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Primary Therapist Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD, CGP discusses the subtle changes occurring within the fashion industry, media and society and how these changes may impact women’s overall body image. For the original publication, please visit here

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Ashley Graham,Tess Holliday, Crystal Renn. Do these names ring a bell? They should! They’re some of the top plus-size models in today’s fashion landscape, and the proliferation of their images in mainstream media is helping to promote body diversity and is poised to present a solid challenge to our culturally thin ideal. Do these plus-size models represent every woman? Of course not. We’re yet to see, with any regularity, models who run the gamut with respect to race, ethnicity, disability, etc. But these celebrated faces of plus-size fashion are certainly a start.

Daily Life with Media’s Pressure

What happens when everyday women, with everyday bodies, are bombarded by billboards, television commercials, online images, and magazine ads featuring models with body shapes/sizes that don’t represent them, with bodies that naturally occur in only a small percentage of the population?

Research has typically shown that exposure to thin models can elevate body dissatisfaction among girls and women. In one study, for example, women who already experienced some degree of body dissatisfaction reported higher dissatisfaction after viewing advertisements with thin, versus “average-size,” models. Another study found similar results for exposure to thin models in music videos. Here, adolescent girls who watched music videos featuring “ultra-thin” models demonstrated significantly elevated scores on a measure of body dissatisfaction.

Exposure to traditionally thin (and often retouched/Photoshopped) models may cause women to believe that their own bodies are unacceptable – or that certain body features are flawed. Problem areas? Cellulite? Bad! But what if we were regularly exposed to models with bodies that mimicked our own, bodies with paunches and bulges, stretch marks and dimples? More, what if these models actually presented, “flaws” and all, as at peace with their appearance?

Thanks to Plus-Size Models like Ashley Graham!

Model Ashley Graham, in her recent TED Talk: “Plus Size? More Like My Size” tackles full-body acceptance head on. She begins her talk by addressing her image in a full-length mirror:

You are bold, you are brilliant and you are beautiful. There is no other woman like you. You are capable. Back fat? I see you popping over my bra today, but that’s alright. I’m going to choose to love you. And thick thighs? You are just so sexy you can’t stop rubbing each other. That’s alright. I’m going to keep you. And cellulite? I have not forgotten about you. I’m going to choose to love you even though you want to take over my whole bottom half, but you’re a part of me. I love you.

Will Graham’s gratitude and Holliday’s hashtag (#effyourbeautystandards) catch on? Only time will tell. Media are slowly starting to feature plus-size models, and clothing brands like American Eagle’s Aerie are paving the way for a more expansive practice of un-retouched images.

Do we expect increased exposure to diverse bodies to decrease the incidence of eating disorders?

Unlikely. We know that eating disorders are serious mental illnesses with genetic, biological, and psychological roots. But, for the majority of women who struggle with body image concerns, constant exposure to media featuring models of a limited body type can take its toll. And for those in eating disorder recovery, witnessing a cultural recognition (or even celebration) of body diversity might help model the elusive challenge of body acceptance.

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programming, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Posted in Body Image

Fat Bodies in the Media Matter

Posted on July 16, 2015 by StayConnected

LindseyAverrilIn case you aren’t familiar, let me introduce myself. I am Lindsey Averill and along with my business partner, Viridiana Lieberman, I am creating a film called Fattitude. We hope Fattitude will bring awareness to and help educate people about the very clear hatred that western media culture directs at fatness and therefore enable a future that is free of weight bias and allows for any individual to have a truly healthy relationship with his or her body.

Let’s be blatantly honest – when it comes to the media fat people are jokes, monsters or an epidemic. Just to be clear here are some stats:

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• 72% of representations of fat people in the news are demoralizing (Obesity Action Coalition)

• In 64% of children’s videos fat is related to negative traits (Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention)

• A study of prime-time television shows determined that 14% of female characters and 24% of male characters were fat. These numbers represent less that half of actual fat people in the general American public. (American Journal of Public Health)

Fat people aren’t presented as people; we’re stereotypes and deadly statistics to be avoided.

These negative stereotypes and messages are internalized and amount to nothing good. According to the research coming out of the UCONN Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, fat people, unlike other stigmatized groups “internalize stereotypes against their in-group.” Or rather – our culture is so brutal and so cruel about fatness and fat people that fat people hate themselves and others like them. This has to stop.

A couple of years ago when I sat in front of my television and someone made a joke at a fat person’s expense, I might have laughed. I also would have glanced around to see if anyone was looking at me, and felt like crying inside, believing that as a fat woman I deserved the shame that our culture directs towards fatness. Today, when I hear people in the media condemning or laughing at fat bodies I seethe and ache at the truth, people everywhere, thin, fat and everything in-between are suffering from the strangely invisible reality of weight bias and unchecked prejudice that is fat hatred.

We are making Fattitude for this reason. As far as I’m concerned, becoming aware of injustice is one of the ways we heal.

Want to learn more about Fattitude?
Watch their trailer, check them out on Facebook or visit them (and OPC) at the National BEDA Conference in November!

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programming, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Article Inspiration

Posted on July 02, 2015 by StayConnected

Join us in reading inspirational and informative articles we have cultivated from across the web. If you have found an article you feel is inspirational, explores current research, or is a knowledgeable piece of literature and would like to share with us please send an e-mail here.

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Disordered eating behavior among group fitness instructors: a health-threatening secret? Journal of Eating Disorders

Nine truths about eating disorders National Eating Disorder Association

Adolescent eating disorders predict psychiatric psychiatric, high-risk behaviors and weight outcomes in in young adulthood Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Own our history. Change the story. Brene Brown

Mindfulness may help prevent eating disorders in adolescent girls Psychiatry Advisor

A letter from a daughter’s heart Eating Disorders Blogs

10 eating disorder books that hit the mark during NEDA Bustle

ED-UCATE yourself: seven things you should know about eating disorders Huffington Post

Advocates say Missouri 1st to detail treatments that insurers must cover for eating disorders US News

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Clementine adolescent treatment programming, please call 866.511.HEAL (4325), visit our websitesubscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram

Posted in Articles
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