While standing in the supermarket line waiting to check out, I see rows of magazines promising rapid weight loss – and all of them are aimed at women.
To quote social activist Marge Piercy in an article she wrote addressing America’s obsession with weight loss…”sometimes I think we have all gone insane.’
We live in a society that values body perfection, and the idea that thinness is achievable by anyone who has ‘right’ diet is indicated by the $65 billion a year diet industry. Fifteen years ago this figure was $45 billion so the insanity is only getting worse.
Group Think: The Media’s Influence On Body Image
Unfortunately, instead of becoming a critical viewer of these messages on the magazine covers, in advertisements, on television shows and now on social media, we are instead acquiescing to the ‘group think’ around what is deemed ‘ideal’.
Now, your nerd-ar is going to go off after you read this, but the media influence on body image reminds me of the Borg species in the show Star Trek, which is described as:
“A pseudo-race, dwelling in the Star Trek universe, the Borg force other species into their collective and connects them to “the hive mind”; and the Borg’s ultimate goal is “achieving perfection“.
Read This Related Article: Body Image and Beauty Redefined
The media both perpetuates and capitalizes on this mania around weight loss because quite simply it’s big business. And as long we continue to ‘buy in’, it’s not going to go away anytime soon.
Dissatisfied with your appearance? Go ahead, blame the media!
In fact, studies show that those who are exposed to American television have a greater dissatisfaction with physical appearance (Schooler et al., 2004).
Research also shows that the more exposure women have to the media, the more likely they were to have eating disorder symptoms (Posavac et al. 2001).
“Media Interventions” Can Help You Improve Your Body Image
The good news is in all this is that we CAN counteract the media impact. A study revealed that when media interventions were applied, body image improved. In this study when participants were educated about ‘artificial beauty’ images (i.e. photo shopping used to perfect images) used in ads, the tendency to compare oneself to those images decreased.
In this same study, explaining the genetic factors that limit the level to which the body can be altered also served to reduce the negative impact of the media on body image. These media interventions offer a promising light at the end of a very long tunnel.
Don’t Buy Into The Media’s Weight Loss Mania
Letting go of diets and unattainable beauty can be helped by not buying into sensationalized news (online or in print) about superstars and models, as well as the fad diets, pills, potions and lotions that promise weight loss and ageless beauty.
The messages received from the collective media that our bodies and looks are not good enough as they are and that something needs to be perfected by way of being nipped, tucked, reduced, sucked out, starved, or even shamed into submission are quite frankly toxic to our health and overall well-being.
Disconnecting Is Doable!
I realize that choosing to ignore what feels like an external primal scream in our ears isn’t easy, but with practice it’s doable, and necessary for the process of disconnecting to the overt messages that we aren’t enough as is, and for connecting to reason around what truly matters which is not the packaging – as much as the content within.