The Prevalent Pressure to have a “Perfect” Body

Pop star, Taylor Swift, on the red carpet showing off her ‘perfect’ body to the media as they photograph her for all women to see, from

Today in 2014, society’s interpretation of the “perfect” body image for women is based on the average model or movie star: 5’10” with a weight of 120 pounds. This images also identifies the women with “perfect” bodies to have tan skin, blonde hair and big breasts. Additionally, they should be young, moderately athletic and talented in some shape or form. In contrast, the average American woman is about 5’4” and weighs about 169 pounds, according to The National Center for Health Statistics. Media and advertisements are affecting adolescents with the distorted “perfect” body image that they present to the public.

On average, teenagers spend more than seven and a half hours consuming media per day, reported the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted a study in 2010 of eight to 18-year-olds. Teenage girls are constantly being exposed to the idea of the “ideal” body that they are “supposed” to have. There have been many experimental studies that have correlated publicity of this image to the “thin ideal in mass media to body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal, and disordered eating among women,” according to The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

According to the NEDA, half of teenage girls are unhealthy with weight watching, and use weight control behaviors, including skipping meals, fasting, vomiting and taking laxatives. In addition, 20 million women in the United States experience a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their life. An eating disorder is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that affects a person’s emotional and physical health. The most common eating disorders that are linked to “perfect” body image from the media are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes people to restrict food and exercise uncontrollably so that they can lose weight. Anorexics often have a distorted body image and have an intense fear of gaining weight. Most often, anorexics believe that they are overweight when they are actually extremely underweight. The NEDA found that the mortality rate for anorexia nervosa is 4.0%.

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes a person to consume large amounts of food at one time, or binge, and then purge by forcing themselves to vomit. Normally, when people have this illness they feel a loss of control and have regular episodes of overreacting. Over-exercising is also common, similarly to anorexia. The mortality rate for bulimia nervosa is 3.9%, according to the NEDA. “The incidence of bulimia in 10-39 year old women tripled between 1988 and 1993 (Hoek& van Hoeken, 2003),” the NEDA said.

NEDA held a nationwide survey of one thousand adults in the United States. They found that 70% of the adults believed that encouraging the media to use more average sized people in advertisements would prevent or reduce the amount of eating disorder cases found.

The message the media is sending to teenage girls is inaccurate, misleading and erroneous. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and women should not be held to the super-model standard that the media portrays. The pressure to have a “perfect” body is becoming more and more prevalent because of the belief that all women are supposed to be 5’10”, 120 pounds and stunning. This expectation is what is distorted, not what the average American woman sees in the mirror.

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