Understanding Media Influence On Body Image

The impact of the media influence on body image is strong, especially for teen girls and women. However, almost everyone feels pressure from the media to have a specific body type. Even men constantly encounter muscular body builders as examples of their ideal body image. People see skinny actresses, models and men who have ingested hormones or other substances, and they compare themselves to these images, which results in feelings of inadequacy.

People think that looking like these models is important in order to improve body image, but it's actually unhealthy. If you want to improve your body image, or that of your child, you need to know what is healthy and reasonable, rather than what the media has set up as an unrealistic example.

Emotional Influences
The media regularly shows instances of people comparing themselves to others. Seldom does it show people feeling good about themselves because self-esteem is not dramatic. Our society does a lot of comparing, and it affects people on an emotional level. Add to that peer pressure among tweens and teens who are self-conscious and always comparing themselves to those whom they perceive as popular or attractive, and it's easy to see how the emotional pressure builds.

Finally, kids and teens watch their parents for examples. If their parents are always worrying about being fat, or going on fad diets, these actions teach kids that it's all right to be unhappy with your body image. Also, if parents have unrealistic expectations about their kids' eating habits, or are pressuring the kids about food, this too gets emotionally internalized.

What To Do
Get educated on health and nutrition, including what constitutes a normal body weight for your or your child's height and body type. Release negative thoughts and statements about yourself, and be mindful of what you say to others. Stop comparing yourself to others, and get off the scale. Focus instead on the way your clothing fits you and how healthy you feel. Get regular exercise, and drink plenty of water. Take time for relaxation, meditation, yoga and other practices that nurture the spirit and increase positivity. Tune in to your attitudes about self image, and know that it is in your power to release those attitudes that do not serve your best interest. Talk with your children about their self image and, as you promote healthy habits and beliefs, you will help them overcome the media and peer influences as well.

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