong men, and healthy, radiant and graceful women. A slender woman may be considered beautiful by today's standard, but she would hardly pass as a beauty in the Han Dynasty. When Emperor Wu's favorite concubine, Lady Li, was at death's door, she refused to see Emperor Wu, whose reign in the Han Dynasty extended from 157 t 187 B.C., for fear that he might remember her with her withering complexion. The aesthetics that advocated healthy women continued into the Eastern Han Dynasty. "A beautiful lady opened the door to greet the guest with a rosy cheek and big smile." (From Ode to the Goddess of the Lo River.)
A beauty, according to the aesthetic standard between the Han and Wei Dynasties, would "walk gracefully as a wild goose sailing across the sky, and move about elegantly as a dragon gliding through heaven." In addition, she must wear "a beige complexion like the chrysanthemum in autumn, and a healthy, refreshing look like young pine sprouts in spring." (From Ode to the Goddess of the Lo River.) Lady Yang, or Yang Guifei, was the favorite concubine of Emperor Hsuan Zong of the Tang Dynasty, whose reign extended from 712 to 755 A.D. She was deemed the most beautiful woman in the Tang Dynasty and she promoted the aesthetics that revered plumpness. A typical beauty in the Tang Dynasty must have "a face fair as a hibiscus and eyebrows thin as willow." Naturally, she must also be as "plump and voluptuous as Lady Yang."
A society's psyche and its prevailing vogues impose requirements on physical appearances. These requirements reflect a society's standards of value and aesthetics. In recent years there has been a growing obsession with slender, willowy women. The popular media also pour on the pressure to be thin, advertising the use of diet pills to reach this goal. So long as people insist on being thin, dangerous diet drugs will persist. In other words, as long as women are dying to be thin, there's a good chance some of them will do so trying to reach their goal. The only way to end this deadly pursuit is to correct the moral standards of society, and to restore the aesthetics that value natural beauty.