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Surprising Science

Why Do We Hate Our Bodies So Much?

What can be done to stop the unrealistic representation of men's and women's bodies by visual and print media? Are government regulation and media literacy classes sufficient? 

What’s the Latest Development?

Politicians in England have perhaps been the most aggressive in tackling false advertising among fashion sellers, banning ads with Photoshopped bodies, for example. Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, who has spearheaded the campaign, found that students perform less actively in classes when they feel insecure about their body. Diet companies are also criticized by women’s leaders for encouraging people to eat cognitively rather than listening to the nutritional needs of their bodies. In England, half of female smokers say they use tobacco as an appetite suppressant. “Is it too strong to suggest that these things, these anxieties, are slowly killing them?”

What’s the Big Idea?

Rates of dieting, fitness, plastic surgery and eating disorders are at an all time high, but why do so many women, and an increasing number of men, feel insecure about their bodies? A famous study of teenage girls in Fiji, before and after the television was introduced to the island in 1995, is telling: “After three years with TV, the girls who watched it the most were 50% more likely to describe themselves as ‘too fat’; 29% scored highly on a test of eating-disorder risk.” Body images presented by the media are increasingly unrealistic while being presented as an achievable, even necessary, goal.  

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