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Media Portrayal

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When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Your perception of how your body looks forms your body image. Interestingly, a perfectly-toned 20 year old fitness model could have a very poor body image, while an average-shaped 50 year old man or woman could have a great body image. Regardless of how closely your actual figure resembles your perception, your body image can affect your self-esteem, your eating and exercise behaviors, and your relationships with others.

In American culture (and particularly in southern California), there is a lot of emphasis placed on body weight, size, and appearance. And, we are conditioned from a very young age to believe that self-worth is derived from these external characteristics. For example, being thin and/or muscular is associated with being “hard-working, successful, popular, beautiful, strong, and self-disciplined.” On the other hand, being “fat” is associated with being “lazy, ignorant, hated, ugly, weak, and lacking will-power.” These stereotypes are prevalent in our society; and they are reinforced by the media, our family and friends, and even well-respected health professionals. As a result, we often unfairly judge others and label them based on their weight and size alone. We feel great anxiety and pressure to achieve and/or maintain a very lean physique. And, we believe that if we can just be thinner or more muscular, we can be happier, more successful, and more accepted by society.

The media sets unrealistic standards for what body weight and appearance is considered “normal.” Girls are indoctrinated at a very young age that Barbie is how a woman is supposed to look (i.e. no fat anywhere on your body, but huge breasts). NOTE: If Barbie were life-size, she would stand 5’9” and weigh 110 lb. (only 76% of what is considered a healthy weight for her height). Her measurements would be 39-18-33, and she would not menstruate due to inadequate levels of fat on her body. Similarly, boys are given the impression that men naturally have muscles bulging all over their bodies. Take a look at their plastic action-figures (like GI Joe Extreme) in toy stores. If GI Joe Extreme were life-size, he would have a 55-inch chest and a 27-inch bicep. In other words, his bicep would be almost as big as his waist and bigger than most competitive



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