How the Mainstream Media is Destroying Your Body Image from How the Mainstream Media is Destroying Your Body Image

How the Mainstream Media is Destroying Your Body Image

In a day and age when we know for a fact that Photoshop is frequently used to distort images, erase blemishes and turn celebrities into pictures of perfection, it almost seems silly that we believe any images we see on TV, in magazines or online. We're quite aware that the beauty ideals we're presented with are unrealistic, yet we still have a desire to achieve them anyway.

Here are just a few of the ways the ideas and images you view on TV, online and in magazines could be negatively affecting the way you feel about and perceive your body.

Headlines that encourage unrealistic fitness goals.

Katie Rosenbrock

The media loves to encourage us to emulate the physiques of our favorite celebrities. And while aiming for arms like Michelle Obama’s or a behind like Beyoncé’s can be a well-meaning source of motivation, for most, achieving such a specific physique is unrealistic and will likely lead to disappointment and frustration. From our muscle character to our bone density and our overall proportions, the appearance of our bodies is mostly affected by genetics. So yes, you can lose fat and build muscle to make your arms look more muscular, but you can’t change the natural structure of your body; nor should you feel like you have to in order to fit what the media narrowly defines as "beautiful."

'Motivational' graphics that make you feel bad.


Is exercise essential to good health? Yes. Should you feel exceedingly guilty for missing a workout or not being able to get to the gym every single day of the week? Absolutely not. Some online “fitness inspiration” takes on condescending tones, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and an overall negative mindset. (Not to mention, many of these mantras are typically plastered over photo-shopped images of fitness models.) “Although being dissatisfied with the way that we look and ‘feeling fat’ can motivate us to exercise, it may also prevent us from engaging in organized sports activities such as joining a gym or exercising due to concern about whether we have the right kind of body to fit in with sports culture that promotes a slender ideal,” Grogan explains in her book. That’s why it’s important to remember that it’s OK if you don’t always have time for exercise. Sometimes not having enough time is a legitimate excuse (as are plenty of other reasons) and you shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it. 


Buzzfeed via Candies

Maybe you’re well aware of just how much mass media images are altered using Photoshop these days. Or maybe you had no idea. Either way, constantly being bombarded by photos of airbrushed a-listers is probably taking a negative toll on your body image. According to a survey that polled over 2,000 women ages 16 to 65 about magazine images and body image, over 650 respondents admitted to feeling unconfident about their bodies and one portion of the poll found that 33 percent of respondents felt the physiques they desired were probably not attainable. “Celebrities and models already start out with more makeup, hairspray and glitter than the rest of us. Photoshop is just another tool used to distort not only our perceptions of their beauty, but more importantly, of our own,” wrote Alanna Vagianos in an article on Huffington Post.

Unrealistic beauty standards.


Much of what we read in the media leads us to believe that looking thin, slim and slender is the norm—the only type of appearance that’s acceptable. When we’re constantly bombarded by these unrealistic standards, which actually aren’t the norm for the majority of people, of course we’re going to start to feel down about the way we look. It’s one thing to aspire towards losing weight for the sake of your health and feeling good about yourself, but when goals like these are fueled by a desire to meet strict standards of beauty set in place by society, you’re more likely to find yourself with a mostly negative mindset.

Buzz-word phrases.


Just like the many “inspirational” graphics easily found all around the web, buzz-word phrases like “strong is the new skinny” and “real women have curves” tend to mean well by aiming to alter what's considered ideal. Unfortunately, they usually end up fostering an intolerant atmosphere by continuing to imply that a certain type of body is most ideal. “We all have natural tendencies towards a certain body type,” writes Taryn Haggerstone on “Thin, curvy, muscular; and so on… and each of these can be perfectly healthy, attractive and strong. But when we’re immersed in a culture that idolizes a certain body type, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to achieve it, even if doing so is actually detrimental to our performance.”

Over-emphasis on features like six-pack abs, 'toned' arms or 'lean' legs.

Katie Rosenbrock

As we've pointed out before, six-pack abs are kind of overrated anyway; but more importantly, achieving such a lean physique is definitely not something that can be done in a short amount of time or with shortcuts (despite what many headlines might have you believe). Plus, as mentioned earlier, this over-emphasis on specific features also completely ignores the fact that everyone's body types are very different. When we're constantly bombarded by phrases like these it can lead to an increase in negative feelings about specific body parts as we start to hold a magnifying glass to each perceived "flaw" and begin to feel badly that our legs, arms, abs or whatever it is don't look a certain way.

Body type shaming.


This issue all comes down to society's preoccupation with defining what type of beauty is most ideal. Of course, fat-shaming is definitely a more prominent and problematic part of our culture, but the issue here goes both ways. Although they might mean well, songs like Megan Trainor's "All About That Bass" calling out "skinny bitches" or campaigns that claim "real women have curves," foster an atmosphere of intolerance instead of allowing for acceptance of all different body types.


You know they're not the most nutritious food, but you just ate a few Oreos because they're your favorite type of cookie. Should you feel guilty about your snack? No. But we're often led to believe otherwise. By labeling foods and recipes using phrases like "guilt-free", we're taught that consuming foods that are considered unhealthy should make us feel badly about ourselves and our choices. For better health should you aim to focus on a diet that consists mostly of nutritious whole foods? Yes. But should you live your life fearing decadent desserts and other tasty treats? Definitely not. If you enjoyed it, you should never have to feel bad or guilty about something that you ate.