The issue of distorted body image began to germinate in me at a young age. In the mid-1970s, I became aware of how females were depicted in commercials. I specifically remember a commercial of a young lady wearing an evening gown with a long slit selling cars. And, the weight loss commercial of a man berating a woman for eating too much even though she did not appear overweight. These commercials began my journey of asking questions and seeking answers as to why women were depicted so poorly in advertisements, movies, and television.
Over thirty years later, the issue of distorted body image is still a concern; especially with 30 million people suffering with an eating disorder in the United States. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa, every 62 minutes a person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder. Is mass media responsible? No, but media is part of the issue, and one we must examine as a contributing factor to distorted body image and eating disorders. Some males and females, young and old, feel pressured to look like the images depicted in mass media. Western culture emphasizes the ideal physique males and females are to attain, and members of that culture believe and promote that standard of body image. Males are to look like the god, Adonis, by looking youthful, have well-defined biceps and abdominal muscles with a narrow waist (Pope, Phillips, Olivardia, 2000). Females are to obtain what is known as the thin idea: youthful, slim yet muscular physique, and wear a size of sub-zero. Blurred boundaries exist between fantasy and reality of physical beauty and appearance (Reaves, Hitchon, Park, and Yon, 2004).
With western culture so captivated by physical appearance, it is easy to become immersed in the cultural expectations of physical beauty that we forget the true image in which we were created. Meaning, we weren’t created by media, but by our Creator God. Both males and females are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). We also need to remember that God looks beyond just our outer appearance. He does not look at what man looks at, but looks into one’s heart.
Striving to be physically beautiful is not morally or theologically wrong, but the key is having a correct biblical perspective. We have a responsibility to take care of our bodies (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:20). We are to treat our bodies with care and dignity without succumbing to the pressures of attaining a false and unattainable standard of beauty.
Written by Dr. Malinda Fasol, PhD, LPC, NCC
Dr. Malinda Fasol is licensed by the State of Texas as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Dr. Fasol has taught graduate and undergraduate psychology and counseling courses. She is also actively involved in promoting healthy body image and sexuality for teens. Visit her profile at www.brainandbehaviorassociates.com/malinda