Negative Body Image
A study showed that women experience an average of 13 negative thoughts about their body each day, while 97% of women admit to having at least one “I hate my body” moment each day (raderprograms). Teens today are faced with many pressures: how they dress, who their friends are, who they are going to date, and most importantly, what they look like. In today’s society, body image is more than just the mental picture a person has of what their body looks like. For many, body image is also a reflection of how they feel about themselves and their lives.
People with a negative body image believe that if they do not look right, other things, such as their personality, intelligence, social skills, or capabilities, also are not right. They think that if they fix their bodies, all their other problems will disappear. This can result in unhealthy weight management practices and an unhealthy relationship with food. People excessively diet and exercise out of fear of gaining weight. The media today portrays stick thin women with beautiful faces and size 0 bodies, but the truth is, the majority of runway models meet the Body Mass Index (BMI) criteria to be considered anorexic (raderprograms).
When influenced by role models like these, teenagers start to feel inferior if they do not look the same. In turn, when put under the pressure of women in the media, teenagers will most likely develop a negative body image, eating or mood disorder, or other unhealthy addictions if they feel their bodies do not “measure up” to those of women portrayed. Negative body image is a serious issue that can be greatly influenced by today’s media. Body image refers to a person’s feelings about how attractive their body is.
Celebrities like Kate Moss are 30+% under their ideal body weight, along with this, adolescent girls are more afraid of gaining weight than getting cancer, losing their parents, or nuclear war (raderprograms). Research has shown that media exposure to unattainable physical perfection is detrimental to people, especially women, and that the detrimental effects are currently more the rule than the exception (An Intervention for the Negative Influence on Body Esteem 405-418). Negative body image affects all aspects (physical, mental, social, and spiritual) of the body negatively and cause problems like depression, anxiety and social anxiety.
Roughly half of the women in the U. S. wear size 14 or larger though most standard clothing retailers only cater to size 14 and smaller (raderprograms). Having a negative body image can be detrimental to a person’s self-esteem; they will always scrutinize themselves in mirrors and be envious to other’s bodies, whether it is celebrities, friends or even complete strangers. Many people with a negative body image will start to diet to control their weight and get it to where they want it to be. At any given time, one in every three women and one in any four men are on a diet (raderprograms).
People diet to be thinner and more attractive, to look like people they see in the media. A People magazine survey showed that 80% of female takers felt that women in movies and television programs made them feel insecure about their bodies (raderprograms). The media is very negative towards people who are not as small as models and (most) actresses. The average U. S. model weighs 117 lbs and is 5’11”, while the average U. S. woman weighs 140 lbs and is 5’4” (raderprograms). The media also is a very strong advocate of dieting and especially diet pills.
While dieting can be done healthily, some teenagers abuse dieting; 73% of teenage girls who abuse diet pills and 79% of teenage girls who self-purge (the act of forcibly making themselves vomit or abusing laxatives to not absorb calories) frequently read women’s fitness and health magazines (raderprograms). People who diet have an increased amount of depression due to body image and not getting the results they expect. Thirty-five percent of “occasional dieters” progress into pathological dieting (disordered eating) and as many as 25% advance to full blown eating disorders (raderprograms).
Medical researchers believe that 80 percent of all eating disorders started with a diet (The Causes of Negative Body Image). Media causes teens to feel insecure and have low self-esteem. It is one of the leading causes of Eating Disorders in the United States. Eating Disorders affect 10+ million females and 1+ million males (raderprograms). Many teens suffer from eating disorders and it majorly affects a person’s life. “When you have an eating disorder at a young age, you can’t shake it easily.
I’ve suffered with anorexia and bulimia since I was 12 years old, along with severe depression and anxiety disorders. It was largely influenced by the media and the pressure to be thin. You’re always pre-occupied with the voices telling you not to eat this, or not to eat that because you want to be thin, right? It’s always there and it’s hard. You know what you’re doing is wrong, but man does it feel so right. ” (Billstein). For females between the ages 15-24 who suffer from anorexia, the mortality rate associated with the illness is twelve times higher than he death rate of ALL other causes of death (raderprograms). When a person develops an eating disorder they may also become addicted to exercise along with restricting calories. Exercise addiction is maladaptive, causing more harm than benefits. People become addicted to exercise in order to be thinner. This is usually paired with an eating disorder or negative body image. A person will exercise and burn off every calorie that they have consumed during the day and run their calorie count into the negatives so they do not absorb any calories at all. “I feel in control of my body when I exercise.
I can see exactly how many calories I have burnt out of my body; being able to burn the small amount of calories that I have managed to eat just feels good. ” (Billstein). About 10% of gym users have exercise addiction. Another disorder that ties in with eating disorders is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD is “imagined ugliness”, where a person picks apart everything about themselves until their self-esteem is very low, making them susceptible to mood disorders. It is the gateway drug to eating disorders and negative body image, depression, anxiety and other altered mood disorders. 0% of people diagnosed with eating disorders also suffer from BDD. “When I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t see what other people see. I see a girl with a large forehead, big thighs, a fat stomach and beady little eyes. I hate my body so much that what I see is totally transformed and disgusting. I don’t want to look like this, that’s why I resorted to other things that I could control: eating and how much. ” (Billstein). When a person has depression, anxiety, eating disorders or other altered mood disorders they may become addicted to unhealthy activities.
An unhealthy addiction that many people, teenagers primarily, form is self-harm. It has many names: self-injury, self-injurious behavior, self-abuse, self-cutting, and repetitive self-harm syndrome. It is most often called self-mutilation. Regardless of what name a person uses, it is the intentional destruction or alteration of one’s own body tissue without conscious suicidal intent (How Negative Body Image Affects the Body and Mind). Self-harm consists of any bodily injury whether it be cutting, burning, scratching, picking or preventing the healing of wounds.
Individuals self-harm to release pain. Some people say they self-mutilate because they are emotionally numb and it helps them feel something. When cutting, the person feels in control of the pain, while on the inside, they cannot control mental pain from disorders or depression. Those who cut feel a relief afterwards but it gets more intense of an addiction the longer it goes. They experience strong cravings to harm themselves and withdrawals when in recovery. “I cut because I can control it. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing, but I’m in recovery and I have relapsed.
It takes control of your mind; you’re in a sad state when you take that blade to your skin. You have the scars forever to remember the times you’ve been through, but they show strength not weakness. They’re battle scars and they show that you’ve conquered, not been defeated, you’re still alive and here, and that’s beautiful. ” (Billstein). 90% of self-injury individuals begin harming themselves during their teen years or younger. (Cutting: Self Injury Facts & Statistics). Only 4% of women in the world truly think they are beautiful (raderprograms). There are some positive body image influences in the media including Dove skincare.
They have the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign showing moderate to plus size models in a positive atmosphere. There is a drastic difference between Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign (Figure 1) and Victoria’s Secret’s new ‘Love My Body’ campaign (Figure 2). Some forms of media are only positive to a certain weight group (i. e: ‘Love My Body’ campaign). Women should not be ashamed of their bodies, they should embrace them and show off their best features. “You’re going to be in this body for the rest of your life, so you might as well learn to like it” (Billstein). Figure 1 (Rana). Figure 2 (McDonell-Parry).
Overall, negative body image is a very dangerous issue to have because it can lead to destructive behaviors like eating disorders, low self-esteem, mood disorders, exercise addiction and other unsafe body disorders. When teenagers are put under the pressure of women in the media, they are at a higher risk of developing a negative body image, eating or mood disorders and other unsafe addictions if their bodies are not as slim.