Is The Media Messing With Your Body Image? 3 Questions To Ask Yourself NOW

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body image and the media
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How to make the right choices for your own happiness.

When I first got back to Vancouver, BC, where I grew up, I was intrigued by Canadian television. I hadn’t owned a tv in years, but I was spending time with my mom before she passed.

My mom watched a lot of movies on the television, and I now have fond memories of drinking wine and watching those movies with her that last year of her life. But what fascinated me while I sat in front of that tv with her were the Canadian government ads about eating well and other safety advice. In fact, they have a whole YouTube channel called Healthy Canadians where you can see them.

Here's one fun example:

 

I kind of loved it!


Most of the media I consumed while growing up came from Cosmo and Vogue and Shape magazines, portraying images of women’s bodies that I couldn’t possibly have, nor presume to create. Though that didn’t always stop me from trying — at least for a short time! Where was this type of Canadian media when I was growing up and developing my self-esteem?

The bigger question that remains, for me, is this: Why do we think we need to be a carbon copy of the type of beauty that someone (who we don't even know!) created?

Another Canadian Health Publication has taken on body image and the Media, and it says:

In Canada today, between 80 and 90 per cent of women and girls are unhappy with the way they look. This can lead to serious health problems such as:

  • Unhealthy dieting: Girls are starting to diet younger than ever before, sometimes starting as early as 5 or 6 years old.

  • Taking drugs to lose weight: Some women try to lose weight by smoking, or by taking diet pills and other kinds of drugs to suppress their appetite.

  • Depression and other mental illness: Some women can develop depression and other kinds of mental illness when they do not measure up to the media's image of beauty.

  • Disordered eating: One out of 10 girls and women develops disordered eating behaviors such as anorexia, or bulimia. These diseases can have serious long-term health consequences on women's health, leading, in some cases to death.

  • Unnecessary surgery: Any surgery brings about risk. More and more healthy women with normal body shapes are getting cosmetic surgery. This includes breast implants, collagen injections and liposuction (surgical removal of local fat deposits especially for cosmetic purposes by applying suction through a small tube inserted into the body or to remove body fat) to name a few.

Canadians aren’t the only ones concerned about the media’s role in the health of women. The U. S. is too.

An article in pubmed explains the role of social media in health education in Saudia Arabia. Not sure why they didn't study the USA, but the point of the study stands — media of all types does have an influence on us.

What’s most interesting to me about body image and the media is that what constitutes "the media" is changing. In fact, it's more and more made by US  — not the United States, but YOU and ME.


We are the ones posting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We are the ones posting selfies, portraits, information, and words. Words that can offer encouragement, or words that can tear down. Words that are hopeful, or words that are fearful.

Interesting, eh?

And then I came across this blogger who had a similar realization as she was caring for her sick mother. What we say matters. Perspective changes things. These are her thoughts:

“It occurred to me that if I could take something as scary and often hopeless as the journey through stage IV ovarian cancer and turn it into a story of humor, love, hope, and strength, why couldn’t that be applied to everything?

Specifically, I saw a need for a change in the narrative of health — which at that point, was mostly a story filled with fad diets, weight loss 'secrets', ab exercises, and bikini body transformations. To me, this was not a narrative that would actually motivate or empower anyone to want to get healthy, and even if they did, they were just being set up to feel like they were failing.”

I say ME TOO. That’s my desire; an authentic conversation about health and well-being.

We need to talk more about loving the bodies that we are in. Taking care of the bodies that we are in. Listening to the messages from the bodies that we are in.

Because the body always speaks. It always gives us the information that we need. The media, for the most part, does not. The media amplifies the noise that wants to tell us what we “should” want, what we “should” look like, what we “should” feel like.

But there are no “shoulds”. There is only you. You residing in your body. Thinking your thoughts, feeling your feelings, sensing and knowing what it is that you know.

Your answers are right there telling you exactly what you need for your health. Now it’s just about honing in your listening.

 

So what are 3 ways to know which media is okay for you to listen to? Try asking yourself these questions to determine if the media YOU love is helping or hurting your body image and overall health:

1. Does it build you up and allow you to see all possibilities for yourself? 

The feminine loves to be seen in her individuality. We are all different. Does the piece you are reading, listening to, or watching celebrate our differences?

2. Does it help you get clear about your own desires?

Does the information give you a push-off place for you to have some clarity about what you want, or what you don’t want?

Sometimes the contrast serves us. It’s in the dark places that we see our own light.

3. Does it make you feel good?

This one is pretty simple. You know if you feel good when you are reading something or looking at something. And you know when it stirs up fear or dissatisfaction in some way.

Why not avoid it? What’s the worst that can happen? You might feel happier and therefore healthier. Simplistic? Maybe. Truth? Absolutely.

 

With all of the media bombarding us everyday, today more than ever we have an opportunity to tune into what it is that we want to hear.

I say take on that privilege and responsibility. You are what you eat, and what you listen to and what you pay attention to. Choose good stuff!

 

Michele Brookhaus RSHom(NA), CCH is a homeopathic practitioner inviting you to love living in your body. Reach her at BeyondWell.com or YonisBliss.com.

This article was originally published at Beyond Well. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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