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Health and Body Image

Ellen Macpherson Sport Illustrated [1]

This post will address how social media, technology and the entertainment industry can shape the general publics idea of what it means to be healthy and promotion of a healthy lifestyle. It will compare what leading health scientists are saying versus what we are being told by the media. Lastly it will look at potential health risks that arise from an individual’s perceptions of healthiness. For years the model industry has had very unrealistic body image types promoted for an average North American. Growing up when I did during the 80’s and 90’s, Victoria Secret and Sports illustrated promoted models such as Ellen Macpherson and Tyra Banks [1] grace these magazine covers putting a woman body type into the minds of young men and young woman.

With the advances of technology, the ability to manipulate the images, these already ideal female body types are only made more unrealistic through the programs such as photoshop [2]. This has led to some serious psychological disorders in young people especially woman. The Fijian Adolescent Girls [3] from the late 1990’s referenced in our class notes is a clear example on how media influences the psychology of people and influences them to change their behavior. It sampled <60 girls in 1995 and again in 1998. Here were the results:

Eating Behaviours and Attitudes Following Prolonged Exposure to Television among Ethnic Fijian Adolescent Girls Study [3]

After 3 years of television, induced-vomiting to control weight went from 0% to 11.3% percent also known as Bulimia Nervosa. In Canada, “One out of 10 girls and women develops disordered eating behaviours such as anorexia, or bulimia” [4]. If we fast forward to today, the internet has only amplified the amount of exposure to body images of every body type imaginable. What we are seeing now is a opposite trend is that overweight / obese people are making way into modeling. I feel this is a more disturbing development given that 28 percent of Canadian adults are obese, and 36 percent are overweight. “The share of Canadian adolescents who are overweight or obese has slowly increased since 2005. In 2020, around 23 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 17 years were either overweight and obese. The total number of obese or overweight Canadian adolescents in 2020 was around 454 thousand. By 2030, it is estimated that Canada will have over 1.1 million children who are obese“ [5]. In the 2019 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue featured Hunter McGrady, a pretty but morbidly obese woman.

Hunter McGrady Sports Illustrated 2019

This is being sold as celebrating diversity. To quote Hunter, “Exposure to diversity is the catalyst that will ignite tolerance, acceptance and understanding” [6]. I think it is important to value individuals for who they are regardless of body shape or size – but you cannot dispute the health issues related to obesity. Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and some cancers are all risks of being obese [7]. In actuality, if you look at the latest research to prolong life and thrive as one ages, caloric restriction is one of the most effective ways to live longer according to Dr. David Sinclair’s book Lifespan: Why we age-and why we don’t have to [8]. Dr. Sinclair is one of the leading research scientist’s searching not only how to live longer healthy lives but looking to reverse aging completely. The best we can do is be the example for our children by teaching and living a lifelong exercise and nutrition regime the promotes optimal health to thrive as humans.

Works Cited

  1. Staff, Swim Daily. “Sports Illustrated’s 50 Greatest Swimsuit Models (10–1).” Swimsuit | SI.Com, 25 Aug. 2021, .

  2. “The Photoshop Effect.” YouTube, 16 June 2008, .

  3. Becker, Anne. “Eating Behaviours and Attitudes Following Prolonged Exposure to Television among Ethnic Fijian Adolescent Girls | The British Journal of Psychiatry.” Cambridge Core, Cambridge University Press, 2 Jan. 2018, .

  4. “Social Attitudes: Body Image and Weight.” Seneca BlackBoard Classroom Site, . Accessed 19 Mar. 2022.

  5. Statista. “Percent of Overweight or Obese Canadian Adults Based on BMI 2015–2020.” Statista, 25 Oct. 2021, .

  6. Laila, Cristina. “From Burkini to Obesity: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Features Morbidly Obese Bikini Model.” The Gateway Pundit, 10 May 2019, .

  7. “Health Risks of Overweight and Obesity.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 9 Dec. 2021, .

  8. Sinclair, Dr. David. “Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don’t Have To: Sinclair PhD, David A., LaPlante, Matthew D.: 9781501191978: Books - Amazon.Ca.” Amazon, . Accessed 20 Mar. 2022.

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