Health and weight

The media, weight and body image

The media is known to influence young people, especially over the way they look. Looking at famous people online, in newspapers, magazines and on TV were said to put ‘pressure’ on young people, especially young women, to look a certain way.
Some young people, particularly girls with eating disorders like bulimia, said magazines seem to present ‘an ideal body’ which they felt they were supposed ‘to aspire to’. Victoria Beckham’s small size was mentioned several times by various people. One young woman had conflicting thoughts; on the one hand she thought ‘Wow she’s amazing, she’s so thin’ but her common sense told her that it wasn’t right to be able ‘to see bones hanging out everywhere’.
 
Several young women said they thought models who were size zero (US size 0 = UK size 4) were ‘pretty disgusting’. Certain TV programmes had taught them that being too thin was unhealthy ‘in the long term’.  Even if they disliked thin celebrities, young people still connected being thin to wealth and glamour. They felt that magazines sent out a message to women that if they wanted to be seen as attractive or sexy they had to be ‘thin’.
Parents felt sad and rather powerless about the effect the media had on their children. Others talked about chat rooms and websites where photos were posted for people to see and comment on. Another mother said she felt outraged by one actress who had recently become ‘skeletal’ and told reporters that her thinness was inherited from her family.
Most young people thought the media, especially celebrity and teenage magazines, were guilty of ‘glamourising thinness’. Magazines were criticised for being sexist. Women’s magazines concentrate on weight loss, diets, liposuction and cosmetic surgery whereas men’s magazines were about being physically and mentally fit.  
Several said the focus on fitness was healthier than the interest in thinness; ‘you don’t hear about footballers going on diets’
 
Positive role models 
People who made young people feel good about themselves came from the world of music and certain singers and bands were a far stronger influence on some than celebrity magazines. Certain ‘curvy’ celebrities were admired, particularly if they didn’t lose weight or go on diets.
One mother said she thought Jamie Oliver was doing a good job, as was Gok Wan who tells women ‘You’re gorgeous. Love your curves. Enjoy your body’. 

Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated February 2012.

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