Keepin' It Real: Media and Body Image

There is a lot of rumbling in the #body image community lately due to several recent happenings:

1) Tyra Banks lost 30 pounds, after previously telling the media to 'kiss my ass' about weighing a healthy 160 pounds.

2) Ralph Lauren's controversial airbrushed ad of Filippa Hamilton.

3) A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, which concludes that viewing particular types of models in media ads leads to low self esteem in women.

I could go on for days about Tyra's decision to lose 30 pounds, and her decision not to discuss the motivation behind it, but I'm more interested now in the study mentioned in #3.

Personally, I only recently started reading magazines again, after about a 3 year hiatus.  Very early on in treatment, I made a decision to stop looking at my magazines of choice. Of course I still read my cooking magazines, and the occasional People magazine, but I steered clear of any magazine that was potentially triggering for me.  I decided to continue abiding by this practice well into recovery, but when I stepped into the mix of body image activism and positivity with Letters To My Body, I decided to buy some new magazines, and see what I'm up against these days.

I still found the images in certain magazines to be incredibly self-defeating.  Looking at magazines now through less eating-disordered eyes is a very different experience than before, however, no less intimidating.  The difference is that now, I'm aware of what is happening in my mind, and I know that the negative thoughts can be challenged and squashed.

Even at the height of my eating disorder, I never aspired to be stick thin.  I wanted to look like a fitness model.  I wanted to be small, of course, but I also wanted to be muscular and shapely.  Our society's version of "thin" (the version that we see in magazine ads) has never looked appealing to me.  Emaciated was just never my thing.  I was not your typical eating-disordered individual (if there even is such a thing).  I didn't want to melt away and disappear.

I wanted to look like Beth Horn.

beth

And, I'm still in love with her figure.  I admire strong (yet lean) women.  I'm not talking about Cnyna-type proportions here, but I always aspired to have a lean, strong physique.  Maybe because it was more attainable for me (since I was not dealt the 'tiny pixie body on a Tinkerbell frame' card), or maybe because it looked more healthy in my eyes.

I could starve myself to death, binge & purge.  As long as I maintained my muscle mass.

As long as I still had muscles, I was healthy.  That, my friends, was the rationale behind yer girl's eating disorder.

Rather than trolling tons of thinspo websites and looking for (airbrushed) pictures of waif-like models, I searched fitness modeling websites and looked at the websites of professional fitness models.  That's what I aspired to be.

I didn't subscribe to Vogue or any of the typically ED-triggering magazines.  I bought Oxygen and read it 148 times.  Tore out the pages.  Clipped the recipes.  Pasted the models' pictures in my "motivational binder".  Placed workouts lovingly into plastic page protectors inside the binder.  Brought the binder with me to the gym.  Religiously.

I called it my "fitness bible".

Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, and not everyone aspires to be stick-thin.  I can't say that fashion ads have caused the body image and self-esteem problems in our society, but in my opinion, they definitely perpetuate them.

1) What type of magazines do you read?

2) Do you use magazines and the ads they contain as motivation to lose weight?

3) Do you have a body role model (someone you strive to look like from a body standpoint)?

4) What do you think about all of this body image stuff?

5) What are you having for lunch (I'm hungry)?

 


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