The Plastification of America

Via Hannah Siegle
on Oct 17, 2011
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We have become a nation that is reliant on plastic.

A plastic trifecta: Plastic credit cards to coax us into debt, plastic containers to hold our expensive water, and plastic surgery to complete the trifecta.

Is our nation turning into molten mass of synthetic life? Almost everywhere you turn you see someone who has had something lifted, tucked, realigned, plumped or cut-off for aesthetic reasons.

Plastic surgery. A $10.7 billion dollar industry* that makes bank on the removal of character and what makes each individual authentic. Plastic surgery has grown by 155%  since 1997 and these numbers are only continuing to increase. As more and more people go under the knife we are slowly becoming immune to the illusion of what the body really looks like. Our thinking process is 90% visual and the more we see something the more it becomes ingrained into truth.

What is happening here? Oddly enough, paired with this rise in the occurrence of plastic surgery is a rise in positive body image campaigns and messages that scream for us to love ourselves. Are these messages being heard?  How can they be when so many more people are altering their appearances.

In 2010 breast augmentation topped the list as the most performed procedure. This is a shift from the top procedure in 1997, which was liposuction.  The majority of breast augmentations performed weren’t even for each for “deformities” such as extreme asymmetry or severe underdevelopment, but again for purely aesthetic reasons. What do these women think they will gain from having larger breasts? A happier life? Better friends? More money?

Why do we subject ourselves to implanting foreign objects and injecting poison into our bodies. Do we really fear being human that much; the lines that tell the stories of our lives or the skin that sags with character? Our bodies change throughout our lives. By pretending we are immune to this we deny our very essence of being human, running towards the static image of an illusion and from an acceptance of our soul.

“We don’t see things as they are.  We see things as we are.”  – Anais Nin

Perhaps this money and time would be better spend delving into the issues that exist below the surface, engaging in self-reflective practices such as yoga, meditation, body work or even therapy sessions. These practices integrate the disconnect that exists between body and mind and are much longer lasting than procedures that will have to be re-done after several years and come with the possibility of severe complications.

What is your take on plastic surgery? Are you part of the 56% of Americans who approve?

*statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Photo credits:,,


About Hannah Siegle

Hannah Siegle began to do yoga four years ago initially for the physical practice, however she quickly discovered that the yoga began to do her in ways she never anticipated. The mind, body and spiritual connection that yoga cultivates has helped Hannah through the ups and downs of life, both large and small. She regularly blogs at Balancing on Two Feet on topics such as yoga, mindfulness, eating disorder recovery and all those things people don't like to talk about. She was trained at the RYT 200 through Laurel Hodory and is currently working towards becoming a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist. She teaches yoga throughout Central Ohio with GoYoga ,yogaServe, and also works as an Assistant Editor for the elephant journal!


22 Responses to “The Plastification of America”

  1. __MikeG__ says:

    From wikipedia: Plastic surgery is a medical specialty concerned with the correction or restoration of form and function. Though cosmetic or aesthetic surgery is the best-known kind of plastic surgery, most plastic surgery is not cosmetic: plastic surgery includes many types of reconstructive surgery, hand surgery, microsurgery, and the treatment of burns.

    So, I do not buy your statement that "A $10.7 billion dollar industry* that makes bank on the removal of character and what makes each individual authentic". Any person who has a real medical need for the services of a board certified plastic surgeon would most likely disagree with the "removal of character" statement also.

    As far as cosmetic surgery goes, I believe that it is impossible to make a judgement as to whether or not there are too many purely cosmetic surgeries. Using your breast augmentation example, I believe that some women do have self esteem issues that drive the desire for larger breasts. I also believe that there are many women with perfectly healthy self esteem who also have breast augmentations.

    Is there something about the Western culture driving the rise in purely cosmetic surgeries? My guess is yes, but honestly I do not think I am smart enough to authoritatively make that statement with 100% certainty. I am a believer in personal responsibility. I think that (most) individuals make their choices based on personal factors that have nothing to do with "culture".

    Personally I believe a natural body is more aesthetically pleasing than a body enhanced by surgery or drugs.

  2. Hi MikeG,
    My article concerns cosmetic or aesthetic plastic surgery and not the reconstructive surgery that you mention such as burn treatment, microsurgery, hand surgery, and the like. Those are all very real reason for plastic surgery.

    Where did you get your information about reconstructive surgery being more prevalent? According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons there were 10.3 million cosmetic procedures iin 2010 and 5.3 million reconstructive.

  3. __MikeG__ says:

    Hey Hannah. The problem with the numbers is that often procedures performed by plastic surgeons do not get classified under the heading "plastic surgery". Since you clarified that your post is about cosmetic surgery, the numbers of cosmetic vs. purely medical procedures does not add to the conversation, IMO.

    Excluding purely medical procedures, I completely understand your concern about the volume of cosmetic surgery. While looking at professional sites devoted to cosmetic surgeries I saw the statistic that 83% of surgical procedures are performed on women. The numbers boggle my mind.

  4. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Great discussion, Hannah! For obvious superficial societal pressures, we often long to look and be 'perfect' although we all know in the back of our heads that there is no such thing. I do think that if we could find the beauty in our imperfections and just really accept who we are in the life, that we'd gain a real sense of peace. We can, because of today's technology, change the way we appear on the outside, but it doesn't mean it necessarily changes on the inside. Thanks for sharing this.

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  5. Dave says:

    Why is it different than every thing else just because it is surgery? Women highlight their hair, wear makeup, shave their legs, and wear padded push up bras. How about pierced ears or tattoos? Self tanner? How about jewelery? High heels, well they serve no functional purpose. Nice clothes? A sweatshirt and jeans would serve the function of protection from the elements. Or how about bleaching teeth or getting braces when you are 13? Braces are done for purely cosmetic reasons in most cases. Are all of these things acts of someone who is denying they are human?

  6. I view it as different because of the invasive aspect of the procedures be it cutting someone open or injecting poison in the body. The things you mention with the exception of self-tanner and cosmetics are external to the body. True cosmetics and the like are also chemicals, but there are other options for them that are not chemically based.

  7. Dave says:

    That is a fair statement but it is not related to what the article is taking issue with. The point of the article seems to be about it being bad to let aesthetics define a person. The article does not discuss the relative health safety of one thing versus another. All of the things mentioned in my post are done by people hoping to create a more attractive pleasing appearance whether they are invasive or not. Victoria's Secret has a pushup bra that "adds" two cup sizes. That is not invasive but it is done for similar if not identical reasoning.

  8. The article is about plastic surgery. I don't discuss the other aesthetic things that we do to our bodies. That was brought up in your comments.

  9. Rachel says:

    I think, based on what I have seen in my own friends, augmentations are done for a number of reasons, some of which are perfectly valid and some of which are sad attempts at trying to find happiness. I think much of it is done because people are looking for happiness in the wrong place. These people will have the procedure done and find they are still unhappy. This may either lead them to regret having the surgery done or it may lead them to focus on some new perceived "imperfection", thus leading to another surgery. Your example/photo of Heidi Pratt (or whatever her last name is these days) is perfect example of this. Michael Jackson would also be a good example of this. But then there are women who really do have breasts that are small. And by small, I mean…non-existent. I think some of those women appreciate getting the "boob job" done because they felt really self-conscious about their breasts and felt they couldn't be fully liberated in the bedroom. We can argue that really what they need to work on is a problem with their self-esteem (which is true – they need to realize and, more importantly, BELIEVE that they are so much more than their boobs), but at the end of the day if nice boobs are what they need to be able to enjoy themselves in bed and feel confident, then I think that is fine. If they find they still lack the happiness and confidence they hoped boobs (or chin implants or butt implants or calf implants) would bring them, then maybe they should consider counseling or discovering themselves and their bodies through yoga or some other body-mind practice – just as you suggested.

  10. Rachel says:

    I also think that what the article is talking about is different than what you are referring to. Hannah writes about procedures that effect lasting change. If I put on makeup, half of it has already rubbed off by the time I get to the office. I see myself without the make up on before I go to bed, as does my fiance. Same thing with the pushup bra. I can wear it out for fun, but in the bedroom it comes off and my true body is revealed. Changing your body permanently is a lot different than occasionally putting on a "costume" for fun when you go out. I don't know if that makes sense, but I feel that when you wear make-up or you wear a bra or you use self-tanner you are still accepting yourself for who you are. You aren't trying to permanently alter (and potentially damage) your body in the process. Make up is a lot of fun, but I'm really glad it comes off and I can be natural too – it's not like I want to tattoo my make up on my face. Make sense?

  11. Nicole says:

    Cosmetic surgery should be reserved for people who are disfigured by accidents, birth defects or some other kind of misadventure.

    Anything else is waste of money, time and resources.

  12. I very much agree Katka. It it usually something that comes from inside and while a fast fix may be the outside just like the surgery, it doesn't last.

  13. Interesting take on it with your last sentence. Something to contemplate!

  14. I would never have elective plastic surgery, but for more reasons than self-acceptance. So far, I have never had to have surgery (besides minor dental stuff that I was awake for) & the idea of it really frightens me…hoping to avoid it permanently. But on the self-acceptance part of it, it makes me really sad that people feel the need to go that route. I'm not even a big makeup person…just feels weird to me. There are so many different ways to be beautiful. It would be so boring if we all looked the same! Do you know if any type of counseling is required pre-plastic surgery?

  15. Sol says:

    What I see is people looking for magic solutions for their problems through plastic surgery (cosmetic), people not being reasonable at all. It's OK to remodel a bathroom – but we humans are not bathrooms.

  16. […] we don’t fit that bill we get the message that we aren’t right and that in order to be good enough we should buy these clothes, follow these crazy diets, workouts, and go under the knife. These […]

  17. […] fact the skinny women in this case is more likely to be “unhealthy” than the “plus-sized” one. […]

  18. […] There is an epidemic of addiction to cosmetic surgery today. There are people who are obsessed with altering their outside. There is a thought process that leads to a belief, the “if I only changed____, I would be happy” belief. […]

  19. […] have made the mammary gland all about sex. And we have let them, by participating in the game of surgical breast enlargement, push up bras for cleavage enhancement and even toning creams to reduce sag. (I remember a […]

  20. pittsburgh says:

    These people will have the procedure done and find they are still unhappy. This may either lead them to regret having the surgery done or it may lead them to focus on some new perceived "imperfection", thus leading to another surgery. Your example/photo of Heidi Pratt (or whatever her last name is these days) is perfect example of this