Navigating the Media and its Effect on Body Image

Make the most out of the media and leave the worst behind, like its effect on body image

For decades, the media has been obsessed with body image. It’s why there’s news about eating disorders, perfectionism, and striving to “look better.”

More often than not, T.V. shows, magazines, movies and online articles tell us we need to be thinner and smoother. So many photos, advertisements and billboards are airbrushed and unrealistic. We usually don’t know what we’re really looking at. For years now, thin has been “in” and has become the measuring tool by which we judge beauty. Sadly, we also use this tool to measure self-worth, self-esteem and confidence.

The Media and Weight-loss

Bouncing off of messages in the media, the weight-loss industry is not surprisingly booming. Sales are at an all time high, with just about every T.V. channel advertising some kind of weight-loss product. There are even product aisles in department stores dedicated entirely to weight-loss, like fitness tapes, body wraps and commercial programs (think nutrition plans).

If we’re not careful, advertisements can inflict upon us shame, blame and guilt for our bodies. We try to fit into the norm of what people “should” look like. If we don’t fit in, that’s bad, right?

The Media’s Impact on Body Image

This messaging has an enormous impact. It is especially true for women and girls who are more often targeted by the media in beauty ads. The result is often a big blow to one’s body image and mental well-being. Disordered eating is far too common, as is depression, anxiety and negative self-perceptions.

While many ads and campaigns have popped up along the way to celebrate different bodies, they don’t erase damage that has been for years. Body shaming and fat shaming continue to grow. So does bullying. It’s more important than ever that we practice balanced habits to reduce the impact the media has on us. Caring about our health is important, but being exposed to stigmatizing messages is dangerous. Rather than focusing on weight-loss, the media needs to educate more people on building a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Body Image and Navigating the Media

  • Stop dieting for quick and easy weight-loss. Weight is lost over time through behavioral changes, stress management and hard work.
  • Talk to a trusted loved one or health professional if you are struggling with mental health issues related to weight or body image.
  • Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for progress and a better quality of life.
  • Be skeptical of images you see in magazines, online, and in shows/movies.
  • Work with a healthcare provider if weight-loss is one of your health goals.
  • Exercise for stress relief, energy and other benefits. Don’t do it for weight-loss.
  • Do your research on foods, nutrition, and the impact foods have on your body.

It’s about Gaining Health

The media casts a large shadow on the topic of weight. Your weight is important to your health, but you’re not defined by it. If you have a weight-loss goal, work hard to be healthier — not to look better. Invite others in on your journey and take your time. Focus on health and the quality of life. Work with a healthcare provider. Be skeptical of ads and marketing. Learn to love and embrace your journey, through every trial and triumph!

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