The human body is a multidimensional construct that refers to the size and shape of ourselves. As humans, we have perceptual component that refers to how we see our body size, shape, weight, physical characteristics, performance and movement. We also have an evaluative component, which refers to how we feel about these attributes and how those feelings influence our behaviours. Why then must people enhance their bodies? I think that people engage in such behaviours because of dissatisfaction and discontentment with their natural bodies.
However, this becomes an evil conclusion and experience because when one perceives that his body falls short of the societal ideal in terms of size and/or shape, then it means God didn’t do things right in the creation process. We shouldn’t allow societal ideals change our make-up and cause us to enhance our bodies.
The demand for enhanced body parts in Ghana has led to an increase in the number of patients suffering from various health complications, some of which have resulted in death. Indeed, it is a worrying trend with disastrous consequences since the public patronise body enhancement products at various markets. What in the world is wrong with us? Why is it so hard to love ourselves unconditionally? Those who are fat in some parts of their bodies are using all means possible (orthodox and unauthorized means) to look slimmer; the slim ones are using all sort of procedures to fatten some parts of their bodies. Why?
There are breasts and buttocks enhancing creams and pills which are highly patronized by women because they are not pleased with their natural endowments, for which reason they strive to improve upon what God has offered them. Some of these products are packaged with elaborate sexually explicit pictures, and are touted to enhance sexual performance, increase hips and breast sizes of women, flatten tummies or cure sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Some of these products range from syrups, creams and bore names such as bozcaada or hip-ups which are dangerous to our health. Experts say such products are unregistered and could have serious health repercussions, including death for its users. It is believed that these products are smuggled into the country, and their use could affect one’s internal organs such as the kidney, the liver and the heart in the not so distant future.
It is a worrying trend with disastrous consequences. Experts say these products are known to induce other diseases like cancer, severe allergic reactions, including severe dermatological diseases. Most importantly, these products have not been approved by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA). As a result, the sales and purchase of such products are considered illegal and detrimental to human safety.
The issue has become a thorn in the flesh as health professionals, and organizations have expressed their disdain on their harmful nature. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), buying unauthorized enhancement products online or in stores could pose a serious risk to your health. WHO has stressed on the fact that when people buy enhancement products, there is no guarantee that they contain what the promoters say they offer, neither is there a guarantee that their ingredients are safe.
These products are often labelled as ‘‘all natural’’ and ‘‘safe’’, but in many cases prescription drugs are added. They may also contain cheap ingredients added as “fillers”. These may interact with other health products and foods that one is taking. Although the products could be doing what they say they do, you could be harming your body unknowingly. And such products could pose serious risks to individual’s health, especially if one has an underlying health condition.
Some users of these enhancement products have narrated the ordeal they have suffered using such products. That notwithstanding, they are unable to stop using them. They have become addicted to the products. One of such persons who decided to speak on condition of anonymity shared her experience on the issue at hand. According to her, she was always being ‘body shamed’ by her contemporaries and teachers in school because she had a big stomach. “This made me uncomfortable anytime I stepped out. So, I came across a page on Instagram that sells flat tummy medicine, and I got one for myself and thankfully I have been able to burn my belly fat due to this product and I feel comfortable now,” she pointed out.
Another user also indicated that he used the penis enlargement cream because his girlfriend always complained about poor sexual satisfaction and the size of his penis. “I had to apply the product so that she’d love me and our bond would be solidified,” he emphasized.
Buttocks and hip enlargement are the commonest cosmetic procedures Ghanaian women undergo to achieve what society deems to be beautiful. Men also get injected to increase their pectoral muscles, though their numbers are much lower as compared to that of women.
Speaking to a health professional, Dr Vincent K. Adu, he says the women are being injected, and these injections are made using a biopolymer silicone. Since they’re injected freely into the body, it makes them more dangerous than implants, where silicone gel is contained within a shell.
“The silicone can migrate into other areas of the body, because it doesn’t have any barriers. The body can also react immunologically against a foreign material, creating many problems. Patients can suffer from allergic reactions and chronic fatigue. If the liquid migrates to other areas of the body it can cause intense joint pain,” he pointed out.
“Patients too can suffer from irregular or racing heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, digestive symptoms, headache, dizziness and chronic skin infections. All these symptoms may appear years after they have undergone the procedure,” he explained.
According to Breast Specialist and President of Breast Care International, who doubles as the Chief Executive of Peace and Love Hospital, Dr Beatrice Wiafe-Addai, women who use cosmetic products to enlarge their breasts are merely paving ways for serious health implications to themselves.
She emphasizes that the chemical composition of such lotions are unknown, and could be detrimental to users. Most of these products, if not all, are deemed illegal, and although their manufacturers assure users that they are harmless and beneficial, it has been proven by health practitioners that they cause more harm than good.
All these should send the wrong signal to users and people that the products have the propensity to damage one’s health life.
The way forward
In fighting this, the FDA and the Ghana Police Service have a crucial role to play. They should collaborate to conduct swoops at places such as Tema Station, Agbogbloshie Market and the Kaneshie Market where the drugs are prominently on sale. This will go a long way to succeed in arresting some retailers.
The real challenge also stems from the establishment of the source of the supply and how they are brought into the country. That’s why the FDA needs to extend invitation to other security services to help track the source of the drugs and how they are smuggled onto the Ghanaian market.
It is imperative that security personnel at our ports of entry and exit should be adequately trained, well-resourced with the needed logistics and charged to be particularly professional in the performance of their duties to ensure that there are no slippages and also do not sacrifice the national interest for their parochial and selfish gains.
I believe that this conversation is not a new one. We have the power to choose to love our bodies and cultivate happiness within us. We can opt out of the struggle, the stress and constant worrying of “Do I measure up to society’s impossible standards?” Guess what? Nobody does. We are good enough just as we are. Let’s forget about what anyone says about our bodies, and rather make healthy choices that nurture our peace of mind. And always remember, someone wishes they had what you have.
The author is a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ). firstname.lastname@example.org