Media and it’s effect on self image

images-3As a self-confessed magazine junkie I spend approximately $20 a week on various ‘celebrity/gossip’ magazines (such as ‘Who’, ‘Famous’, ‘NW’, ‘OK!’ etc). The addiction began while in hospital after the premature birth of my second child, and served to wile away the long hours of being bound to the hospital away from family and friends. In this aspect the magazines provided light-hearted entertainment (amongst a dreary and at times depressing surrounding) as well as a sense of keeping in touch with the outside world (albeit one far removed from the reality we all know). Each edition kept me informed on the latest celebrity hook-ups and break-ups, latest movie releases and fashion trends, and the expected arrival of Kate and William’s little Prince.

6 months later; now settled back home with my baby, my magazine fetish continued; however now I was realising another common trend amongst each week’s issues: weight loss. In Hollywood it seemed as a celebrity you had to walk a fine line when weight was concerned; if considered “too skinny” one was labelled anorexic, and anything above a size 6-8 (US Size 2-4) was considered overweight. Along with headings and captions slandering realistic sizes and glorifying the trimmed, tanned and toned; were pages of tips on weight loss and recipes or menu plans for weight loss foods. NOT healthy foods for healthy eating but foods for the primary goal of weight loss. (So we can all be size 6’s of course – and don’t get me started on the pages demeaning make-up free women for; shock-horror! – leaving the house with no make up on). The images of flat-stomached celebrities frolicking on the beach began to eat away at my self esteem; and now I began to notice my cellulite covered thighs and pot-belly…and began to hate them.

My weight has fluctuated over the years; at my heaviest a size 14-16 and at my smallest size 6-8, and currently after the birth of my second child was a size 10-12. And it honestly must be said that I felt a lot more confident within myself when I was a smaller size; however it was also not healthy. When I was size 6-8 I weighed around 50kg, which for my height is considered underweight; and while I felt more confident at being able to wear anything and not have bulges and bumps it came at a cost. Because I was thin and was able to eat whatever I liked without weight gain my diet consisted of mostly take away and processed foods. Physically I felt terrible; I was tired all of the time and often left heavy and lazy, despite my small frame. I experienced sinking sensations in my chest and dizzy spells almost weekly. Surprisingly since gaining weight (from inactivity; ie: having hour long cuddles on the lounge with a very spoilt newborn) I have not experienced the heart problems or dizziness and have had a noticeable increase in energy. This is likely due to the fact that I made a conscience decision to eat more healthily; cutting down on take-away foods and increasing protein and vegetables into my diet. (Which should be noted was taken from the same magazines that made me feel so bad about myself).

All this inner-turmoil made me wonder; if this is how I, a 31 year old woman in a stable and loving relationship is made to feel about herself, how must teenagers (for example) feel when they read magazines reinforcing the ideal body as a slim and toned one? Even with the popularity of curvaceous figures such as Kim Kardashian; as she too has been pressured into slimming down and getting back her “post-baby body”. Perhaps rather than focusing on figures and how our bodies look in a bikini; we should be focusing on how our bodies feel and how to keep them healthy. Anything that comes from that can only be a positive. And so in my bid for a healthy self-esteem I am tossing the magazines and opening up a newspaper!


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