Image Conscious (part 2)

As I was working on part 2 of this series, a headline caught my eye:

“‘Biggest Loser’ finale: Is the winner too thin?”

According to the article, “this season’s winner, Rachel, 23, went from 260 pounds to 105 pounds, losing 60 percent of her body weight.” (Ending up at an underweight BMI of 18.)
Full story here: Winner too thin?

While this article questioned whether her weight-loss on the popular t.v. show had gone too far, in a post-win interview on the Today show her appearance was praised by the hosts who exclaimed, “Congratulations. you look amazing!” and “You look fabulous!”

Watch: Biggest Loser Winner on Today Show

While medical experts would argue that this young woman has potentially traded one set of health concerns for another by allowing her weight to drop to an unhealthy low, she simultaneously received praise for her new look.  So, which voices should she listen to?

More importantly, which voices do YOU listen to?

The statistics are sobering.  Did you know…?

  • 24% of women would sacrifice 3 years of their life to be thin.
  • 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance and more than 90% of 15-17 year old girls want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance. 
  • More than 30 percent of women surveyed agreed they would consider cosmetic surgery in the future.
  • Nearly 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2007.  The overall number of cosmetic procedures has increased 457 percent since 1997. Women had 91 percent of cosmetic procedures.
  • The average American woman is 5’4″ tall and weighs 140 pounds, while the average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds.  Most American models are thinner than 98% of American women. The average size of the idealized woman (as portrayed by models), has stabilized at 13-19% below healthy weight.
  • More than 50% of 10 year old girls wish they were thinner.
  • More than half of teenage girls are, or think they should be, on diets.  They want to lose some or all of the 40 pounds that females naturally gain between the ages of 8 and 14.  A disturbed body image is a significant component of eating disorders and plays an important role in the development and continuation of eating disorders
  • Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die.  With treatment, that number falls to 2-3%.

“Ideals” are ever-changing, but our focus on appearance is nothing new. 

Whether it was squeezing into the internal organ-crushing corsets of the 19th century,

Corset          woman in corset           corset xray

or trying to achieve the boyish, flat-chested flapper look of the 1920’s,


we have a long history of measuring ourselves against a societal view of “beauty” – often at great costs.

We live in a world where physical “perfection” is emphasized…

Where we are subtly coerced into believing that we are not good enough.

We are bombarded by images and information

all competing for our attention

and telling us the age-old lie that we can be happy

         if ONLY…

(To be continued…)

Here we go… Image Conscious (part 1)

Not really sure any of this year’s Super Bowl commercials are going to stick with me.  Actually, the image that most caught my attention was some guy just behind the goal post waving a Canadian flag.  (We saw that guy a LOT during the first half…just sayin’.) I have no idea how much he paid for those seats, but advertisers might want to think about that strategy for next year, because I kind of want to go to Canada now.

Back to the commercials.  Oh, sure there was that ridiculously cute puppy/horse one (Stahp it, Budweiser; just STAHP! ) and a few that made me smile (“The 80’s called…” Well-played, RadioShack).  But none, in my opinion, compare with what is arguably the greatest SB ad of all time:  Volkswagen and a mini Darth Vader.  You can enjoy that creative gem again here:

So, while I was mostly underwhelmed by how “meh” most of the zillion dollar ads were, I was pleasantly surprised that the majority were family-friendly.  (Except Butterfinger.  :/  Why? Just… why?)  And there was a noticeable lack of bikini-clad supermodels; for that, I’m grateful. Partly because I didn’t have to worry about how those images might affect men, but also because I didn’t have to worry about how they would affect women. Yes, women.

You see, those images have more impact than we might realize.

I’ve been doing some research as I prepare to speak at a women’s conference next month on the topic of “body image.”  Why that topic?  Well, when attendees were surveyed at previous conferences, that was one of the issues mentioned most often.  It’s a problem.  A big one.  And media plays a role:

  • 80% of women say that the images of women on television and in movies, fashion magazines, and advertising make them feel insecure.
  • Media exposure has been found to constrain young women’s conceptions of femininity by putting appearance and physical attractiveness at the center of women’s values.

You might think this is only a “young women’s issue.” You’d be wrong.  In fact, in a 2011 survey, women in their early 60’s and in their late teens were surveyed about body image.  The results might surprise you. The responses to questions such as “Do you like your appearance?” and “Have you ever considered plastic surgery?” were almost identical between the two groups.  You can see the survey results here: Body Image Statistics: How Women Feel About Their Looks

That’s what I’m working on right now, so that’s where I’ll start.  It’s an issue we all deal with in one way or another so I hope you’ll stick with me.

Because it’s really not a physical issue.  Nope.

(To be continued…)

Oh, and if you live in the Phoenix area and are interested in attending a really great women’s conference, you can get more information and register here:
I’ll be there.  🙂