It's no secret that Western media promotes 'thin' as the ideal body type, and encourages the idea that you must look perfect in order to be happy. Millions of dollars are spent each year by both the diet and beauty industries to sell this image of perfection. Millions more are spent by consumers trying to achieve it.
The interesting thing is that no one, not even those people who are pictured on the front of national magazines, is perfect. People whom our society promotes as the most beautiful, are not even beautiful enough to be pictured without makeup, designer clothing and computer editing. The media can influence how you view your own body, lower your self esteem, and promote dangerous dieting and eating behaviors. Although, you cannot remove yourself from all of the media's messages, you can become a critical viewer of the media. Use these tips to fight back.
- Remind yourself when viewing advertisements, in print or on television, that the company is trying to sell you a product or service. The advertisement often uses specific people and places to sell an idea with the product. For example, an advertisement for perfume may picture not only the perfume but also an elegant woman with attractive men swooning over her. The underlying message is that by purchasing this perfume, you also will be elegant and have men swooning over you. Rationally, you know this is not true.
- Talk back to negative messages. Anytime that you view a television show, advertisement or photo spread which makes you feel bad about yourself or your body, talk back to it. Consider writing a letter of complaint to the companies and people responsible for the publication of such messages. Don't hesitate to use your voice. You are standing up for yourself and other men and women as well. Even if you choose not to speak out, you can also tear negative photographs and stories out of your magazines so that they are no longer in your face.
- Promote positive messages. Take note of television shows, magazines and companies who produce media containing positive messages about body acceptance and showcase a variety of sizes and shapes. Consider writing a letter thanking these companies for using realistic people in their campaigns.
- Talk about media messages with your friends and family. Comment to friends and family about specific television shows, movies or magazines in order to start a conversation about how the media affects all of us. It can be extremely validating to hear that other people are also affected by these things.
- Use your money wisely. Another way of speaking out is to make note of companies who promote the 'thin ideal' or utilize negative advertising practices and to no longer purchase their products. In the same note, you can intentionally choose to support companies who promote a healthy body image and lifestyle.
- Remove negative messages from your environment. Look around and see what negative messages are surrounding you that you can consciously remove. Do you need to cancel a subscription to a fashion magazine? Or, choose not to record a specific TV show on your DVR? These can be difficult choices to make since many people justify watching superficial television shows or reading gossip magazines as 'fun' and 'relaxing' activities. However, they can influence you and how you think about yourself. Is it really worth it?