Tossing out the media’s take on what beauty should be.
Imagine a 5-year-old girl and think about what she does on an average day. Is she having a tea party with friends or worrying about what new diet she hasn’t tried yet?
Though the second scenario may sound absurd, the age of girls dieting is gradually becoming lower. According to Dr. Nicole Hawkins, girls as young as 5 are judging their bodies according to the media’s standards.
Hawkins, director of clinical services at the Center for Change, spoke about the influential power of the media, the weight-loss industry and ways to prevent negative self-image. She spoke at the annual Body Image Wellness Workshop Nov. 3, perhaps in preparation for the food-laden holiday season.
Hawkins addresses college students because of their high risk of developing eating disorders. Currently, eight out of 10 female college students suffer from an eating disorder, which are defined as excessive dieting or an obsession with food consumption.
For some students, it wasn’t their first exposure to Hawkins’ lecture.
“I went last year, and the facts have changed a little, but it’s still surprising no matter how many times you hear it,” said junior Maggie Christensen.
The workshop not only targets people with eating disorders, but also those that are too concerned or obsessed with diet and exercise.
Hawkins explained that young girls are constantly bombarded with images of the ideal woman, represented by models who stand 5 feet 11 inches tall, at 117 pounds and who wear a size two. Realistically, only 1.8 percent of women in the world have the genetic ability to embody that ideal.
Even children’s toys are mirroring the media’s standards. A recent study showed that 5 to 7-year-old girls felt lower self-esteem after being exposed to a Barbie doll, yet the average American girl has 10 Barbie dolls in her toy collection.
The media’s influence is also having a large impact on the increase of plastic surgeries in America. Currently, Utah leads the nation in most plastic surgeries per capita. In 2007, Forbes Magazine named Salt Lake City the vainest city in America. They calculated the number of plastic surgeons per 100,000 people. Salt Lake City had six surgeons per 100,000 people, while New York City had only four.
These types of statistics were startling to many, but informative.
“It’s so startling how much it affects kids at a young age,” said Jimmy Fuqua, a senior who attended the workshop. “There are so many scary statistics about the perceptions of body image, but it’s stuff that’s good for everyone to know.”
Women are not alone in their daily struggle with the media’s standards. About 1 million men in America suffer from an eating disorder, and the numbers are increasing daily. Referred to as “the skinny jeans phenomenon” by Hawkins, men are feeling added pressure to be smaller to conform to new fashion styles.
Due to the media creating such a problem in our society, many students feel that it is also their responsibility to fix it through full disclosure and honest depictions of celebrities.
“The media need to show people the way they look,” Christensen said. “It’s not a sin to be bigger.”
In conjunction with the workshop, a Body Image Fair was held in the Hall of Flags on Nov. 2 and 3.
“The fair offers information for students and faculty about body image and loving your body,” said Amy Grubbs, coordinator of Wellness Programs.
Wellness Programs offers several services dealing with healthy living practices, and anyone who wants to know more is welcome to visit the Student Health Center.