Thomas King

Mrs. Eaker
English 1102
6 May 2014
Round Table Essay
The Medias effect on body image is one of the biggest questions in today’s society and
the question needs to be answered. Advertisements about the figure of women on magazines like
People Magazine and commercials about body image are sparking much debate. Although many
people have a say in this topic, the three biggest viewpoints come from people in the medical
field, women, and advertisers or magazine publishers. Many people wonder what the effects
from the media are on body image including unhealthy behaviors like eating disorders and
depression. These three viewpoints will give a great idea on what and if those presumptions are
true. With today’s society causing everyone to focus on body image, we ask ourselves the
question: Is the cause of this from the individual itself or the media?
The first viewpoint, held by people in the medical field, is that the media has very
negative health and psychological effects on women. The people in the medical field are the ones
who see the health related facts and arguments for the media’s effect on body image. Doctors are
saying that the unrealistic images in the media of skinny girls are causing women to dislike their
bodies and eventually lead to unhealthy eating behaviors, as well as depression because women
feel hurt that they cannot achieve the “ideal” body image that the media is portraying. This
viewpoint is held because more and more negative effects to people’s mental and physical health
are occurring. This is happening because everyone in today’s society is exposed to the media,
which is now making the standards for women so high. With the high standards the probability
that unhealthy behaviors will occur is much more likely.
The media can distort people’s vision very easily, and this is stated in Gemma Lopez
academic journal when she says, “Television, magazines, films, billboards, and the like
frequently offer a distorted vision of the world (Bercedo Sanz et al., 2005; Shrum, 2009), and it
may be difficult for children and adolescents to distinguish whether what they see is real or not,
so that they are more vulnerable to the messages transmitted (American Academy of Pediatrics,
2001)”. With people being so easily influenced by what the media says is right or wrong they can
become very depressed when they see that the media says their body image is overweight or
doesn’t fit in. This is very crucial to the issue at hand because young women are the main group
effected by the struggle with body image, and they are seeing this very distorted view which they
are believing causing them to begin their struggle with body image. With the media influencing
people this much it is very easy to develop an eating disorder. People in the medical field are
very upset with the media because of this. National eating disorders has been quoted saying
“8,000,000 or more people in the United States have an eating disorder.”(Washington.edu 1).
Over 8 million people in the United States have eating disorders and the medical field is
convinced that the media has a large role in this terrible statistic.

The second viewpoint, held by young women, is that the media is unfairly putting very
skinny models in magazines, television, etc., which is causing them stress and the feeling that
they are not good enough. Young Women are the main group effected by the topic of the
portrayal of the unfair body image. Since the media has made such a high standard women feel
worse about themselves. This viewpoint is held because now girls are being called fat and
overweight when they really aren’t. For women, skinny is no longer average weight, skinny is
unhealthily thin to the point where you are barely eating to keep such a small figure. With
women being labeled overweight now when they you shouldn’t be, this can lead to depression
and eating disorders. This can originate for the young women when they are in school because
all the boys who are being told what skinny is are now labeling these girls fat. Once everyone
around them is labeling them fat is only a matter of time before they start developing unhealthy
behaviors to try and change their figure. For many women, the media has made them so
concerned over body image that it takes over their life.
The national institute on the media and family conducted a study of women and they
found that at 13 years old 53% of girls were not happy with their bodies and by 17 78% were
unhappy. (Washington.edu). Women are very sensitive and with the media creating a very
distorted unfair ideal body image women are becoming more and more upset with their bodies.
Also, a study was taken by Pediatrics and Child Health and it found that “A meta-analysis of 25
studies involving female subjects, examined the effect of exposure to media images of the
slender body ideal. Body image was significantly more negative after viewing thin media images
than after viewing images of either average size models, plus size models or inanimate
objects.”(PMC 12). Women are becoming more and more upset with their bodies after viewing
images in the media and feel that enough is enough regarding the media and its “ideal” body
image.
The third viewpoint, held by advertisers and magazine publishers, is that the portrayal of
body image motivates women to exercise and to lead an overall healthy lifestyle. The people in
this group are people from the media itself like magazine publishers who put out the “ideal”
body image. They believe that when women are exposed to very skinny models it will motivate
them to be active and eat well. With the higher standard it causes people to get off their couch
and go do something to try and look better. This leads to overall better health in society as well
as it lowers obesity rates. The main reason that the media has begun to put out this ideal body
image is because it brings in tremendous amounts of money. Millions of girls are buying
magazines talking about body image, buying movies just to see their woman crush, and are
online all day researching their dream body. This approach is bringing advertisers and magazine
publishers millions of dollars. With their approach that their portrayal of body image is leading
to overall better health they feel no reason to not market it everywhere because it is bringing in
millions of dollars.
Unlike the previous two viewpoints that argue the negatives of the media’s influence on
body image this viewpoint is more positive. People in the media like advertisers and publisher
feel that they are using their influence to help fight obesity, this is explained by the Federal
Communications commission when it says “While the direct relationship between food
marketing and childhood obesity has yet to be established, the federal government can take
several steps to help improve the media environment for our children and promote healthier
lifestyles.”(FCC.Gov). They feel as though they can stop unhealthy behaviors by showing
healthier foods and more ideal body images to help influence people to stop eating so bad and to
get out and be active. While the last two viewpoints feel that this is causing people to have
unhealthy behaviors, this viewpoint feels it is doing the opposite. M.D. and head of the writing
board for American heart association Jennifer S. Li says that “About 95 percent of 12- to 17-
year-old children have Internet access at home and/or in school”. (Li). Advertisers as well as
magazine publishers know they have a huge influence on people and they feel that their views of
body image are helping fight obesity and making America a healthier place to live.
The Media’s effect on body image is one of biggest debates in today’s society with so
many people weighing in on the subject. The debate is getting even more heated as the media is
having an even larger role in society. The three viewpoints in this “round table” have sparked
many new opinions for people around the world. While women and people in the medical field
feel that the media has a very negative effect on body image and health, advertisers and
magazine publishers feel that the images put out in the media have a very positive effect on the
health of society. With much more research to be done from both sides this topic is far from
settled.












Works Cited
Li, Jennifer S., M.D. "Social Media May Help Fight Childhood Obesity." Welcome to the
AHA/ASA Newsroom. American Heart Association, Jan.-Feb. 2012. Web. 03 Apr.
2014.
Lopez-Guimera, Gemma, et al. "Influence Of Mass Media On Body Image And Eating
Disordered Attitudes And Behaviors In Females: A Review Of Effects And
Processes." Media Psychology 13.4 (2010): 387-416. Academic Search Complete.
Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
National Eating Disorders. "Teen Health and the Media." Teen Health and the Media.
N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.
<http://depts.washington.edu/thmedia/view.cgi?section=bodyimage&page=fastfac
ts>.
Kaiser Family Foundation. "Media and Childhood Obesity." Home. Federal
Communications Commission, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.
<http://reboot.fcc.gov/parents/media-and-childhood-obesity>.
Morris, Anne M., and Debra K. Katzman. "TYPES OF MEDIA EXPOSURE." National
Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 Oct.
0005. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.
<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2792687/>.