Contributed article by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC, Founder @ Eating Disorder Hope
We at Eating Disorder Hope applaud Seventeen magazine’s efforts to portray young women of all sizes and shapes. It is time that we all recognize that beauty is not a narrowly defined, media driven specific look. Rather, beauty is inherent in all of us, much like all the flowers in nature differ greatly, we all come with a diverse array of features, bone structures and weights. Flowers are beautiful because of their uniqueness, just as we are beautiful for our unique traits. Even flowers that we have been conditioned to see as reflecting elegance or luxury, such as the rose, are really not better or more valuable than the wild sunflower, just different. Nor is the Sports Illustrated swim suit edition cover model more valuable or necessarily more attractive than the charming girl next door with the flawed but distinctive appearance (aka: non photoshopped). How sad it would be if all we had were roses, or all swim suit models. The rare, custom beauty of a unique human being is lost when digitally altered to meet the impossible beauty standards of the media.
Our young women are constantly barraged with magazine and advertising images that are photoshopped to such an extent that the final image is dramatically different than the real female being photographed. As a therapist, I have observed the harsh, critical eye that young women develop over the years of being subjected to near perfect looking people in advertising. They conclude that they cannot measure up to this and often feel diminished and defective. Some then try valiantly to meet the impossible beauty standards depicted in the media, and develop eating disorders, depression, low self esteem and a host of other problems. Who would want this for their beautiful precious daughter? Sister? Wife? Mother?
Over 50% of teenage girls and 33% of teenage boys are using restrictive measures to lose weight at any given time.(1) Is it in the best interest of these teenagers’ health to be eating restrictively and possibly over exercising? Is it helpful for these young people to set themselves up on a cycle of deprivation and then inevitable loss of control and overeating? Or possibly a pathological devotion to dieting that eventually results in a malnourished, emaciated struggle with anorexia that may lead to death? A healthy body image is an essential component of high self esteem. It is an inherent right of all of us – and our men, women, teenagers and children deserve to have a healthy relationship with their body, based upon realistic acceptance of the many genetic factors that make each precious and unique.
We thank the inspired 14 year old girl, Julia Bluhm, who created the petition to inspire this change at Seventeen magazine to feature more “real” girls. It is forward moving, proactive steps, such as those taken by Miss Bluhm and Seventeen magazine that set in motion cultural paradigm shifts. It does not happen over night, but every step that we, as a concerned society, take toward creating greater appreciation of health and beauty, in many different forms, the better off our future generations will be and the more likely they will be to appreciate their unique selves independent of external pressures to look a certain way.
Last Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 10, 2012
Page last updated: July 10, 2012
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com, Eating Disorder Information Resources