Body image does not just affect how we feel about our bodies, it impacts how we move through life. Body image refers to the way we feel and think about our bodies, as well as how we think other people see us. Many factors contribute to our body image, including social pressure, family culture, friends, and media.
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An imbalanced focus on females in the media
According to a study by the Kaiser Foundation1, women’s appearances are commented on almost 60% of the time in movies, and more than 25% of the time in television and commercials. This is more than double the rate that men’s appearances are mentioned. Half of the products in teen girl magazines appeal to beauty to advertise their products, and more than 1/3 of the articles have some focus on appearance. This study also noted the disparity between targeting of females vs. males in commercials. Commercials aimed at females used beauty as a marketing strategy more than half of the time, while this was true for less than ten percent of advertisements targets at males.
What does this mean for women?
The National Organization for Women shares some eye-opening statistics about the way negative body image impacts us. According to their website2, before the age of 17, more than half of girls in America report not being happy with their bodies. By the time they hit 17, this number is at almost 80%. Almost half of 9-11 year-olds have been on diets. About half of elementary school girls report being concerned about their weight.
In addition to fueling low self-esteem, body image issues contribute to disordered eating behaviors. While some individuals may develop diagnosable eating disorders, many individuals suffer from disordered eating. Disordered eating may be disguised as a diet; it includes behaviors like being restrictive with food intake, vomiting, binging on food, diet pills, excessive fasting, or unbalanced eating.3
What can you do?
Once you recognize that you are experiencing poor body-image and/or dangerous behaviors around food, you can take action to begin healing the injuries to your relationship with yourself. Working with a therapist can be a valuable step on the path toward self-compassion and acceptance.
Sarah Tronco, LCSW, provides online counseling in New Jersey and works to develop a strong therapeutic relationship with her clients, which helps to create a secure place where individuals can achieve meaningful change.
Sarah Tronco, LCSW, now also provides online counseling in Pennsylvania, contact her to learn more.
- Photo by Sean Thomas on Unsplash