HOW MEDIA IMPACTS BODY IMAGE AND EATING DISORDER RECOVERY
As an eating disorder therapist in Plano, TX, a huge part of my work is helping clients improve body image in therapy. I do this, in part, by helping them change their media intake. Though this is difficult, I help clients understand why this is helpful, and how they can succeed.
Think about the bodies you see in the media, then think about the bodies you see around you in real life. Your friends’ bodies. Your family members’ bodies. People you see living life- at the mall, at restaurants, at the beach or Disneyland. Think about YOUR OWN BODY in comparison to media images. Do they match? When we only see one type of body, it teaches us that only one type of body is acceptable. There’s a good chance we don't actually have that body type, because very few people do, especially now that most images we see are photoshopped as well.
POOR BODY IMAGE IS THE NORM
Research indicates that about 80% of women are unhappy with their looks, and about 34% of men dislike their bodies. Over half of Americans aren’t happy with their weight. 70% of women who fall into the “normal” weight category want to be thinner. Most disturbing to me are statistics that 80% of 10-year-old American girls are afraid of being fat, 53% of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies, and this jumps to 78% by the time they reach age 17. This reflects what I hear and see in my friends and family, and my kids’ friends. NOT just in my eating disorder therapy office.
WHY BODY IMAGE MATTERS IN EATING DISORDER RECOVERY
Why does it matter what we think about our bodies? Poor body image can show up in all kinds of ways, including what we call internalized weight stigma, or feeling bad about ourselves when our bodies don't weigh the amount we think they should.
Consequences of poor body image include negative moods, mood swings, anxiety and depression, and a higher risk of eating disorders. Eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental health disorders. Poor body image can also impact relationships. Some will avoid social gatherings due to feeling negatively about their body. Some will avoid dating. Poor body image can ruin sexual satisfaction. Emily Nagoski, one of my favorite writers, shares that body confidence is a key factor to a satisfying sex life.
So if some of us will get eating disorders, and most of us are unhappy with our bodies, it makes sense to me that we ALL need to work on improving our body image if we are to live happy and healthy lives.
How do we fix this? By normalizing bodies of the kind we see all around us in real life. How can we do that? We can start by changing our media intake.
CHANGING MEDIA INTAKE
Remember that the goal of media is to sell things, and media outlets don't always have your best interests in mind while they do it. The skill of questioning the messages you're getting from the media is called being media literate. These 5 key questions from NEDA are a great place to start.
Start adding body-positive voices to what you're already looking at. You don't have to change everything at once, and you don't have to give up TV/magazines/media entirely and become a hermit! Try finding one or two a week or month to add.
Here are 5 body-positive Instagram accounts to start with:
Unfortunately I don't know of any physical body-positive magazines being published right now, and body-positive TV shows are few and far between. However, I recommend avoiding fitness magazines and most of the fashion magazines due to their lack of diverse body images, and frequent messages of dieting and weight loss. I also recommend joining one of the many private groups on Facebook or other social media platforms that address body neutrality/positivity.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SEEING IMAGES WE CAN RELATE TO
When we see images of others who look like us, it helps us feel more comfortable doing certain activities. Many clients report to me that they do not engage in yoga classes, fitness classes, outdoor exercise, or swimming at the beach or pools because they don't see people like them doing these things. They don't feel these environments are friendly to anyone but thin folks. Maybe they've had truly traumatic experiences. But sometimes it's a matter of representation and the images they've internalized as ok or not ok. This is why seeing a wide array of bodies is important. Bodies that come in all different shapes and sizes, but also those of different skin colors, gender identities, and abilities.
In eating disorder counseling, therapists help you explore your personal body image history and how it influences your current behaviors. But no matter how body image plays into your specific eating disorder patterns, better body image will help.
Hopefully these tips gave you some ideas for improving body image by changing your media feed! If you’d like more help from an eating disorder counselor, let’s chat.
If you need help building up your body image, I’d love to help. I OFFER VIDEO COUNSELING FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE!! If you’re looking for counseling in Plano, Texas contact me here or at 469-850-2420 or email@example.com for a free 15-minute phone consultation. My name is Danesa, and we can see if we’re a good fit! I’m also happy to connect you to another great therapist in the area.
My specialties include anxiety, depression, eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating; overeating or compulsive eating, and body image issues. My counseling office is in Plano, Texas, and conveniently located near Frisco, Allen, and McKinney.