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How Unrealistic Body Images Affect Women and Girls

  • Unrealistic body images have become a global phenomenon in the media.
  • These false standards can lead to distorted self-perceptions and symptoms of depression.
  • Unrealistic body images can lead to extreme measures such as crash dieting and unhealthy supplements.
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa often require medical intervention for recovery.

Unattainable body images have become a global phenomenon in the media, but few people know the full extent of how these images can negatively impact women. From skewed self-perceptions to psychological disorders, unrealistic body images can cause short-term and long-term hazardous effects on women.

According to the American Psychological Association, women and girls exposed to these unrealistic body images can develop distorted self-perceptions. This leads to an increase in symptoms of depression, as well as low self-esteem, guilt or shame about their own bodies, and general dissatisfaction with physical appearance.

The Rise of Unrealistic Body Images

Unrealistic body images, oftentimes perpetuated by the media, refer to an exaggerated representation of the “ideal” body that is impossible to attain without extreme measures or surgery. These images give off the impression that there is one single type of beauty that all people should aspire to.

Unfortunately, this false ideal has caused many women and girls to develop skewed self-perceptions as they compare themselves against unrealistic standards. This can lead to problems like low self-esteem or even depression.

Physical Health Risks Associated with Unrealistic Body Images

In addition to psychological issues, many women will go to extreme lengths to achieve their desired body image. This includes potentially dangerous activities such as crash dieting, over-exercising, and taking unhealthy supplements that could result in serious physical health risks like malnutrition or organ failure. In more serious cases, it could even lead to eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa which often require medical intervention for recovery.

woman throwing up in the sink

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a serious disorder where people binge eat large amounts of food and then purge by vomiting or using laxatives in an effort to lose weight. People with bulimia nervosa are usually aware that their behavior is unhealthy, and they feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed about it, which can lead to depression.

For this reason, this condition often requires a bulimia rehab center to help people regain control of their habits and restore their mental health. Facilities like this help people get back on track to a healthy lifestyle and achieve their desired body image safely and sustainably.

Anorexia nervosa

Contrary to bulimia, anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric disorder in which people refuse to eat and maintain dangerously low body weights. People with anorexia nervosa may also suffer from depression or anxiety, distorted self-perceptions, and problems with concentration. They may also experience physical health issues such as infertility, weakened bones, or hair loss. Again, this condition often requires medical intervention to help people restore their mental and physical health.

Binge Eating Disorder

Eating in excess and quickly is the hallmark of Binge Eating Disorder (BED), a serious eating disorder that can have severe repercussions. BED is associated with increased depression, low self-esteem, and unhealthy behaviors such as lying about food consumption to hide overeating. BED treatment typically involves cognitive behavioral therapy, nutrition counseling, and motivational interviewing.

Education and Awareness Are Key

Woman in White Knitted Sweater Hugging Brown Dog

It is very important for us all—women and men alike—to be aware of how powerful societal messages regarding beauty can influence our lives in negative ways. Education about realistic body image expectations is critical for helping people understand why it’s essential to appreciate our own unique bodies rather than trying to conform them to something else entirely.

We must work together as a society towards creating healthier relationships with our bodies if we are ever going to overcome the unrealistic beauty standards set by the media today. Here are some ways to do so:

Follow body-positive influencers or role models

Influencers like Jameela Jamil or Ashley Graham are great examples of people who promote body positivity and self-love. Following their journey can help inspire you to be kinder to yourself and shift your focus away from unrealistic expectations.

Spend time with friends who have a healthy relationship with their bodies

Surrounding yourself with a positive company is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy body image. It is important to have friends who recognize that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and will help you stay grounded if you ever feel insecure about your body.

Unrealistic body images have caused several adverse effects on women worldwide—from mental health issues like depression and anxiety to physical health risks like malnutrition or organ failure due to extreme diets or supplements taken in efforts to conform their bodies to an unattainable ideal represented by media sources today. Everyone should be more aware of the effects of unrealistic body images to work together to break down these false standards and create healthier relationships with our bodies.

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