Women become over-zealous in their attempt to mirror the body image of the fashion models seen on television and in advertisements. The consumer is literally caught inside a media pinball machine as they are sold the latest 'fat-burger' and are left with a guilty conscious. Fashion, sports, entertainment, advertising, and society all conspire to push our ideal of the perfect body to an unobtainable position.
There has been a substantial amount of research concerning the media's unrealistic and stereotypical portrayal of the body image. While much of the research has taken place in the US, other Western cultures including Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, and the Netherlands have noted similar results and have found women "living with near constant exposure to narrowly defined and highly unrealistic beauty ideals".1 Television and print advertising are at the core of the drive to sustain a connection between the public and a structure that is acceptable to the members of an in-group. Verri et al. (1997) and Tiggermann (1996) found a direct correlation between the amount of, and the dependence upon, television viewing and the vulnerability to developing an eating disorder.2 In addition, Sanders et al. (1995) found a direct correlation between the numbers of magazines read by 12-year-old girls and the probability that they would consider themselves overweight.3 However, this phenomenon is not unique to females, as men also suffer from poor body image. Bergstrom and Neighbors state, "Body dissatisfaction among men is influenced by many of the same factors as that among women. Significant research has focused on various sociocultural influences on the male ideal body figure, which may contribute to body dissatisfaction" and an unrealistic obsession with muscularity.4 Likewise, the research has also shown that this problem is pervasive from a very young age on through adulthood. Children as young as six are affected by the stereotyping of ideal body image, as are the elderly, though the effect is mediated by older age.5, 6 The media's influence on body image begins early in childhood and continues through the later stages of life for both genders.
Most people are dissatisfied with some aspect of their body, and many people have a distorted view of it or an unrealistic evaluation. There are two types of body image distortions that lead to dissatisfaction. The first, known as body-size distortion, is a perception that is distorted where the individual "misperceives his or her body size, or the size of various body parts, as being larger than they objectively are".7 This distortion is often a precursor and a marker for the eating disorders of anorexia or bulimia. According to Bergstrom and Neighbors, "The second type of body image disturbance, termed body dissatisfaction, refers to the cognitive, affective, or attitudinal nature of negative body image".8 This dissatisfaction is more likely to lead to unhealthy dieting practices, extreme bodybuilding, or cosmetic surgery that may be unnecessary and have long lasting negative effects. Whether people have a distorted image or are simply dissatisfied with their body, the media fuels the problem and people are motivated to take actions that may have negative consequences.
This research will focus on the attention that the media places on a