Tag Archives: teens

All Stressed Out

Part 2 of Chapter 1 of Runaway Eating: Not for Teenagers Only

The writers state that between the ages of 35 and 60 are the most stressful periods of life. The authors go on to list major midlife stress-inducers.

20968721_d966709438Raising children. This involves a lot of responsibility. Many women of this age may have small children, or college-aged kids. The little kids need to be watched all the time. (Oh! Oh! Stop eating that crayon!) The older kids have to be driven around to soccer practice, karate practice, ballet practice, band practice… and then there’s cleaning, baths, homework, meals, and the irregular poop in the bathtub instead of the toilet. Teenagers may be rebellious and push all your buttons. (Was that grunt disrespectful?) Teenagers are complex.

pacifierRaising children is very rewarding, but extremely stressful at the same time.

Career challenges. Getting a job is tougher, especially in this recession. I know a 40 something woman who is just now getting into the job  market. Turns out that she has to go back to school because firms are not interested in the Bachelor’s she got 20 years ago. It’s also increasingly hard for everyone to find jobs, not only older people. A young friend from Hong Kong had to move back there after graduate school. A year passed in the States and she still could not find a job. When she went back, she quickly found a job in Shanghai.

Companies would rather increase the workloads of existing employees rather than hire new people. Older people have to compete with younger workers. Plus issues the typical midlife woman faces consist of ageism, long hours, lookism, etc.

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She may also have to meet both her job and family needs.

Empty Nest Syndrome. The kids will someday move to college, get married, or get a career. This is stressful, because the parents have to adjust. They don’t have to pick up their kids or driving them around or clean up after them. The kids aren’t going to run to their mother every time they need help, anymore. That takes a lot of adjustment, though it is nice. Some mothers feel depressed because they don’t know what to do with themselves after this responsibility is gone.

Extended parenthood. One of my friend’s grandmother raised her after her parents ran off. She raised my friend for a long time. Sometimes this happens. Sometimes the kids with their kids move back in wit you because of circumstances. Or some kids just don’t want to leave. A good friend of mine lived with his mother for a while. Even though he’s almost 30, he still sleeps over at her house a lot. He has his own condo, but he says that if he moved out completely, his mom would have a hard time adjusting. How does she handle him sleeping over? I wonder.

Caring for aging parents or other relatives. Adult daughters are more likely than their boy siblings to take on the responsibility of caring for an aged parent. This takes a toll, for not only do they have to take care of their children, and their job, but also the extra burden of a parent. She might have to pay their bills as well as her family’s, arrange hospitalization, or nursing homes. She may have to shop for them, clean them, and so on. When they pass away, she may not be sure of how to feel. Relief that a burden is lifted? Or sad that a loved one passed away?

222845367_66fd14bc04Financial burdens. Paying bills is, well, expensive. Taxes, insurance, groceries, cars, lessons, furniture, clothes, college, and weddings. The cost of living is higher in these modern times. Take weddings. The guy buys the girl a ring. It probably costs upwards of a thousand bucks. Then there’s hundreds for the cake, thousands for the dresses, and the limo that needs to be rented. All of this stuff isn’t paid by the bride herself, but by her family. Don’t even talk about the wedding reception, which is probably one of the most expensive parts of a wedding. My own parents had an in expensive reception at their church. Their friends pitched in to buy food and prepare for the event. My parents didn’t even rent a limo. Nowadays, couples go for the whole deal. They get a limo, a huge cake like the one on the right, expensive food, and a reception in a fancy hall with lovely decorations.

2599940825_19f5e4e84bRelationship troubles. They don’t call it a midlife crisis for nothing. You hear in the news of adult males suddenly running off with the young secretary. Because of all the demands on time, couples tend to leave their relationship at the bottom of the list of priorities. Both spouses are busy and overworked. Some people get divorced during this time because the marriage can no longer stand the strain. Marriage isn’t as fun as when they both started on their honeymoon. They might feel trapped, and the absence of butterflies is noticed. Maybe they’ll stay together just for the kids, but when the kids go to college, the parents feel that they don’t have to stay together anymore.

Divorce and singlehood. After the marriage ends, a divorce follows. There’s two high risk periods for divorce. They are the first 7 years of marriage, or midlife when the kids are teenagers. In the last 30 years, divorce has soared.

divorcecake_t220Divorce can be described as a sort of death — the death of a way of life. It inevitably brings stress. She has to deal with the loss of a loved one, emotionally wounded children, custody battles, loss of money, and many other adjustments. Often times, the woman ends up raising her children alone or sharing custody with the father.

I remember a young mother who struggled so hard to keep it all together. Her young children were emotionally wounded, and she had to go to court multiple times for custody battles. Her money was slipping away steadily because she took pills for depression, was unemployed, had to hire a lawyer, and had to visit a counselor several times a week. She stayed at our home when she sold hers. Plus, she was preparing to move to California. Divorce is a stressful time.

Then there’s singlehood, and getting back into the dating scene. It’s frightening to compete against younger, more beautiful women for men that are the same age as you. Some women fall into disordered eating in an attempt to regain their figure back.

Menopause. This is a tough period for most women. Hormone levels fluctuate, causing insomnia, fatigue, hot flashes, and so on. Many women worry about losing their sexuality and sexual attractiveness. Doctors can help with many of these issues. Just don’t go to Oprah for your health information.

Madonna: a woman in the show business. She has received multiple plastic surgeries to keep her looks young and fresh. They don't seem to be working.

Madonna: a woman in the show business. She has received multiple plastic surgeries to keep her looks young and fresh. They don't seem to be working.

Aging. Your strength will decline, your muscles will weaken, and it’s easier to gain weight. Add to that sagging skin, wrinkles, thin hair, and age spots. This is tough, especially in our society that worships  beauty and youth. The change are unsettling at least. But for those who place great store by their appearance, these changes are devastating.

Maybe it’s understandable if actresses and models, whose lifeblood depends on their looks, are thrown into a panic. But even the lady next door who isn’t in the show business may mourn.

Next up: What stress is really doing to us.

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Media Sightings: Fake Boobs

I was browsing Glamour‘s twitter feed when I saw this blog post on their website.

Apparently, the blogger recently got an email from a Long Island cosmetic surgeon, who told them that breast implants, and get this, are the most popular high school graduation gift for girls today.

Surprising? Or not surprising?

Apparently, these young women don’t want a new car. They don’t want to have a trip to Europe. They want bigger boobs. So their parents give it to them. As a graduation present.

What happened to the days when parents would give their daughters things like new cars, jewelry, or trips to Europe? I know my parents would have given me stuffed animals if I cared about stuffed animals. Instead they’re giving me driving lessons, which I’m pretty thankful for.

But why give their daughters bigger boobs? Is it because plastic surgery is the in thing right now among both young and old?

The cosmetic surgeon wrote in his press release that right now the big thing is breast augmentations. He writes,

This is something young ladies have put a lot of thought into and discussed with their parents and then, after careful consideration, parents agree to pay for the surgery as a graduation present.

Graduation_Cap_and_DiplomaI’d like to know how the parents really felt about giving their daughters bigger boobs as a graduation present. Did they feel a little sad that their daughters were giving stuff like this priority? Did they feel happy that their daughters were up to date on new fashion trends? Did they feel sad that their daughters felt that getting bigger boobs was important?

More importantly, did they feel that giving their daughters bigger boobs would boost their girls’ self-esteem?

You know how I feel about this. I think it’s rather sick. It also reflects the modern viewpoint of today, that getting a breast surgery is something that is both common, normal, and even GOOD.

Many of the comments agreed with me. One woman said, “I think that’s awful. It shows that the parents and the girl care more about the way she looks and less about her academic future. Give her money for college . . . unless she’s a stripper, big boobs will not secure her a career!”

One woman said that the girls aren’t done developing, so this is a bad idea. I agree with her, seeing that teenagers still have a ways to grow.

Another woman echoed this thought, saying that she was really self-conscious of her breasts during high school. However, she graduated high school with A cups, became a B in college, and became a C in graduate school! She said that getting implants would have been disastrous on her still growing body.

Another commenter stated that she felt that getting this as a “gift” was rather irresponsible unless it was an extreme need.

However, this comment did give me pause:

Picture 1

Hm.

Are we in a state when we feel that getting bigger boobs or improving on some body part will give us a boost in self-esteem? If you’re really ashamed about everything, getting bigger boobs aren’t going to fix anything. You have to fix the underlying problem before you go ahead and get something else “fixed.” It’s rather permanent, and you have to pay for upkeep for the boobs every 10 years. If you don’t fix the self-esteem issues, you’ll just end up paying for a lot of unnecessary surgeries.

The fact that this young woman says that she’s ashamed of “EVERYTHING” makes me rather disturbed. And the fact that she believes that fixing her boobs would fix her problems… and that she has many things that she hates about herself.

I hope she’ll be ok in life. I hope…

The comments are still pouring in. “The parents must not have much faith in their child’s appearance or personality, if they feel this desire should become a necessity.”

In the end, it’s up to you, as parents or as girls graduating soon. Whether you get big boobs or not, I wish you luck. However, a lot of the comments I’m seeing still shows that the readers of Glamour at least have good sense and know what’s important and what’s not.

Runaway Eating

Started a new book . . .

vanilla-cake-ABFOOD0706-dePart 1 of chapter 1 of Runaway Eating: Not for Teenagers Only

Eating disorders is a disease widely known as a teenager problem. Maybe it’s a surprise to find out that eating disorders are not just for teenagers. Midlife women suffer from it. Right now, a disturbing trend involves these older women seeking treatment for eating disorders.

RunawayEat AmzLThe book Runaway Eating by Cynthia M. Bulik, Ph.D., and Nadine Taylor, M.S., R. D. takes a good look at this trend. They also include an 8 point plan to help conquer this kind of thinking. (I will not go through the 8 point plan because there’s a lot of books to read.) This book, is, however, designed to help the reader make informed decisions about health, and is not a medical manual by any means. And if you are suffering from an eating disorder, it’s best to seek a doctors help rather than to turn to a book alone.

The authors define Runaway Eating in the introduction as “consistent use of food or food-related behavior (such as purging or excessive exercise) to deal with unpleasant feelings, and feeling that these behaviors are out of control.” The writers think of this problem as a sort of pre-eating disorder because while the behavior doesn’t match the symptoms of a clinically-defined eating disorder like bulimia nervosa, this disordered eating is marked by a very unhealthy relationship with food.

Often, this behavior is the result of using food to run away from problems.

3533308065_ddc7e89da2Runaway eating runs rampant through society. However, using food as a solution for your problems is no solution at all, as women find out.

Nadine Taylor, a registered dietitian and coauthor of this book, suffered from a mild form of an eating disorder. She was bulimic, yet conquered it.

Runaway eaters are people who otherwise appear to be normal and in control of their lives, yet who have unhealthy relationships with food or their bodies that could interfere with personal relationships, threaten their quality of life, and set them up for future health problems.

By using food to run away from our problems, we find that our eating habits run away with us.

Go on any Xanga blogring or Facebook group devoted to people with eating disorders. You’ll see that they’re populated with young women and teenage girls as young as eleven. You don’t see a whole lot of people older than 30. We’ve heard of the Princess Diana’s bulimic tendencies, and all the young actresses who starve themselves.

However, the people over 30 with this problem are growing. They consist of women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and even older! There’s a dramatic increase in women seeking out treatment. It could be because of the growing availability of such programs, and the decrease in the shame of having an eating disorder. Hard statistics are hard to get, because most women don’t seek help until their troubles become unbearable.

diet pills

diet pills

A full-blown eating disorder develops gradually. It doesn’t suddenly appear. Eating disorders range from mild to severe. Most women have a mild form of disordered eating.

Many with eating problems had eating disorders that they never shed when they were young. According to a review, half of those with anorexia and at least one third of those with bulimia carry their problems into early and middle adulthood. However, many women are developing an eating disorder for the first time in their lives. Why?

Maybe it’s because today’s typical midlife woman is more concerned about her appearance. She works outside to home, and worries about being passed over by younger people for jobs, power, attention, and raises. She dislikes being seen as an old grandmother, and may have a fear of aging. Due to changes caused by menopause, her waistline may increase. She’s more likely to seek help for depression.

The most important factor, though, is the stressful life that she leads.

Next up: the many stressful situations a midlife woman faces.

Waiting to be Filled

I started a book, but never finished it because I felt that it was too heavy. And it made me depressed for a while because it didn’t talk at length about the solution to the problem but rather focused on the problem itself. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it just didn’t suit me. I recommend this book to anyone struggling with an eating disorder. I really think it’s a good book. Just heavy and packed with information.

400000000000000052548_s4Also, I’m not feminist. That’s another thing.

Here’s what I wrote. This is just from reading the introduction.

The book is titled Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: the frightening new normalcy of hating your body by Courtney E. Martin. You can check out the writer’s website at www.courtneyemartin.com. This book was published fairly recently, in 2007.

Martin writes in the introduction that eating disorders affect more than 7 million American girls and women, 70 million people worldwide. Over half of the females between ages 18-25 surveyed would rather be mean or stupid. Anything but fat. A survey of parents found that 1/10th of them would abort their child if they found that he or she had the genetic tendency to be fat. (Thanks, Mom and Dad. They were your genes to start with.)

She states that we live in a time when getting an eating disorder, or at least being obsessed over weight, is thought of as a rite of passage. The writer talks about her many friends who bought into this kind of thinking. They sound like my friends. Many women use what they put into their bodies or/and the amount of exercising they do to define their worth.

It is not our kindness, or courage that we count at the end of the day, it is our calorie intake.

310967011_2dcab45a8bI, too, know people with really screwed up ideas about health and fitness. There are the girls who believe that any food is bad and that they have to exercise to get the Tic Tac or chip out of their system. There are my friends who daily post stats on how much they eat per day. Their limit is 210 calories. Not per snack. Not per meal. For the whole freaking day, they restrict themselves to 210 calories. What goes in those 210 calories? An apple.  A 60-calorie lollipop. That’s it. It’s not about eating healthy, it’s about eating less. Then there’s the miserable girl who eats food – lots – when she’s depressed, and then purges it later.

I know girls in my church who struggle with this as well. There’s one who exercises often. She’s 13, goes to the gym, and does weights. In front of people, she talks about how fat she is, and picks at her food when eating in front of others. She always worries that she is too fat, even though everyone else could tell her that she isn’t.

364637840_761d56792dIn fact, I recently talked to one who was stressed out about her homework. She’s 12. She said she was eating like a pig and was fat. I told her she wasn’t fat. “Ask your big sister,” I said.

She replied, “She says that I’m fat.”

I think this kind of thinking is so ingrained in our culture that we cease to notice it.

Martin puts it well when she writes that we’re not apathetic, we’re distracted. What about the starving children in Africa? I’m thinking about whether to have a granola or skip lunch altogether. She continues that we can’t see the the needs of others because we’re too busy looking at ourselves in the mirror. We don’t want to go to the beach because we don’t want others to see us in bathing suits. It’s all about us and how we feel.

What can we do about it?

This is a social problem as well as psychological. Some people believe that this is normal. I say that our culture must be pretty messed up, then. I knew a bulimic girl who wrote on her public food diary, “I don’t want to be normal. I don’t even know what normal is.” It seems that “normal” nowadays means women and girls stressed out about what goes into their mouths.

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Something you should eat and not compare your body to

Martin says that womanhood “was about something solid and beautiful right in the core — a vulnerable yet unbreakable center of strength and openness.”

I can identify with that. That sounds like the definition of a woman from the Christian book Captivating. Except that God is our core.

Martin continues,

At the center of most of the young women I know today are black holes.

On the outside, we’re busy and active. On the inside, we’re crumbling. We have these holes that we try to fill with anything and everything. But they’re still there. We’re starving, because the distractions are never enough. We’re just not enough. Not good enough. We have no control.

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Black holes at the center of us

Our ultimate goal is “effortless perfection.” We’re to be everything we’re supposed to be, without showing any apparent effort. Of course, this is impossible. I know another girl who said, “I want to be able to fast for days at a time without struggling. I want to be able to have no desire for food. I want to be able to stay skinny without such hard work.” Effortless. Perfection.

The perfect part really does get us into trouble, either with an eating disorder or with an unhealthy obsession with food and exercise. It really turns out to be such hard work.

The truth is, we waste a lot of time on our bodies. How much time do we spend thinking about what to eat when we could be organizing a fund-raising event devoted to some cause?

Martin puts forth the mission of this book: a call to action. She wants this book to move us to admit that we are sick, but also tired of  being sick and ready to do something about it.

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The price she paid was her dancing.

Note that this isn’t a purely American problem anymore. I remember the ballerina from Denmark. She had been struggling with anorexia for some time. The disorder came to a point where her bones were too weak for her to stand on her toes. I’m a ballerina too, and to stand on your toes, you need to have very strong bones. Because of the disorder, the calcium was steeped out of her bones, leading to brittleness. She loved dancing. Really loved dancing. But what could she do? This was the price she paid, and she felt that she couldn’t do anything about it.

There was the girl form Brazil and the girl from Taiwan. There was the girl in Spain and the girl from Wales who messaged me on facebook begging for help. There was also the girl from Qatar, a country so tiny that people don’t even know it exists.

The Independent, a London paper, reported that 1 million in Britain have eating disorders.

Martin closes the introduction by saying that she believes “in the possibility of a world where a girl doesn’t learn to count calories at the same age she learns algebra.”

That’s the world I’m fighting for, now.

2763031373_188f1d4abe

A Beautiful Disaster

Chapter 9 of the book Looks

File0444Have you ever seen the billboards by the side of the road glorifying a sculpted male body? Or the covers of Men’s Health magazine… or the washboard abs perfume by Abercrombie and Fitch… or the steroid pumping body builders…

Men have their own set of problems. These are termed the Adonis Complex. Due to the slew of idealized male physiques everywhere they look, many men are insecure about their appearance.

Harrison J. Pople, Jr. and Roberto Olivardia of Harvard Medical and Katherine A. Phillips of Brown studied anything from action figure toys to Playgirl spreads to body builders and concluded that the U.S. media presentation of the male ideal is a very very muscular body.

Our very own GI Joe

Our very own GI Joe

It started with our familiar G. I. Joe. These researchers noted that the action figure in 1964 was unremarkable. Sure, he was trim and athletic, but rather ordinary in that respect. By 1991, he became pumped up like a body builder. Sadly, this also happened with the Star Wars action figures of Han and Luke. In 1978, they appeared unexceptional but trim. In 1995, they appeared to have been drinking a morning cup of steroids with their breakfast cereal. As a Star Wars fan, I was horrified to hear about this development. What’s next, bulked up Wicket?

15-20 years back, if you wanted a current issue of a fitness or body building magazine, you would have to live in the big city. Even so, you were limited to two or three publications. Now, just run down to the nearest convenience store and you’re bound to find at least five. As any freelance writer for magazines will tell you, fitness and health are big topics nowadays. People want to read about how to get healthy, but they also want to read about how to gain muscle. As a result, this is the holy grail of freelance writers. 

abercrombie-billboardWhat about the billboards? This Abercrombie and Fitch billboard is an excellent example of what you might find.

Dr Patzer says,

Buy a copy of almost any general-interest magazine and you are treated to bare male chests, rippling muscles, and tanned, chiseled, hairless forms.

Don’t forget the romance novel covers! Some time ago I published something mocking this trend. You may find it here. You’ll see that shaved pits really are the way to go.

 

 

 

Rich Herrerra, a male model for Cosmo

Rich Herrera, a male model for Cosmo

 

 

Cosmopolitan magazine is one of those magazines that seem to be mainly about sex from their front covers. They offer tips on how to do it right, how to get good results, and how to get a good man. They also illustrate their articles with pictures. All the male models are happy,  hairless, and naked.

They are also buff. Pope and his colleagues found that the number of naked males in Glamour and Cosmo had tripled from less than 10% in the 60s.

dumbbellsAlong with these findings, Pope and his researchers interviewed men suffering from what they call “muscle dysmorphia,” which is sort of like “reverse anorexia.” While an anorexic girl looks at herself in the mirror and sees fat even though she is shrinking, a male with this disorder looks at himself  and says, “Not buff enough,” even though he may have muscles where no man should have muscles. A fellow whom they called “Kevin” believed his own arms were sticks even though his body bulged with muscles in strange places. He became a near recluse because of this disorder.

These three researchers concluded that American men are being manipulated. They are exposed to more supermuscular images, all in service to diet aids, fitness programs, hair-growth remedies, and anything in between. These industries prey on men’s insecurities, and can be compared to how women are being preyed upon by the media.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an intense preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance. It seems to arrive during adolescence or young adulthood. It may also coexist with other conditions, like social anxiety or OCD. The only effective course is psychiatric or psychological counseling, along with anxiety medications.

Those with this disorder are only a small fraction of the population, but millions more devote an inordinate slice of their time to worrying about appearance, notes Dr. Patzer.

LS015824Barbara L. Frederickson of the University of Michigan did two experiments to document the psychological costs of raising girls in a culture lik eours.

One study revealed that what a woman wears can heighten her preoccupation with how her body looks. This is at the expense of her mental performance skills. It’s not just low-cut dresses or bikinis that may cause this preoccupation. Any clothes or circumstances that make her feel self-conscious have this power. It reduces the mental energy that she could use to solve calculus.

evening-20dressAccording to this researcher and social psychologist Tomi-Ann Roberts, the tendency to value physical appeal and sex appeal as body identity rather than their health, strength, energy, etc leads to more than an eating disorder or diminished mental performance. It could be linked to high prevalence of depression and sexual dysfunction among American women.

As we have seen, the mass media has had a huge effect on fostering attitudes about physical appeal. They’re enormously influential in governing what we say and feel about ourselves and our appearance.

From Kurt and Gladys Lang’s essay “The Mass Media and Voting”:

The mass media forces attention to certain issues. They build up public images of political figures. They are constantly presenting objects suggesting what individuals in the masses should think about, know about, have feelings about.

So my theory that we also listen to what the media tells us to do wasn’t so far off after all.

Dr. Patzer concludes that ill health offsets beauty benefits. However, people would be willing to sacrifice their health or money to improve their physical appearance.

As an anorexic acquaintance wrote on her blog, “I don’t care if this kills me. At least I’ll be beautiful.”

A Tragic Case

In the realm of the “right-to-life” movement, the case of one woman made headlines and sparked debates all over the country and even overseas. 

The Terri Schiavo case was one that caused a great deal of controversy. I know I remember it vividly. Her life and death stirred an uproar about issues like “right-to-life” and whether it was okay to take out the feeding tube of a person in a vegetative state and let the person die. Was it more humane to let the person continue living in such a state, with no hope of recovery? Or not? These issues led a lot of people think about what they would want if they were ever in such a condition, and to mark their choice in their will.

Terri Schiavo before it happened

Terri Schiavo before it happened

What I didn’t know at the time was that Terri Schiavo had had an eating disorder. She was anorexic. Terri had been severely overweight in her teens, but lost 65 pounds by the time she graduated from high school.

Sadly, her condition became so serious to the point where fitness and fasting were obsessions. Some time later, Schiavo limited herself to mostly liquids. Whatever food she ate, she forced herself to vomit.

Her family later said that while they worried, they didn’t know how quickly Schiavo’s health could deteriorate… or how dangerous it was for humans to starve themselves. As a result, they neither challenged her nor sought medical help for her condition.

Terri after

Terri after

In 1990, Terri went into a coma. Her doctors said that this was likely caused by an imbalance in blood potassium levels. Her liquid diet was flushing this mineral out of her body – a condition that eating would have remedied.

Eating wasn’t something she wanted to do.

Schiavo never recovered. Soon she was found to be brain dead. A lengthy court  battle came about, and it became a national tragedy, states Dr. Patzer. 15 years later, Terri Schiavo died on March 31, 2005. She was 41.

164177_f260The debate that ensued made it clear that eating disorders were poorly understood by the public. After this case, science made progress in understanding them.

Following Schiavo’s death, the Daytona Beach News Journal published an editorial that pointed out that the state and the federal had failed to educate the public about eating disorders. They continued by saying that teenage girls should be informed about this trend, and suggested that parents and teachers learn to recognize the warning signs. Insurance companies and public health agencies should broaden their medical coverage to include treatments for eating disorders.

Reaching the Unattainable

Chapter 8, Part I

Now we come to one of the biggest chapters in the book Looks. This chapter is about how the media messages shape our thoughts and feelings about physical attractiveness.

We’re exposed to so much media nowadays. Magazine titles,  books, websites, and TV are all saturated with pictures of the physically attractive. Everyone’s beautiful in the world of media, it seems.

Does this influence our expectations and self-respect? This phenomenon has been studied for years and years. 

ariel-fish-friendsResearchers found the most body-image related messages in videos like Cinderella and The Little Mermaid. However, all ages get information about the world from TV. IF there’s one rule governing media images, it’s that sex sells. 

Advertising knows this. They’re all aware that sexual images are important messages. Others are concerned that these images place inappropriate pressure on us to focus on our appearances. Teen People magazine found that 27% of girls felt pressured to have a perfect body. Whatever that means. Older women, who had formerly felt guilty about having a dirty house, were now afraid of being old or unattractive.

Other research suggests that such advertising can affect women’s body image, which in turn can lead to unhealthy behavior.

Superman: Bulging out from Everywhere

Superman: Bulging out from Everywhere

Advertising also promotes and idealizes the body builder image. This is leading to some very insecure men and boys. A study by Dr. Harrison Pope of McLean suggests that this pressure is felt early in childhood. There’s the increasing muscularity of action figures that boys play with. This can be compared to Barbie dolls promoting an unrealistically thin body image for young girls. You’ll noticed that Superman is muscled more than any person should be muscled. He’s more muscled than the guy who goes to the gym once every couple of days. He’s more muscled than, well, almost anyone. He’s unnecessarily muscled. Noticed that he’s bulging in places where no one knew they had muscles. 

He looks like he’s been drinking a cup of steroids after every meal.

Various media reports to the state that eating disorder cases involving boys are growing. However, boys are usually unwilling to acknowledge a condition that is associated with females. My friend Henry that I mentioned previously was anorexic.

Sex sells. Britney Spears

Sex sells. Britney Spears

However, most media stressing thinness are directed at women. Women see 400-600 commercials per day. 250,000 commercial messages as well… but only 9% are a direct statement about beauty. The messages are more implicit in nature rather than explicit. Half of the ads in teen girl magazines like Seventeen and 56% of TV commercials aimed at females used beauty as a product appeal. This may give girls and women reason to be self-conscious, and even equates physical appeal as measure of worth.

A photograph of the beautiful Evelyn Nesbit

A photograph of the beautiful Evelyn Nesbit

In the late 1890s, publishers started using pictures of beautiful women to sell magazines. It began with illustrations, Take Charles Dana Gibson’s 1905 portraits of the lovely Evelyn Nesbit. She was a 16 year old married to one of the richest men in the world. Sadly, she was destined for heartbreak and poverty. During this time, though, she was called the most beautiful woman in the world. 

nesbit-2.1208806562

Another picture of Nesbit

I read her wikipedia entry. She was involved in the murder of an ex lover by her first husband. Earlier on, she found work as an artists’ model. Later on, she became much in demand because she was seductively beautiful, with red hair and a slender but shapely figure. Her first lover, the one who got murdered, was Stanford White. He was an acclaimed architect and notorious womanizer, and at the time he was 47 to her 16. 

biancagomez

A typical runway model

Color photography arrived in the 1930s. Ordinary could not be used for this. There were some issues with cramming a 3D image into a 2D space. Because it omits the impression of depth, it adds the illusion of increased width. Solution? Choose a thinner model. She’s look average. However, thinness became the standard, not only because of the photography issues. Clothes look better on thinner people. So models became thinner and thinner and thinner. The so-called supermodel is slimmer than 94% of women in her age group! 

Two-thirds of girls in one study said that magazine models influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.

Why do advertisers present such unrealistically thin women to advertise products?

Some believe that advertisers use thin models to create an unattainable goal. Trying to realize the impossible drives our consumption of that product. “The media markets desire,” says Dr. Paul Hamburg, a psychiatrist.

lettuceWhether or not that is true, it’s found that the diet industry generates 74 billion – 50 billion DOLLARS a year. Women compare their bodies to those around them. a 1984 poll by Glamour found that three-fourths of those surveyed thought they were too fat. This brings to mind my friend who always wants to lose weight, even though she is really skinny. I’m a 4 foot 8 girl, and naturally I’m very very skinny. (It goes with my frame.) She told me once that she wanted to be as skinny as I was. I was disturbed.

iStock_apple tape measureCindy Maynard, a registered dietitian and researcher, says that this dissatisfaction occurs so much that it’s almost considered normal. She goes on to say that the most vulnerable people are teenagers, since they are at the age when they’re developing their self-confidence and self-perception. At that age there’s a lot of pressure to fit in.

Sadly, one of the ways to fit in is to have the perfect body.