Images of “beauty” can be processed and refined, by programs such as photoshop, until they are neither attainable nor healthy, according to Amy Harper, anthropology professor at Central Oregon Community College.
Harper explained that airbrushing and photoshop often create an “unattainable” image.
“All groups have some idea of beauty, but it becomes damaging when an ideal can’t realistically be attained,” Harper said.
The ideals generated through popular media regarding body shape and size don’t only pertain to women either, Harper pointed out. An issue that often causes difficulties for both gender is the way many films exaggerate sexual dimorphism, which is where one gender looks distinctively different from the other in size or display, according to Harper.
“Humans are not naturally sexually dimorphic,” Harper explained.
However, as Harper explained, media portrays “dramatic” differences in height, wrist size and waist size between genders.
“It sets up absurd expectations for both sexes,” Harper said.
Another problem with unrealistic body image is the health problems it can cause, according to Owen Murphy, health science professor at COCC.
“We don’t have a healthy acceptance of different body types,” Murphy said, pointing-out that there is not specific body type that is “healthy” or “normal.”
Murphy suggests people listen to their bodies and try to understand what is healthy for them.
Murphy explained that two prevalent conditions in American society, anorexia and obesity, are “two sides of the same coin.”
“They’re disconnected relationships with our food and bodies,” said Murphy.
Both conditions, have some correlation to media portrayal of body and food, according to Murphy.
Juli Wright | The Broadside
Body satisfaction and the drive for thinness
- 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
- In elementary school fewer than 25% of girls diet regularly. Yet those who do know what dieting involves and can talk about calorie restriction and food choices for weight loss fairly effectively .
- 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.
- 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.
- Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.
- 35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives. Overweight girls are more likely than normal weight girls to engage in such extreme dieting.
- Even among clearly non-overweight girls, over 1/3 report dieting.
- Girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who don’t diet.
- The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 165 pounds. The average Miss America winner is 5’7” and weighs 121 pounds.
- The average BMI of Miss America winners has decreased from around 22 in the 1920s to 16.9 in the 2000s. The World Health Organization classifies a normal BMI as falling between 18.5 and 24.9.
- 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years.
- 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.
- Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight.
Statistics from nationaleatingdisorders.org