Research has shown that the ideals of ‘beauty’ propagated by the media can have a very significant impact on people’s expectations and perceptions about what constitutes attractive look. Fads, fashions and trends tend to influence young women and their actions in particular.
The way that media influences eating disorders, is demonstrated by research: Discontent with one’s body is, to a large extent due to images of ‘perfection’ that the media chooses to portray. The idea that thin is beautiful is one that has been promoted by the media and in particular the fashion industry that uses rail thin models to showcase clothes.
The glamorous world of fashion is something that captivates a majority of young women, who then come around to thinking that the strangely androgynous looking women that grace catwalks and the covers of fashion magazines are something to aspire to.
Pre-pubescent and pubescent girls are particularly vulnerable because their minds and bodies are undergoing profound changes at this time and this is the time when self esteem and other important facets of personality develop.
However often women are misled into thinking the way that they do. Women look the way that they do on TV or in magazines because of so many different factors such as clever make up, stylists, lighting and perhaps most importantly due to digital enhancement. Every so often, we hear stories about some or other celebrity having been photoshopped in a way that makes them look thinner, taller, younger, smoother skinned and generally conforming to the proscribed ‘look’.
There also is what is known as the “New Year’s Effect” when unfortunately, your New Year’s resolutions can sometimes lead to an eating disorder. The problem is that while improving oneself through healthy eating habits and exercise is a positive, those who struggle with eating disorders often feel additional pressure to lose weight. Right after the holiday season, people flock to gyms and follow the newest fad diets in an attempt to lose weight, but many ignore their health in the process. The media, of course, preys upon this behavior, advertising the various weight loss methods that are available on television, through social media and on billboards.
Girls can be made to feel inadequate as they agonize constantly about the way that they look and then start to alter their behavior to try and obtain the kind of body that is actually unrealistic in a majority of cases.
There is also the problem that in the western world, obesity is a rising phenomenon – according to the American Obesity Association, 65% of adults are overweight. So there is a rising disconnect between reality and the media’s portrayal of beauty. Whereas the population is getting fatter the ideal of beauty is still waif thin – a combination of factors that can then worsen self image, reduce self esteem and trigger harmful behaviors such as severe calories restriction, purging, over exercising and use of harmful things diets, pills, laxatives, diuretics and so on.
The need of the hour is media self regulation and activism to help bring about a more normal portrayal of the beauty ideal; one that is not as likely to be triggering of eating disorders and other abnormal behavior.