Ask the FBGs: How Much Does the Media Affect Our Body Image?

Exercise should be about making you feel good, not punishing you or "getting skinny." Credit: Fort Meade

Exercise should be about making you feel good, not punishing you or “getting skinny.” Credit: Fort Meade

Today we’re featuring an Ask the FBGs post, where readers like you ask the FBGs for advice. Nothing is off limits, although we do prefer that it’s fitness or nutrition related, so send your undying health questions to [email protected]You just might see them posted on the site in the future! 

Hi there FBGirls!

I’m Helen. Remember me? Yep, that and that Helen. Well, since you have been my stable friend through years of insanity about what should I do to work my fit bottom out, here I am again…

I got really obsessed with Jillian Michaels. I have started with 30 Day Shred, worked my way to her 90-day program Body Revolution and have now finished Ripped in 30. I’m really happy with myself!

Now to the point of my email: I, like most wannabe-gorgeous 25-year-olds, also got obsessed watching models’ and actresses’ workouts. Of course they ALL say that they do yoga first and then some weight training, etc. Then suddenly, everywhere I went there were pictures of Miranda Kerr or Nina Dobrev or any other skinny girl you name doing some balancing with their legs up their necks! So I again began the insanity of doing both yoga and Jillian in order to be skinny and flexible! Let me tell you, yoga is supposed to relax you, but the way they show us all those bodies can’t be to relax…

So my question to you and to all girls of your site is: How much do we get affected by magazines and the TV? I know you FBGs are sane. But there are a lot of insane like me out there!

Sorry for the long email. Thanks for reading. :)

—Helen

 

Hi Helen,

We so remember and love you! What a fab question—especially for Love Yo’Self Week! And congrats on conquering all those Jillian DVDs— that’s no easy feat. You should be way proud of yourself! But on to the question of how much we get affected by the media…

An answer? In a nutshell? A TON. Here are a few facts from research studies that should pretty much blow your noggin:

  • Many of the models shown on television, advertisements and in other forms of popular media are approximately 20 percent below ideal body weight, thus meeting the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa.
  • Research has repeatedly shown that constant exposure to thin models fosters body image concerns and disordered eating in many females. Almost all forms of the media contain unrealistic images, and the negative effects of such idealistic portrayals have been demonstrated in numerous studies.
  • Women who reported greater exposure to television programming during adolescence were more likely to experience high levels of body image disturbance than females that did not report such levels of exposure.
  • Women who viewed music videos that contained thin models experienced increased levels of negative mood and body image disturbance.
  • Frequent magazine reading was consistently correlated with higher levels of body dissatisfaction and disturbed eating. The study also found that women who read fashion magazines displayed higher levels of thin-ideal internalization, which is a powerful risk factor for development of weight anxiety and disordered-eating patterns.
  • Women who view slides of women pictured in many mainstream magazines and advertisements show increased levels of depression, stress, guilt, shame and insecurity.

Freaked out yet? You should be ’cause this stuff is serious! The messages we get from media and advertisements constantly send the message that you are not enough and won’t be enough—or fully happy or loved—until you’re a certain size. But that’s just BS. For so many of the reasons above, we created this site to give women an alternative healthy message from real women (not models!) about what it really means to be fit and strong—not just a certain “ideal” of beauty.

So our recommendation? Break up with as much media that features these images and messages as you can, and continue to pay attention to how certain magazines and TV shows make you feel. Do they make you feel healthier and happier? Or do they bring you down? Start to focus on the stuff that makes you feel good about yourself as you are right now (not when you have bigger boobs or are wearing a size 4).

And, in the meantime, brush up on some of our body-image boosting tips here!

Helen, you sound fit, healthy and gorgeous. Embrace your true self and love her unconditionally! Perfection—and spending your life wishing you looked like a celebrity instead of focusing on how awesome you really are—is for the birds!

—The FBGs

Can you relate to Helen’s question? What would you add to our response? —Jenn



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