Body Image, Eating Disorders and Advertising

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Body Image, Eating Disorders and Advertising

Body Image, Eating Disorders and Advertising
We have all heard, “you are what you eat”; however, and maybe more importantly, you want to be what you watch or read. How does today’s advertising impact on your body image? The shaping of our concept of the ideal body image begins at a young age and continues though adulthood. It begins with our toys; that first Barbie you received on your sixth birthday; the one with the long blond flowing hair and the perfect curves that could wear any outfit. Thinking back to that day, I reflect on the times I stared in the mirror, wishing I looked liked my Barbie and knew if I lost weight I would attract my perfect Ken. As I matured and put away my Barbie the fashion models of the day became my new idol and goal. The latest fashion magazine defined what clothes I should wear. As I grew into an adult, I became comfortable with the body my parents gave me and realized that too often magazines entice prospective readers with strikingly beautiful models and tag lines that lead us to believe inside the magazine lay the secrets to beauty, happiness and fitness. For instance the woman staring back at me on the latest Runner’s World cover is not necessary a stereotypical female runner. In fact, she portrays an image the average American will always fall short of. The fit blue eyed blond woman appears to be in her twenties. With carefully crafted make-up, professional lighting, and a talented photographer her face conveys exquisite beauty and strength. Her tied back hair; open stance and pleasant smile give her the girl next door look. Her well developed shoulders, fit abs and toned muscular legs attest to her fitness. For an instant I long to look like her. I think to myself if I can lose 5 pounds in four weeks like the magazine tag line reads it would be a great accomplishment; but even so, I could never look like the woman on the cover. Bombarded by media depictions of thinness as the ideal, many young girls and women develop a problem of body image and eating disorders. The media’s focus on “ultra-thin” leads individuals to develop unrealistic beliefs that being thin will provide them abundance and happiness in life. There is a concerted effort on the part of marketers to use visuals to support the argument that thinner will make a person more attractive to the opposite sex. In the case with Runners World they strategically placed an attractive, fit male and female on the cover in running attire. The words and images work together to make the point that thinness and fitness is the same. Yet the leading female runners look nothing like the woman on the front page. I admit, at least for me, the advertisement is effective. The allure of the tag line of “WEIGHT-LOSS SPECIAL” bolded in white catches the eye of the reader as they scan the magazine rack while the bolded title “LOSE 5 POUNDS in 4 Weeks” grabs the reader with an achievable goal. The photos of the fit and attractive runners that accompany the tag line make us all believe we can be just like them. Clearly this is not the case. The average female body will never see the inside of a fashion magazine or the script of a television sitcom. New York agencies and Hollywood’s ideal model or actress is a beautiful woman that looks gaunt. Today’s models and celebrities can be called “rich and famous, with their shockingly thin frames, jutting hip bones, hollows in the buttocks, clearly visible ribs, gaunt, high cheekbones, and generous surgically enhanced breasts” (Ko, 2001). For models and celebrities the main goal is to obtain status as a sex symbol. And if it means starving oneself or having plastic surgery done to enhance their bodies in order to obtain it they do it. A good example of this is; Actress Courtney Thorne-Smith who played opposite Calista Flockhart in the TV sitcom Ally McBeal. In order to appear as thin as her costar Courtney restricted...
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