Negative body image of women is a very hot topic these days! The female body image and what a person should or could look like in marketing and advertising in particular is a controversial issue. It is noticeable that the body size of women as portrayed in mass media has been steadily getting smaller(1). Marketers will often do anything that they can to sell a product and make a profit, and almost anything can be sold if it appeals to our sense of beauty or is considered attractive.
There are certainly some very direct messages associated with body weight in the media; celebrities, fashion models and show hosts are often seen as role models, especially by teenagers. They appear to demonstrate what it is to be successful and popular. Their body weight, appearance and beauty are often associated with their popularity and wealth. This is particularly obvious in what is referred to as thin-ideal media, a concept which has been looked at with interest by researchers in the field of social psychology(2). The term “thin-ideal media” refers to media images, shows and films that contain very thin female leads. This is something that comes up a lot in fashion magazines, clothing catalogs and pop culture television shows. Thin-ideal media highlights the idea that thinness is a good and desirable thing to be, even if it is to a level that is potentially damaging to a persons health.
Beauty sells, and this is somewhat of a problem when the media produce unattainable images for women. Eating disorders are often, though not always and not directly, related to negative body image.
While a negative body image may incite a woman to diet in order to lose weight it is not actually negative body image that causes an eating disorder; the sufferer has to be biologically predisposed to developing one. If negative body image alone caused anorexia then every person on the planet would develop anorexia as I am sure we have all at some point felt self-conscious about the way that we look. The fact that not everyone has an eating disorder means that there is something more to it than body image issues alone; that something else is most probably genetic factors.