The media has become part of the modern life as it is a superb way of connecting with others, sharing experiences, opinions, and ideas. However, it has emerged that media leads to negative body image. As people view photographs of celebrities on magazines, Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest, they begin to reflect on their own body image and start critiquing their shape or size for being too small, not curvy or not muscular as their model. Such criticism inflicts body dissatisfaction which may lead to unhealthy eating (consuming more calories and sugary food) with the attempt of getting muscular or achieving the model's size and shape. Although today's media leads to negative body image that does not mean that it is okay to be obese and unhealthy.
Negative body image is dangerous to one's health. Negative body image causes distress and can result in brutal psychological and physical problems (Grof, 68). It can also drive one into an unhealthy diet that comprises of sugar and high-calorie foods which easily lead to obesity instead of the desired muscular state (pg.78). The interactive nature of the media with high anonymity implies instant and unfiltered feedback. Most often, the unfiltered feedback is negative followed by criticising comments. The impact of negative comments on an individual is heightened pressure on appearance and a consequential competition to outdo peers. For instance, if it were a case of young males, then it would result in a scenario where everyone wants to increase calories in their diet to gain muscles and attain a muscular body. However, the result may not be the desired rather obesity.
Undoubtedly, obesity is more dangerous than even a negative body image. Obesity has been linked to all causes of mortality; hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, low quality of life and mental illness among other serious health conditions (Kelly et al., 1689). It means that obesity is as bad as the consequences and everyone should avoid it for better living.
While everyone would wish to have a positive body image, it is imperative that one is careful not to attain such a state through the unhealthy diet that could lead to obesity. There are various ways to achieving positive body image without serious manipulations to one's diet. One such way is through accepting genetics. Many aspects of one's body cannot be changed. In fact, about 25% to 75% of a human body is determined by the genes (Goodrich et al., 769). Certainly, one's broad shoulders or generally a thin and non-muscular body was inherited from the father. While little can be done to change such aspects of the body, it is easy to change beliefs and attitudes towards self. One needs to develop an internal positive attitude and self-respect which results in an appreciation of one's image as it is hence positive body image. The focus should at all time be on health and not size. Thus, it is crucial not to compare oneself body size or shape with that of peers in the media images as it is impossible to have two same bodies. Accepting the role of genetics helps individuals to appreciate diversity and appreciate their unique body images hence developing a positive body image without interfering with their health.
Another way of attaining positive body image without obesity is through questioning the messages portrayed in the media before believing them and even attempting to copy. People would easily want to compare themselves with the images of those being portrayed in the media when in reality that image is unobtainable. Many of the images presented in the media have been airbrushed and enhanced through computer photo manipulation (Harrison et al., 136). The manipulation makes those images unrealistic standards of beauty which should not be relied upon by a real human. Questioning such images prevents individuals from the urge to break out of their healthy diet into trying new diets which are often bad for their health and could even lead to eating disorders. Therefore, it is good for one to first question the media images before embracing them and allowing their influence to affect their healthy living.
Apart from accepting genetics and questioning social media images, one can also maintain a positive body image without unhealthy living by avoiding diet hypes. Many models depicted in the media claim to be having diet plans that guide them towards maintaining certain body shape and size. However, the truth is that diet hypes do lead to weight gain and obesity. About 95% of people who believe in the diet hype end up gaining more weight they intended to lose (Paraskeva et al., 168). Avoiding diet hypes will aid in avoiding misleading media guides, and people can begin to appreciate their body images as they are.
Given the huge negative influence of media on body image, individuals ought to recognize the fact that genetics play a crucial role in determining their body shapes and size and that they can do little to change to compare with the unrealistic body images in the media. Ideal standard media images are edited, and they can only pressurize individuals to unhealthy diets that lead to obesity without attaining the ideal images. People should love their bodies as they are, accept the role of genetics, avoid comparing with edited media images and stop diet hypes; rather appreciate their bodies and think positive about them to develop positive body images without enduring in unhealthy living and obesity.
Goodrich, Julia K., et al. "Human genetics shape the gut microbiome." Cell 159.4 (2014): 789-799.
Grof, Stanislav. Realms of the human unconscious: Observations from LSD research. Souvenir Press Ltd, 2016: 67-89
Harrison, Kristen, and Veronica Hefner. "Virtually perfect: Image retouching and adolescent body image." Media Psychology 17.2 (2014): 134-153.
Kelly, Aaron S., et al. "Severe obesity in children and adolescents: identification, associated health risks, and treatment approaches." Circulation 128.15 (2013): 1689-1712.
Paraskeva, Nicole, Helena Lewis-Smith, and Phillippa C. Diedrichs. "Consumer opinion on social policy approaches to promoting positive body image: Airbrushed media images and disclaimer labels." Journal of health psychology 22.2 (2017): 164-175.
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