Body image is a significant issue for teens today. So powerful an issue, “Studies show that teen girls are more afraid of gaining weight than they are of cancer, nuclear war, or losing a parent. ” (“Self”). As we grow up, we learn to absorb everything around us, like a sponge. We see the skinny Barbie doll and muscular action figures, and naturally begin to believe this is what a normal body should be. Today, everywhere you walk you will see footprints of the media shouting out the newest fat- blasting secrets and daily weight loss tips.
Young adults can be profoundly influenced by these ads and subliminal messages. Many young adults are suffering from extreme self- consciousness, and spend their time crying in front of the mirror because they are embarrassed by their appearance. As the media continues to shatter the way adolescents view themselves, more body shaming occurs. One way to fight against the media’s condescending portrayal of body image is to educate teenagers about false advertisements and promote positive campaigns through the media.
Teenagers do not simply lose confidence in their bodies, but are essentially brainwashed through false advertisements. Intellectual and social theorist Simone de Beauvoir once said, “to lose onfidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself. ” One of the damaging messages being sent to young adults is that their bodies aren’t beautiful enough. Jean Kilbourne, best known for her documentary of “Women in the Media”, states that, “The average American encounters 3,000 advertisements every day, and spends a total of two years watching TV commercials in their lifetime”(“Advertising’s”).
These ads hunt down our self confidence like wolves, shining the light on six foot tall supermodels weighing only 120 pounds. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average weight for an American woman is 166. 2 pounds, a number that many women see as overweight (“Body”). The drastic difference between the reality of teenage bodies and media portrayals only adds to the escalating insecurity among American teens. In a recent article debating how thin models should be, it was reported that the current fashions glorify eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, which results in weight obsession. “Infobase”). The patterns of these diets can be life threatening, and young adults who have these disorders attempt to control their weight through purging,fasting, or both. In an article that illustrates the inancial gains of the diet industry, it is stated that “Men and women who are insecure about their bodies are more likely to buy beauty and bodybuilding products, new clothes, and diet aids, spending anywhere between $40 and $100 billion dollars (Ballaro, Wagner). While some women have been greatly influenced by the media, men are also affected.
Beverly Ballaro, professor at Yale University, says “Since the debut of the Calvin Klein underwear line in 1980, men in the media have been made into unrealistic role models too” (Ballaro, Wagner). Not only do we allow media images to tear us down, but many eenagers also shame one another on a daily basis. In an Huffington Post article, it is said that some boys will not date girls who aren’t slim, and there are also girls who will not date boys who aren’t made of one hundred percent muscle (“Song”). This can cause teens to be very critical of each other and may promote body shaming.
As Song points out, “These are young adults who are self harming or even committing suicide because the people surrounding them think self worth is measured by the number that appears on the weighing scale” (“Song”). As a response to the negative impact that the media has on the body mage of teenagers, an increase of body positivity through advertisements is needed to take the first steps towards a healthier body image. As the fashion industry grew throughout the years, they began featuring larger models in advertisements without having to label them as “plus sized. For once, teenagers are thrilled to see models who are real and embrace their flaws. Not only this, but the maker of Barbie has recently announced that the skinny blonde doll we obsessed over will now be coming out with three new body types and a variety of skin tones. “We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents o reflect a broader view of beauty,” said Evelyn Mazzocco, Senior Vice President and Global General Manager of Barbie, in a company statement (Bowerman and Malcolm).
The creators have come to realize how unrealistic body portrayal can the confidence of young people and have acted to help children in the future feel more confident. Similarly, in 2004, Dove launched a campaign called “Real Beauty,” which promoted awareness of how unrealistic perceptions of beauty are made. After Dove shined a light on the issue, it helped illustrate how critical people can be about their bodies. As shown in Dove’s research, only 4% of women globally consider hemselves beautiful and 54% admit that when it comes down to their appearance, they are their own worst beauty critic (“Our”).
By raising awareness of what true beauty is, it will disrupt the constant pressure of a “perfect body” for teenagers. It is often argued that a better solution to a positive body image is encouraging more exercise and healthier eating habits. One cannot deny that these activities help to prevent excess weight gain, but many are unaware of the behaviors that can result from it. Sometimes, when teenagers are told to “eat healthier,” this is often misinterpreted as “starve yourself. With this being said, many teenagers do not provide their bodies with the nutrients needed to grow properly due to the pressure of losing weight.
In addition, Orthorexia is a common co-occurring eating disorder. Recently found in a website which specialized in eating disorders, it is defined as a desire to eat only ‘healthy’ foods, or to avoid entire food groups (“Excessive”). Dieting has been an American obsession in the past, but it is proven that lifestyle changes that focus on well being rather than restrictive eating are more successful. Not only this, but the constant pressure to o for a run or go work out is banging at the door. For people struggling to look like the 6’1 120 pound models in the People magazines, it can lead to excessive exercising.
For this reason, it is said that, “Psychologically, excessive exercise, like self-induced purging, has been shown to be a response to uncomfortable internal states like high levels of depression or anxiety (“Identifying”). This is a similar state of anorexia that was described earlier. A recent article stressed the importance of basic health by asserting that, “Compulsive exercise often leads to malnourishment as a result of the physical activity simulating urging, where the body is being deprived of nourishment (“Over”).
If this broken cycle of overexercising and undereating continues, we will face much more than eating disorders. Teenagers still will not learn to accept themselves for who they are, and may feel as if they need to constantly work towards a better body. By providing positive body image campaigns through the media, we can send a nationwide message that you do not have to run five miles a day and only eat green beans to be considered beautiful. Young people will see and learn that the real meaning of self-love and acceptance exists in all shapes and sizes.
As the media continues to display negative portrayals of body image and body shame, all people need to take a stand and accept others for who they are. Through body positivity advertisements, teenagers will begin to realize how wrong they have been during the time they spent hating their bodies. As children grow, they should learn that they are beautiful no matter what the numbers on the scale say, or what a magazine ad portrays. Being the best authentic version of yourself is being true to yourself. Hopefully, in time, there will no longer be a “plus size” because every person has the same size heart, which is all that matters.