Photoshop, airbrushing and retouching distort women’s self-image

By Haley Bianco

These are the third and fourth segments in a series of four installments on the negative effects of Photoshopped ads. The other two segments can be found online.

Like Demi Lovato, many young girls and women struggle with the pressure to appear perfect and turn to an eating disorder as a solution. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, over 20 million women in America suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life.

There are many causes for eating disorders, but one the most common is having a negative body image. “People with a negative body image have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem and obsessions with weight loss,” stated the National Eating Disorders Association.

The National Eating Disorders Association describes negative body image as a distorted perception of body shape, feeling self-conscious and ashamed of one’s body and believing that “only other people are attractive and that your body size or shape is a sign of personal failure.”

Lovato, an actress and singer, opened up about her own experiences with anorexia and bulimia, claiming that her eating disorders stemmed from low self esteem, depression and anxiety about her weight when compared to other people. According to an interview in Seventeen magazine, Lovato said, “A big contributing factor to these feelings is the pressure that’s out there to meet impossible standards.”

After staying at a treatment center in 2010, Lovato has made significant progress with her eating disorders and is currently feeling healthy with a positive body image.

If a treatment center is not an option, eating disorders can damage the body in many ways and can possibly result in death. Anorexia nervosa denies the body of essential nutrients and forces the body to slow down to conserve energy. This causes a risk for heart failure, osteoporosis, kidney failure and hair loss. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “A review of nearly fifty years of research confirms that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.” The association goes on to state, “For females between fifteen to twenty-four years old who suffer from anorexia nervosa, the mortality rate associated with the illness is twelve times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death.”

An eating disorder can result in death over time, but a negative body image can also be immediately life threatening in the form of suicide. According to an article on the Center for Advancing Health, entitled “Body Image Tied to Suicidal Thoughts in Young Teens,” Dong-Chul Seo, associate professor at the School of Public Health at Indiana University, conducted a study amongst 6,504 middle school and high school students from 134 schools across the country. “Understanding the link between body image and suicide is critical,” said Seo. “The study’s findings clearly indicate that overweight perception is an independent predicator for suicidal ideation.”

According to an article on US News, entitled “Dara Torres’s Abs and the Average Woman’s Body Image,” by Deborah Kotz, “30 percent of us [American women] say our bodies make us uncomfortable and ashamed.”

In the article, Kotz goes on to explain that watching the 2012 Summer Olympics made her self-conscious about her own appearance. Kotz continues by explaining that it is impossible for a 41-year-old mother of two to compare to Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, also a 41-year-old mother of two. “Torres employs three coaches, two stretchers, two massage therapists, a chiropractor and a nanny,” said Kotz.

Celebrities and athletes have the means and time to sculpt their body how they want it to be, and with the help of their pictures being Photoshopped on magazine covers, it will remain impossible to compare as the average American woman.

Kotz said that it’s important to remember, “No body’s perfect. Even actress Keira Knightley, refused to have her bust size enhanced on publicity photos for her new film ‘Duchess,’ sending the message that A-cup breasts don’t detract from her overall sexiness.”

Stars in the spotlight like Knightley, who stand up for their image, represent women who have a healthy body image. “Those with a healthy body image generally see themselves as a whole rather than a package of their flaws,” said Kotz.

Kotz’s advice for women struggling with self-image confidence includes looking at real women, taking advantage of what your body can handle at the gym, counting things you like in the mirror, treating your body with respect and aiming for clothing that fits; do not try to make your body fit the clothing.

In the future, women are hoping that digitally altered photos will be labeled. Until that changes, it is important to remember that the media generates revenue from advertising. According to an article entitled, “Photoshopping: Altering Images and Our Minds,” on BeautyRedefined.net, “Fashion and beauty products depend on people believing they can achieve physical ideals by using certain products or services.”

Make it a goal not to lose self-esteem, money and time fixing flaws. While watching TV, waiting in the grocery store checkout line, or watching the Olympics, remember those women modeling are enhanced in ways the average American woman is not. Women should embrace flaws and show body confidence everyday, regardless of what the media says is “beautiful.”



Categories: Uncategorized

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