Body Image Messages
Many women and men of all ages struggle with body image. You don’t have to look far to see a girl or woman who dislikes her body.
Using words as strong as hate and disgusting girls and women battle a no-win war against their bodies. Girls receive messages from a very young age that it is important that they look a certain way- often referred to as the “beauty ideal”. These messages come from society, family members, friends, their gymnastic coaches or ballet teachers.
Body image messages may be subtle such as seeing the models portrayed in advertising, who are usually young, thin, and flawless. Have you ever seen an unattractive model? Or there are overt body image messages such as “Do I look fat in this?” or ” You can’t wear that outfit it doesn’t fit your body type.”
Girls and women consciously or unconsciously compare themselves to these media representations of an acceptable body image. It’s a common practice to airbrush and alter media photos to fit this idealized version of the female form. And inevitably many girls and women believe they fall short of this idealized version of the female form. Children are told directly they are fat, need to lose weight, receive pressure from those around them to meet this “beauty ideal” or positive reinforcement if they don’t eat too much.
What is the “beauty ideal”? It’s the messages from society and the media be it radio TV or movies that tells us how we “should” look to be considered beautiful/acceptable. Our version of what is the “beauty ideal” changes over time. It is often greatly influenced by the fashion and modelling industry. Mass media helps to spread theses images for all to see whether it’s in the latest fashion magazines, current top 10 movie or music videos). Girls and women are bombarded with the images wherever they turn, even if not consciously aware of it.
In the 1960s, the model Twiggy was the beauty ideal – thin, small or no breasts, no hips. By the 1990s the age of the supermodel was here – women should be athletic, with breasts, curves, and long legs. What’s a woman to do? If you looked like Twiggy, there is no way you would look like a supermodel. How do you supposed to keep up with this ever changing ideal?
To diet or not to diet? That should never be the question. Diet fads are just that – fads. They may work in the short-term and are too difficult to maintain over the long haul. Once you stop dieting the weight comes back.
So what’s the question? If you want to be your healthiest self look at what you eat and decide if there are changes to be made. Choose changes you can live with that are on-going. If you eat chips daily, could this be a food you limit to help you achieve your healthiest self? And your healthiest self could be any size. What foods make you feel good, give you energy, are you eating your fruits and veggies…?
Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, overeating, binging eating, restrictive eating are complex issues. Many which are likely influenced by the beauty ideal and the struggle to achieve an impossibility.Eating disorders involve many different factors. If you or someone you know struggles with an eating disorder please seek professional help. Heather sees adult clients who are struggling with body image issues in her private practice.
“There is nothing wrong with your body, but there is a lot wrong with the messages which try to convince you otherwise” – Eating Disorder Awareness week 2015)