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Media plays an important role in influencing people's opinions and choices. Especially in terms of body images, the media has created certain ideal body images, which are continuously being flashed via various mass media. The magazines, newspapers, television, radio as well as the Internet are full of images of slim and slender models, which are often perceived as the most-sought-after or desirable body images. Most of the celebrities seem to be flaunting their chiseled bodies and flat stomachs and although some of them might be actually the result of strenuous workouts and healthy diets - there are huge number of models that are plain anorexic.

Why aren't there enough voluptuous models on the ramp? Why does a television advertisement for some toothpaste commercial have to be a size zero model? Why is the petite size the most sought-after size? Why do programs about celebrity news criticize a particular celebrity when he/she gains a few extra pounds? Ever wondered about the messages that the media is sending out with these trends? Does an average teenager know what body mass index is? Does she/he know that there is a body type that exists between being skinny and being overweight?

Although there are increasing numbers of people who are propagating the benefits of a healthy body and warning people about the ill-effects of unhealthy body weights, a large number of media messages just can't seem to shift the focus from slim and slender bodies to healthier body images. Although there might be people who would want to cite the references of plus-size models, when was the last time you saw a huge number of voluptuous models walking for the biggies? Or when was the last time you saw a beauty pageant contestant who didn't have a slender figure?

Media's influence has resulted in creation of ideal body images, which are almost impossible to achieve for each and everyone. Failed attempts at reducing weight and getting skinnier tend to result in unhealthy eating disorders, which culminate in severe medical condition and finally affect the overall health of the person. There are thousands of teenage girls who have fallen prey to these trends and have gone through traumatic experiences, which led to a physical as well as a psychological imbalance.

Eating Disorders

Although toned bodies and a petite frame seem to be the most sought-after assets for millions of young girls out there, not everyone is ready to adopt the healthy road to fitness. A large number of the victims of eating disorders are young girls and women who are constantly running after a mirage of petite sizes rather than aiming for health and fitness. Here are some of the eating disorders that are commonly observed:
  • Anorexia: Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder, which is characterized by distorted perceptions of the body image and persistent fear of weight gain, which results in self-starvation and an extreme weight loss. A large number of teenage girls fall prey to the portrayal of ideal body images on the media and in an attempt to attain this body image, they reduce their food intake by going on dangerous crash diets, which result in conditions like anorexia.
  • Bulimia: Bulimia nervosa which is commonly referred to as bulimia, is a psychological condition and an eating disorder which is marked by binge eating, followed by guilt and intentional purging to compensate for the binge eating. Purging can be means of vomiting, fasting, use of laxatives, enemas or even diuretics. Women between ages 16 - 40 constitute for the majority of people suffering from this eating disorder.
  • Compulsive Overeating: Compulsive overeating or food addiction is an eating disorder, which is marked by frequent episodes of binge eating, where a person cannot exercise control over the intake of food. However, in this disorder the person does not try to purge the food, but instead tends to keep on eating even when he / she is not hungry. Compulsive overeating usually leads to obesity since the person uses food for comfort.
Effects of Media on Body Image Perception

In addition to these eating disorders, there are other disorders like the body dysmorphic disorder, which is about distorted perceptions about one's body image. The media creates tremendous hype about the beautiful celebrities who have bodies, which are touted as the most desirable looks or body images. There are people who are ready to go under the knife to look good. People are resorting to cosmetic surgeries to have Jennifer Aniston's nose or Angelina Jolie's lips without giving it a second thought! The media is giving out the wrong messages no doubt, but then it is also the passive blind-followers of media trends that are at fault. Communication schools have spotted this issue and are studying the various aspects of media effects on body image perception. A large number of research projects are focused on studying the effects of media on adolescents' body image distortions. A large number of studies in this area have cited a relationship between fashion magazine reading and eating disorders and even television viewing and body dissatisfaction, which is a clear indicator of the fact that media does play an influential role and is one of the major causes for a large number of people who are suffering from eating disorders. Parental mediation and media literacy seem to be some of the possible solutions, which have been suggested to tackle this problem.

On a personal level, what you can do is to try to redefine your outlook towards perceiving ideal body images and knowing what works the best for your body type. At the same time let us hope that the media awakens to the fact that role models and celebrities are people that we want to relate to and look up to. The society is ready to accept full-figured models that are healthy rather than being skinny and famished. There are a large number of plus-size models, struggling to make their mark in the fashion industry but have limited opportunities. There are several teenagers who are recovering from their bulimic and anorexic lifestyles and are ready to embrace a healthy lifestyle. A majority of the audiences are gradually accepting the healthy body image portrayal, but is the media ready to shift the focus from size zero?