An Investigation of Women’s and Men’s Perceptions and Meanings Associated with Food Risks
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The World Health Organization reports the most recent data reflect that 2. Among that group, 3. Genetics plays a role in the determination of health, and sometimes, a low BMI is not unhealthy for an individual.
On the other side of the equation, athletes are a subgroup of the population whose body weight appropriateness is not best measured by BMI. Muscle weighs more than fat so the muscular athlete has a higher BMI than a nonathlete of the same weight and height. For most muscular athletes, their BMI places many of them in the overweight or obese category. These individuals are not overweight or obese, but have a high level of active muscle. Body composition is one measure used to assist health providers in determining an individual's health status, and clinical judgment should be used to interpret the value of BMI for each individual.
Body mass index values should be placed into proper perspective when working with different population subgroups and ethnicities. Many contestant winners fell below the World Health Organization's cutoff for underweight BMI 18,19 The ideal body image that the contestants and winners of the Miss America pageant project by their actual body size is one of extreme thinness.
The composite winner is 20 years 3 months old, with an average weight of lb; height of 5 ft 6. The last body measurements for bust, waist, and hips of the winners were reported in on this Web site.
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The height and weight measurements were provided until As a recovering anorexic, she chose eating disorders as her social platform and has become a well-received spokesperson for the National Eating Disorders Association. Her platform has been "Healthy Living, Healthy Body Image and Lifestyle" as the ideal goal for a productive, successful life.
The ideal body image perception of Americans starts to develop at an early age, perhaps when children begin playing with dolls. When one looks at a favorite American doll used in play by our children, what body image is projected? It was the one of first American dolls modeled after the teenage fashion model. Similar dolls are now made by other manufacturers. However, the body proportions of the Barbie Doll, including the elongated neck, the large breasts, and the small waist, are not representative of the average American woman's physique.
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Table 1 compares the average American woman's physical measurements, based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's CDC's National Center for Health Statistics from to and compiled in the National Health Statistics Report, 22,23 with the estimated physical measurements of the Barbie Doll 24 and the average body measurements bust, waist, and hips for the winners of the "Miss America pageant" from until The perceived ideal body image conveyed subconsciously to young girls playing with dolls is an area in need of further research.
Questions such as the following need more study. Would a young girl choose the slim, tall doll over a more robust doll? At what age and what determinants affect her choice of a doll? In addition, if the slim, tall doll is chosen more often, the reason or reasons why young girls select the slimmer doll need investigation.
The ideal body image perception developed by young girls from playing with ultrathin dolls with an unnatural body proportion and an unhealthy BMI may influence their self-esteem, as well as the formation of their own ideal body image as they mature.
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The ideal body image conveyed through the ultrathin dolls is not one that is achievable by most maturing young ladies. The discrepancy between perceived and realistic ideal body image may lead to body dissatisfaction, depression, and eventually eating disorders. Male dolls produced along the Barbie Doll line are similarly proportioned to appear tall and slim. Young boys might perceive this physical profile as being their ideal body image. On the other hand, the Batman doll or other more muscular action-figure dolls convey a different body image.
The more muscular male dolls, when compared with the average American male, also present a skewed body image picture. The muscular body image of the male dolls is the ideal body image that young males playing with the dolls would most likely normalize and probably desire to emulate. Similar to females, young males' perception of ideal body image formed from playing with muscular action figures might be unachievable when they reach maturity, also contributing to possible body dissatisfaction, dysmorphia, and depression. The Body and Mind program activity investigates how media and entertainment can influence perceptions of ideal body image and how these perceptions affect mental and physical health.
Students involved in this activity can compare measurements of popular dolls with the average measurements of adults in the United States and discuss how unrealistic proportions might affect their own perception of "normal" or ideal, as well as their own mental and physical health status. This educational activity can assist our young people in evaluating the various body images and body sizes that they are exposed to in a realistic manner.
Dolls are also made in the body image of star athletes, politicians, movie actresses, and pop singers. The impact of these dolls and action-figure play toys on the healthy development of ideal body image among our youth needs further study.
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Another strong influence on developing ideal body image perceptions comes from the modeling industry. Ultrathinness has been the ideal body image projected by the modeling industry for many years. The "lean" body type is the predominant body image sought in the hiring of models to market clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, and other products because of the seemingly ideal thin body image conveyed in the print media and supported by popular demand.
An Investigation of Women's and Men's Perceptions and Meanings Associated with Food Risks
In , Madrid's Fashion Week banned models considered dangerously thin from catwalk shows. Reston was 5 ft 8 in tall and weighed only 88 lb at the time of her death. Models auditioning for Madrid Fashion Week are now examined by doctors, and those with a BMI that is too low are not permitted on the runway. Guidelines now state that fashion models in Madrid, Spain, as well as in Milan, Italy, need to have a BMI of 18 or higher to work as a model.
Italy also has banned newspaper and television stations showing women who are under size 4 to 6 in an effort to provide the public with realistic images of women. The Health Minister of Germany has issued guidelines for fashion model sizes to be at least a size 2 and the models to be older than 16 years to walk on runways. In January , the Council of Fashion Designers of America released a list of recommendations as part of a new health initiative to prevent anorexia, bulimia, and smoking. The guidelines, which are not binding for the industry, include keeping models under 16 off the runway, educating those in the industry about eating disorders, and prohibiting smoking and alcohol use by models during fashion shows.
Americans concerned with inappropriate ideal body image being projected by the modeling industry need to voice their concern for the model sizes and the unattainable image of perfection that is being marketed to our youth and women of all ages. American women are constantly bombarded by images of the "ideal American woman," with only a small percentage of the women physically able to possibly attain this projected ideal.
The American female is also bombarded with media advertisements from the food, fashion, and cosmetic industry.
Food ads occur nearly 80 times more often in women's magazines than in men's magazines. Diet food ads appear 63 times more frequently in women's magazines, and women's magazines include 12 times more articles and ads focusing on weight, dieting, and body size than do magazines targeted to the male audience. The media consistently portrays the extremely thin woman as the ideal body type.
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Changes in anthropometric measurements, including BMI, of the "idealized" female body has declined significantly over time, which is opposite the increasing body size of American women. The role of mass media related to body dissatisfaction begins with young girls reading fashion magazines at the elementary school-age group. Pictures in magazines and articles on weight control along with dieting techniques directly impact the body shape beliefs of young girls.
The frequency of reading fashion magazines was positively associated with the prevalence of dieting to lose weight, going on a diet because of the magazine article, increasing exercise to lose weight or improve body shape, and deciding to exercise because of the magazine article. Utter et al 35 evaluating data from Project EAT-I Eating Among Teens , a school-based survey of nutrition and weight concerns among adolescents, sampled middle and high school students from to The survey was designed to investigate the factors influencing eating habits of adolescents, to determine if youth were meeting national dietary recommendations, and to explore dieting and physical activity patterns among youth.
Results from this survey reported strong associations for weight-control behaviors and binge eating with increased frequency of reading magazine articles about dieting and weight loss. Male readers were more likely to be nonwhite, in the lower socioeconomic status groups, and overweight.
They found that female adolescents continued to show increased unhealthy weight-control behaviors such as fasting, skipping meals, and smoking more cigarettes that were twice as high for magazine readers when compared with nonreaders. Extreme weight-control behaviors such as laxative use or vomiting occurred 3 times greater in magazine readers than nonreaders. Male adolescents had no significant associations. Frequent exposure to magazine articles about dieting was also associated with increased levels of psychosocial distress among the adolescents. Cohen 37 reviews the effect of media exposure on body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, and the drive for thinness.
She discusses the social comparison theory and the cultivation theory to explain the relationship between media and thin internalization, thus increasing body dissatisfaction. Upward comparisons with media depicted models and celebrities increased feelings of depression and anger and decreased feelings of self-worth in the reader as explained by the social comparison theory.
The cultivation theory reports that individuals spending greater time watching media-created programming television, videos, etc identify more with the media-depicted world than with the real world. Media exposure thus influences attitudes and behaviors concerning body image, the drive for thinness, and disordered eating. Neumark-Sztainer 38 and Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 39 have highlighted the need to develop programs addressing the prevention of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents simultaneously because many of the risk factors are shared between these weight-related disorders.
Body image dissatisfaction has become more prevalent among the preadolescent population. Skemp-Arlt et al 40 report that A greater percentage of the girls Ahern et al 42 and Tucci and Peters 43 report that young women making associations between underweight models and positive attributes report elevated eating disorder symptoms. Body dissatisfaction is enhanced when the media promotes unrealistic body images through their marketing efforts.
The chasm between media-defined ideal body image and realistic body size continues to widen. Individuals should be conscious of their exposure time and reaction to the media's influence toward their development of their ideal body image. Occasionally, in a publication's Letters to the Editor section, one sees objection to the body size of the models used in that publication.
The perception of ideal body size by the average reader is affected when they compare their own body size with that of the featured models. The American print media has a responsibility to select models that reflect healthy body weight to serve as role models for the American public. Other countries have published their own standards for body size in their modeling size guidelines since the deaths of internationally recognized elite models at the peak of their career.
Continued support for this movement is encouraged and hopefully will spread to more countries that are also dealing with body image concerns. America the Beautiful , a recent film documentary by filmmaker Darryl Roberts, advocates that girls and women reject the media-driven worship of the impossible-to-achieve "perfect" body. The movie sheds light on the cause and effect of body images and beauty obsession and the tragic outcome of increased incidence of eating disorders among young and older women in the United States.
Misperceptions of the perfect body size and thus the ideal body image, the role of airbrushing, digital image enhancement, breast augmentation, plastic surgery, liposuction, and so on, in the fashion industry are revealed in this documentary. Suggestions are made that "American women stop fixing the body that was never broken.
Raising the public awareness of the media's influence on the perception of ideal body image is critical in addressing changes needed in the marketplace. Internet exposure is another factor influencing the development of a healthy ideal body image. The Internet has enabled all users of the Internet access to a seemingly unlimited supply of information. Unfortunately, not all of the Internet sources are reliable or authentic. Some of the information is sound, accurate, and verifiable, and other information is biased and inaccurate.
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Monitored and unmonitored chat rooms exist for any concern from eating disorders to the most recent weight-loss fad. Drugs may also be ordered through the Internet. Parents and educators should discuss and monitor Internet use by young children and teens.
Several studies have been conducted regarding college students' degree of body satisfaction with exposure to a product advertisement with or without a model of the same sex as the viewer of the advertisement. Internalization of the ideal body shape, as presented in the media, is accepted as a causal factor in the development of eating disorders. Male models in the print media are usually muscular, and female models are usually thin to extremely thin. When shown 2 advertisements for products, one with an ideal-body-size model and the product, and the other with the product alone, the level of body satisfaction by the viewers decreased when viewing the ad containing an ideal-body-size model and the product.
When the product was viewed alone, the body satisfaction of the viewers did not change. This held true for male and female photo-labeled model images.