What Effects Does the Media Have on Body Image?

by Angel

The media has a huge effect on body image for women. A look at what this does to women.

The effect of media today on body image for men and women alike is huge. The models on the runway are getting smaller. The women in commercials and magazine ads are much thinner than they used to be. The diet industry is benefiting greatly from trying to help everyone lose at least 20-30 more pounds. What does this do to us? It affects more women than men. There are 10 times more weight loss ads in women's magazines than in mens. Women are looking in the mirror everyday and are not happy with what they see.

Body Image and the Media

Body image is how we see ourselves physically. A positive body image usually results in a positive attitude and good self esteem. A poor body image usually results in a negative attitude of ourselves which people can see as they deal with us day to day. Self esteem is usually low with someone who has a negative body image. It is difficult to have a positive body image in today's world of size 2 fashion models and super skinny women all over the TV and in magazines.

We see images of females on everything from toothpaste commercials to car commercials. Have you seen CNN or Fox News lately. The reporters and correspondents on there seem to have changed over the years. There are so many beautiful women on new shows now that I wonder if I am watching the news or the Miss America pageant. They are all intelligent and good at what they do. However, they are also all very slender, have long hair, and look like pageant winners. I sometimes feel like I can't turn on the TV without seeing an image that most women will never be able to match. It affects me and millions of other women out there.

I am too fat. I am too skinny. My hair is too curly, too straight, too short, too long. It seems that there are so many women these days that are not happy with their body image. Media does not help in any way. The media is always showing us women that are super skinny in outfits that most of us will never be able to wear. Yet we keep trying to get there. We are always looking for that next best anti-aging product or best diet plan that will help us look like the woman advertising it. The diet industry is worth over 40 million dollars. There are quite a few of us trying to lose that last 20 or 30 pounds.

Photo credit:  Wikipedia Commons - Public Domain

Interesting Statistics

  • ½ of all pre-adolescents think they are overweight.
  • 35% of 6-12 year old girls have admitted to taking part in some type of diet plan according to Teen Magazine.
  • 50-70% of all normal weight girls think they are overweight.
  • 1 of every 4 college women have participated in some unhealthy diet plan to lost weight. This includes laxatives, making themselves sick, too much exercise, and skipping meals.
  • The average fashion model is 5'10” and weighs 117lbs. The average woman is 5'4” and weighs 160lbs.

Plus Size Model

Plus Size Model
Plus Size Model
Wikipedia Commons,CCA, Michael Oh

Fashion Models vs Average Women

Plus Size Magazine did a piece on the Fashion Model and the changes that have occurred over the years. Twenty years ago a Fashion Model weighed 8% less than an average woman. Today she weighs 23% less than an average woman. Ten years ago a Plus size model was a size 12-18. Today Plus size models start at size 6. Christy Brinkley and Beverly Johnson would be considered Plus Size Models today. The average woman is size 14 or larger. Most standard clothing stores are size 14 and smaller.

There are more and more Plus Size Fashion Models coming on the scene lately. Some well known names are Natalie Laughlin, Maggie Brown, Crystal Renn, Kate Dillon, Mia Tyler, Toccara Jones, and Whitney Thompson. I will note that most of these Plus Size models are size 10 or 12. Ask Men even posted their Top 10 Plus Size Fashion Models online recently. Spain banned all ultra skinny models from the runway in 2006. Vogue has started featuring Plus Size models in their magazine. This is a move in the right direction of Plus Size or the average woman getting recognized.     

Crystal Renn on Being a Plus Size Model

Crystal Renn's Story

Crystal Renn - A Plus Size Model
Crystal Renn - A Plus Size Model

The Barbie Syndrome

The effect of media on women and young girls today causes eating disorders and even depression. Girls are taught from a very early age that your body should be skinny. Look at Barbie. Ninety nine percent of girls age 3-10 have a Barbie. There was a study done where a computer image of a real woman was developed to Barbie's measurements. That woman would not even be able to walk because her back would not be able to support her body. She would only have room for ½ liver and a couple of centimeters of bowel in her stomach. All little girls want to be a princess and most princess figures are images that are not attainable for most women. It is important to educate your young girls on having a positive body image and to be happy with what they have. It doesn't hurt to work to improve yourself but it does hurt to do unhealthy things to get to an ideal that they have in their head as being perfect.

Chinese women used to try to change the size of their feet to match the perfect idea of beauty at that time. They would bind their feet to keep them from growing.

Scarlet O'Hara in Gone With the Wind was obsessed with her waist size. She would try to get that corset tighter and tighter. Back in the day, tight corsets caused all kinds of health issues for women that wore them. They caused constipation, shortness of breath, and even uterine prolapse.

My Personal Body Image Battle and Semi-Recovery

I recently had a realization about my size and my weight. I changed my way of thinking about so many things when it came to my body image. I went through a stage of negative feelings about my weight and how I looked. I just felt old and floppy. I am almost 40 years old and definitely not the young slender thing I was. I have had four children. The thing that I realized was that looking like that will never happen for me. It is unattainable. I will never be that skinny and be able to wear clothes like that. That is not to say that I will never be healthier or that I will never lose weight. It just means that I will never be a size 2. There are going to be certain styles of clothes that I will never be able to wear.

I say semi-recovery because I feel like I am in a good place with accepting my weight and body shape. However, I feel like I will always want to look good or better than I have or did. I love makeup and anti-aging products. I will always do my best to look my best. But I feel good about how I look. I accept the fact that I am tall and a lot larger than some women. A size 12 or 14 to be exact. I am a big girl. That is me.

I feel proud of me and it shows in how I dress and how I act. My husband has even noticed a difference since I came to my realization. This shows that a positive body image can affect your attitude and how others see you. My friends have even commented a few times on how there was something different about me. I feel good about me and feel lucky have what I have to work with.   

Work on Your Positive Body Image

No one is perfect and we need to realize that we are never going to be perfect. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look better or look good. Just don't beat yourself up over it. Feel good about who you are and what you look like. Work on the things that you have control over if you need to make changes. Accept the things that you don't have control over.. like your height for example. It will help your children to have a positive body image if you have one. Give yourself compliments.

Look in the mirror and feel good about your unique look. It doesn't hurt to change things.. I am all for experimenting with new looks, makeup, clothes etc. Those are all things you can change and are easy to add or take away. Stop making negative comments about yourself. I had to do this. I always would say, “I am so fat...”. I stopped that and it helped me to start to create a positive view of myself. Instead I would say, “I look good in these jeans.” If you feel you are overweight, check with you doctor and get the real 411 on your body weight. Don't use someone in the media to compare yourself to or even what you may have in your head as ideal. It has most likely been influenced by the media in some way.

Be positive, Be Beautiful, Be You!   

Related Website

1 Big Girl's Beauty and Fashion Spot
A place for the average woman to go and find beauty and fashion tips.

Updated: 02/19/2012, Angel
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Angel on 02/20/2012

Jimmie - you are so right. For the longest time I felt so insecure about my weight. I then started researching it and found out that I am an average size woman. I am normal. We all need to feel good about ourselves and when we do it shows in so many ways. Thanks for stopping in and commenting.

Jimmie on 02/20/2012

When browsing a catalog, we often focus in on the clothes. But if you take a moment to really LOOK at the models' legs and arms, you will see that they are far from round. In fact, they look concave! NO one -- no one who is healthy -- looks like that. Gross. I don't want to look like I came out of a concentration camp. Yuck. I am blessed with plenty. Why not enjoy and be healthy?

Angel on 02/19/2012

Katie - I think it is sad that young girls are trying to look like these skinny runway models. It is not healthy at all. Even my 9 year old says she is too fat. Trust me.. she is skinny already and does not need to lose any weight. She wants to lose it. Unbelievable. I keep on her to eat and that she will look better with some meat on her bones. Like me!!

katiem2 on 02/19/2012

I would love to see natural sized normal models more and more, our youth just can't compare to the poor runway models who starve themselves and hopefully they don't. I know my daughters see the unrealistic images on tv and magazines and note the insanity of it all. I set a healthy example for them, they eat healthy and weigh a healthy weight. Good article.

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