Body image is how people perceive their physical appearance. Those who have a poor body image perceive their body as being unattractive or even repulsive to others, while those with a good body image will see themselves as attractive to others, or will at least accept their body in its current form.
Body image does not necessarily reflect reality. A person with a negative body image may, in fact, be very attractive, while a person with a positive body image may be relatively unattractive.
Concerns with body image have been linked with anorexia and other eating disorders, and with lowered self esteem.
Studies show that body image is an issue for both women and men, although body image issues are more common among women. For example, Monteath and McCabe found that 44% of women express negative feelings about their body image.
While women tend to perceive an unrealistic thinness as the ideal body image, men tend to perceive an unrealistic muscle mass and higher weight as the ideal body image. Studies also show that the body image that women perceive as being attractive is not the body image that men perceive as being attractive.
Measuring Body Image
How can body image be measured?
Body image is typically measured by asking individuals to rate their current and ideal body shape, using a series of photos. The difference between their current and ideal body image measures the level of dissatisfaction.
Media and Body Image
A major reason many people have a negative body image is because of the impact that media have had on our perception of body image.
Ultra-thin models and actresses appear in ads on television and in movies. Even though media photos of many actresses and actors are airbrushed so they appear younger and thinner, many people see them as having achieved an ideal weight.
One study found that the average height and weight for a model is 5’10″ and 110 lbs., while the average height and weight for a woman is 5’4″ and 145 lbs. Considering that the average person sees approximately 3,000 ads and commercials daily, it’s no wonder that media has created a distorted ideal body image.
Media and body image typically have an impact beginning at a very young age. As exposure to the body image presented by media has increased, more and more very young people have developed eating disorders.
What To Do About Media and Body Image
You can help minimize the impact of media and have your children develop a healthy body image by:
- Talking to them about the health risks of being thin.
- Explaining how media images are altered and that the body image shown is not real.
- Reading up on eating disorders and understanding the symptoms.
- Limiting your children’s exposure to the body image portrayed by the media.
- Discussing what a healthy, positive body image is.
While media and body image issues are pervasive, with your help, your children should learn to cope with them. If you think you have a body image problem that has led to an eating disorder, contact Walden Behavioral Care today at 781-647-6727 or online.
Our eating disorder treatment program includes inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient care, providing discrete, highly specialized treatment for patients 12 and older with anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder and other eating disorders.