Body image vs. the media

Published in Lifestyle Health, Weight Management, For the Health of It Author: Jennifer Harris, RDN LD CEDRD

I frequently get questions about why people who are thin think of themselves as fat.

Changing your body doesn’t change your body image. Why? Because body image is your own personal representation of your appearance and it’s closely linked to your self-esteem and your self-concept. Sometimes body image isn’t really about your body at all, yet you continue to focus on changing your body to feel better about yourself.

Why do we feel so badly about our bodies?

It may in part be due to the media. Although the media doesn’t cause eating disorders, it contributes to body dissatisfaction and poor body image. Studies as far back as 1991 show that exposure to magazine pictures increased body dissatisfaction.

Now we have the internet, social media and Photoshop to alter the appearance of real people. In fact, the body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by just 5 percent of the population.

Out of desperation, we are tempted to diet and we may diet in hazardous or extreme ways. It may alter our relationship with food, exercise and weight in a harmful way. And some may develop an eating disorder — a serious illness.

It’s important in today’s world to employ protective factors for your body image.

Remind yourself:

  • to be critical of media images as they most likely are not real;
  • changing your body doesn’t change your body image;
  • taking care of your body doesn’t mean changing your body.