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Body Image Versus The Media

Aug 7, 2008
No matter what shape, size or height you are there always seems to be a multitude of ways to "improve", "fix" or "change" your image.

The media bombards us with the latest diet trends, detox techniques and exercise regimes. It is very common to see pictures of a celebrity on the beach looking toned, tanned and happy with a caption next to it implying you too could be like that if you follow their simple food rules. It is continuously portrayed that if you have the "perfect" body you must have the "perfect" life.

The problem is, who decides what is considered "perfect"?

The same celebrity photographed on the beach one week, could be the same celebrity that was captured looking too thin or too fat previously, surrounded by cruel comments. It seems the acceptable way to look falls between extremely narrow boundaries.

The message that size 0 or size 00 is wrong has been rife for months, yet if someone's size increases from an 8 to a 10 they are called fat. Should we follow our favourite celebrities and make ourselves worryingly thin, or should we stay a bit bigger and face the risk of being criticised for being overweight, if just slightly?

The term "plus size" is one i detest due to it's highly negative connotations. It implies that people who are "plus size" should be ashamed that they are wearing larger sizes. This is completely ridiculous when considering "plus sized" applies to anyone who wears a UK size 14 and above. When considering the average size of ladies in England are a 16, people should not be made to feel bad.

It is, of course, important to eat well, stay healthy and exercise. However, many people also have different sized frames and so even if they had a skeletal frame would not be able to fit into a size 8. It can be very insulting when a celebrity is shown "at their fattest" accompanied by an insulting article, only to find out they have reached a clearly massive, size 12.

Many of the images used in the media portraying female beauty are simply unattainable for the majority. Many of the images have been altered and show backs which would be too weak to support the upper body and a body too narrow to contain more than half a liver and literally a couple of centimetres of intestine. In reality, if a lady had these dimensions she would suffer from chronic diarrhoea and malnutrition. Therefore, the images we often see, portray a false perception of reality. Beauty should not be judged, especially against material that does not represent real life.

It seems the media have gone mad when it comes to body image and so what are the possible repurcussions of such an image conscious society.

Eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia have been around for many years, however, with the ever increasing message that thin is in, is there any wonder as to why this problem is not going away. Fasting, skipping meals. excessive exercise, laxative abuse and self induced vomiting are all attempts to stay thin. Men and women are both affected by these issues, as are children as young as seven.

Pro-anorexia web sites have appeared on the internet. People spur each other on to eat less and help each other to become as thin as possible. These sights are clear evidence that people look up to thin celebrities, with Victoria Beckham being used for "thinspiration" on many occasions. Surely, it is therefore increasingly important to place more emphasis on positive body images rather than negative ones.

Amongst all the crazy media hype of what size we should all be there has been an increasing attempt to tell people they are beautiful no matter what size they are. Gok Wan as well as Trinny and Susannah, attempt to give the nation body confidence, telling them they do not need to always "correct" themselves, change or aspire to be like someone else. Instead they should feel good in their own skin. Dove's campaign for natural beauty is also a very positive step in the direction of helping people accept who they are. Things have even started to change in the modelling world with Milan banning size 0 models from the catwalk.

So, we can only hope that people will try not to aspire to be something that is more often than not unattainable. Many celebrities that are super toned have home gyms and time to work out. For the average Joe, juggling work and family life leaves very little time to focus solely on yourself. Furthermore, many of the images you see in magazines have been altered presenting a false image of beauty. Hopefully one day people will learn to love themselves regardless of their size.
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