Are you worried about the impacts of an unattainable body image and social media on your children? Or maybe commercials aren’t a big deal after all?
Would you simply like to know the actual science and hear from an expert about body image topics like social media and how to handle all these media images?
Today we welcome to the podcast Dr. Solomon. Dr. Solomon has conducted clinical body image research and has also over 10 years of experience working in out-patient eating disorder clinics.
Dr. Solomon is hands down one of the most qualified people to talk with us today about body image concerns and in this post about body image and social media we will cover:
- Why is body image an issue?
- Technique #1 – Ask What’s Missing
- What is a negative body image?
- Rethink How To Think About Obesity
- Technique #2 – Surround Yourself With Realistic Body Images
- What are the 4 aspects of body image?
This was a really fun and insightful interview for me. Please be sure to check out Dr. Solomon’s current work at the Galia Collaborative which I write a bit down below about.
Here is the full interview about body image and social media.
About Dr. Ashley Solomon’s research into body image and social media literacy
In Ashley’s own words …
“I created and researched the effectiveness of a program designed to help teen girls build resiliency toward the cultural messages they receive about dieting and weight. I also delved into the world of social media to better understand how we could harness its power to support those struggling with mental health issues. And most importantly, I had the opportunity to sit one on one and in groups with people suffering, people who were brave enough to share their stories and the hopes with me.
I spent the following decade or so treating people with eating disorders at every level of severity, from folks on inpatient units to those in individual therapy. As my clinical expertise strengthened, I had the opportunity to create and lead programs around the country dedicated to caring for these brave souls. I directed big teams and huge initiatives and got to see the power of my work impacting lives on a daily basis. It really doesn’t get much better than that.”
Dr. Solomon is also the founder of Galia Collaborative, and the Galia Collaborative is Dr. Solomon’s primary focus right now.
“Galia Collaborative empowers purpose-driven women to elevate their impact by developing their mental strength and well-being. Holding firm the belief that the world needs our full participation, we help to guide women out of the trenches and into the spaces they want and deserve to occupy. When women repurpose their power in pursuit of their dreams, we’re unstoppable.”
Why is body image and social media an issue?
– Ashley will point out to her children when body images are not representative.
– Oftentimes in social media and other images there is not much variation of color, shapes, sizes and everybody is happy.
– Because most images in media are the highest standards of beauty and happiness but do not represent other variations in color, shapes and sizes; we believe that we are falling short.
Ask What’s Missing In Media Images – Technique #1
The first technique is where you train children to look at images in the media with a discerning eye. Normally children (and myself!) watch images without actively thinking about what we are seeing.
And unfortunately, marketers and media images usually promote only a certain aspect of reality, namely the beautiful and healthy aspects of reality.
But life is more than just being healthy and beautiful, right? Then why don’t we ever see bigger people on magazine covers? If most of us are average size or even bigger then ‘average’ then why don’t the images on magazines reflect this.
It’s a complex issue, but training children to ask “What’s missing from this image?” is a scientific technique that has helped children prevent eating struggles later down the line.
Essentially children start to realize that the images they see don’t represent real life! It’s a part of media literacy training that is fairly simple to teach children and has proven benefits.
Lately I’ve been trying to watch media with a more discerning eye. I’ve been extremely cognizant lately of the checkout magazines at the grocery store. Every person is beautiful!
And it’s just really got me thinking about how we never see an unbeautiful person on a magazine cover. Good food for thought, eh?
What is a negative body image?A negative body image is where you believe the thought in your head, or argue with the thought, and get caught up in a tug of war Click To Tweet
– “Am I really fat?” is a common example of a negative body image thought being expressed (oftentimes in a hateful expression).
– And there is never a ‘right’ answer to this question “Am I really fat?”
– Your mind can become a tug of war where you are battle with your thoughts – this is a negative body image because you are tugging the ‘rope’ constantly wondering “Am I fat?”
– The key is to “drop the rope”. You are going to have these thoughts. But you don’t have to believe these thoughts are true.
– It’s all about how do our thoughts effect our ability to connect with our values, and choosing what’s important to us over whatever random thing our mind might be telling us.
Rethink How To Think About Obesity
– The real essence and point of Health At Every Size is:
– bodies are inherently good and worthy
– there is a way to nurture our own bodies
– Body size is on a continuum; there will always be people larger and smaller
– Genetics plays a huge role on body shape and size
– The key is to find movement and health behaviors that nurture you, and then to accept your genetics and natural body size
– Everyone deserves access to health care regardless of body size
For more information on Health At Every Size and the effects of body image and social media please see this article here which features another guest podcast, “The Truth Behind The Health At Every Size HAES Movement With Kori Kostka“
Surround Yourself With Realistic Body Images – Technique #2Images will influence us no matter what; so internalize media images that are representative of reality Click To Tweet
– Images in media get processed in the brain too quick to realize what we are seeing
– The image gets processed by our brain first, and then when we read “airbrushed” it’s already too late
– A more effective strategy is to surround yourself with positive images
– follow instagram accounts of various sizes
Essentially, body image and social media are here to stay. They aren’t going anywhere. So let’s use them constructively.
What are the 4 aspects of body image?
Dr. Solomon and I do not discuss this topic in the conversation, I provide the following info.
The reason I am including this section is because I have had a few people reach out and ask about the “different parts of body image” and “aspects of body image”.
These questions were left anonymous didn’t provide a lot of context, so I am doing my best here 🙂 You too can leave have an anonymous question for me to ask or address by using this link here.
The 4 Aspects of Body Image
- Your Self Image: How do you see yourself, your body, and your awareness of your body? Often our perception and the visual image are not how our actual body looks. An example could be that an individual may see himself as overweight, but is not physically overweight.
- How You Feel About Your Body – The way we feel about our body is called our affective body image. This is the level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction we have about our shape, weight, and body parts.
- How You Think About Your Body – The way we think about our body is called our cognitive body image which can lead to an obsessiveness or preoccupation of our body shape and size.
- How You Act About Your Body: Behaviors are the last point, and this is a result of the body image we hold. When we are dissatisfied with our body image we may isolate because we feel uncomfortable with our appearance.
These 4 tips were originally stated on a fact sheet by the National Eating Disorders Collaboration.
Your Self Image
With an eating disorder, your body image concerns are blown out of proportion. One example is from where I currently work as a Recovery Counselor at Cielo Eating Disorder outpatient clinic.
After every meal one woman with body dysmorphic disorder would eat food with the group and then she’d walk outside right around the corner. One day after eating I saw her doing jumping jacks. She weighed 98 lbs. Alarmed, I alerted the staff and her therapist.
This woman’s negative body image was hurting her to the degree that her appearance – no matter what – was the source of her low self-esteem. Her low self-esteem she believed was because she was fat. Yet she only weighed 98 lbs. She was almost deathly skinny.
I tell this story to demonstrate a point. Your self image can be drastically different than your body.
How You Feel About Your Body
Body dissatisfaction can be this dark cloud. If you want to get a more positive body image it will be helpful for you to understand the different pieces your body image may be composed of.
One of the ingredients of body dissatisfaction is the actual physical way your human body feels. Do you feel your body is gross? How do you feel about your appearance?
This can be very difficult work. Oftentimes body dissatisfaction can run so deep and be so poisonous.
But getting in touch with these feelings however unpleasant is highly important. For example, noticing the sense of revulsion that your stomach or arms makes you feel. The sense of revulsion might be a tightening in your stomach, or a sense of nausea. Or like hot shame running up and down your body.
You want to physically feeling how your body image, weight and appearance are effecting you.
When you can familiarize yourself with these feelings, you will start to come to realize that many of your concerns about weight, appearance and weight loss are simply mechanisms to distract you from these negative feelings.
You will start to realize that your disordered eating, eating disorder or weight loss attempts are simply strategies that you use to make yourself feel better and to temporarily avoid the pain of your negative body image.
All this pain because of our society’s unrealistic beauty ideals. It’s a tragedy.
How You Think About Your Body
Your body image definition is reflected in your thoughts. If you have a positive body image you’ll be more respectful towards your body. You’ll be thinking thoughts like “I’m tired. Looks like I need to rest right now.”
If you have a negative body image then you’ll base more of your self-esteem on your appearance. After all, you need your appearance and weight to be perfect – otherwise you would be forced to confront your self-esteem issues.
When a person with body dissatisfaction think “I’m tired” instead of thinking about a nap, this person might thinking eating disorder thoughts instead like “I’m worthless. I’m always tired. I’m tired because I ate too much at lunch. I won’t eat for the rest of the day.”
How You Act About Your Body
People with body image issues like anorexia nervosa or binge eating disorder exhibit different disordered eating patterns. Binge eaters eat way too much, feel guilty, restrict because of their guilt and repeat the cycle. Anorexia patient have a hard time eating because of their self-esteem is tied up with their weight and appearance.
A person with anorexia will have terrible body thoughts about their body parts and their body image dissatisfaction will be off the charts. Because of their eating disorders, the anorexia person might die.
Sadly, I know a few mother’s who have lost daughters to anorexia. This is not a joking matter. Mental health problems to a life threatening degree due to weight loss behaviors are real. This is why there are a variety of National Eating Disorders recognized by various national eating boards, agencies, and clinicians. One such agency is the National Eating Disorders Association.
All these agencies are there because of one fact – how you act towards your body is important. It’s not superficial at all. It’s easy to dismiss eating disorders because the majority of the population doesn’t relate. However, the harmful consequences to having self-esteem entirely dependent upon disordered eating patterns and weight can be deadly.
What are the effects of body image?
- Emotional pain
- low self-esteem
- dysfunctional food patterns
- eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, body dysmorphic disorder)
- rise in use of medications
- social withdrawal or alienation
- taking risks of personal wellbeing
- self-harming practices
- ceasing healthy behaviors
- low self-worth
I’m sure you get the point. The effects of body image are far reaching and can impact every area of life.
Let’s inform the kids about media literacy and having kids ask “What’s missing?” from various images and surrounding yourself with more representations of a positive body image.