Dr. Nicole Hawkins recently gave a presentation titled “The Media Myths: understanding the pressure placed on women to be perfect” – a message she hopes will warn students of the negative influence the media can have.
Hawkins, who is the director of clinical services at the eating disorder treatment clinic Center for Change, overcame an eating disorder earlier in her life and has dedicated herself to helping other women do the same thing.
Speaking about the advertising strategies used in the media, Hawkins said, “If I’m an advertiser, it is my goal to make you feel bad about yourself … because then you will want to buy my product to feel better.”
According to Hawkins, the average height and weight of an American woman is five foot three inches and 164 pounds while the height and weight of an average model is five foot eleven inches and 117 pounds.
She stated that only 1.8 percent of the women in the world can achieve today’s model standards naturally, which reality has led to many women using methods that are harmful to their body in order to try and lose weight.
“I just think it’s sad,” Hawkins said, pointing out that one in every four college-aged women has an eating disorder.
She also said that while the average American woman is the largest they have ever been, images of women within the media are the thinnest they have ever been.
Hawkins also explained many tactics used by the media to enhance models’ images. She noted that not only has it become common practice for pictures of models to be airbrushed, but it has also become common for the actual models themselves to use doubles for certain body parts.
For example, a fashion magazine could take a picture of a movie star’s face then place it on top of a photo of the body that they want to portray.
“The majority of the images presented in the media have been airbrushed or manipulated … you get these fitness magazines thinking they would be real images, but they’re not,” Hawkins said. “It’s almost like a painting.”
Plastic surgery has also become a prominent strategy for women to try to manipulate their image. Comparing the percentage increases from 1992 to 2010, Hawkins said that breast implants have increased by 921 percent, buttock lifts by 930 percent, tummy tucks by 746 percent and upper-arm lifts by 2968 percent.
In China, where many women are concerned with increasing their height, Hawkins explained that women will actually break their legs and go through a nine-month process to stretch the bones in their legs out – a painful strategy that results in a height increase of about two inches.
Hawkins also concentrated on what she called the “dieting myth,” saying that while 90 percent of women diet regularly, 90 percent of diets fail after one year, with a failed diet classified as one where the dieter regains all weight lost plus 10 percent.
Rather than dieting, Hawkins recommends the intuitive eating approach, which follows certain guidelines including never diet again, honor your hunger and fullness, exercise in ways you enjoy, and eat three meals a day.
“It’s a lifetime approach,” she said.