A few days ago I switched from NPR to a commercial music station in my car, and in the span of one red light had been subjected to three high-energy, intense commercials for fast food.
Within seconds I caught myself thinking, "hmmm, a snack sounds good..." and conjuring up ideas of what I might want to eat. Whaaaat? Luckily, it hit me right away that I not only had I just eaten lunch and was not even hungry, I hadn't given a single thought to food until I heard those commercials. I switched back to NPR. At least that way I just feel under-educated.
I read an article once that showed the significant drop in self-esteem among teenage girls after reading fashion magazines and started paying more attention to how I felt about my body image after reading them. As a result, I stopped buying them (and the celebrity gossip mags, as curious as I was about who has cellulite and why the Bachelor got dumped) and have felt much more positive and healthy. After that experiment, I've been more aware of the role that the media plays in not only how we feel about ourselves and our bodies, but how our children shape expectations for what their bodies should look or feel like.
Seriously, I hear about first graders on diets. First grade girls. The only thing first graders should be worried about is...well I haven't got a clue. I don't have a girl. But they shouldn't be worried about their weight, I know that much.
I listen to my own music on my iPod, DVR television shows to skip commercials, and avoid fashion magazines because they harsh my mellow. I really love where I am with my body and my fitness, and I want to roll around in it as long as I can. I'm not in any hurry for someone to tell me it's not good enough or that I need to be thinner/faster/younger/tanner. Let's not get carried away - I am still a vain woman and want to feel like I am cute and fit and fun to be around! I've just taken the long route to learning that I can decide that for myself. And when I am in doubt, I ask my husband and he is always quick to feed my delusions. :) Good man.
Look, it's not realistic to think that we can lock ourselves in a bubble and live in our own reality where no amount of media influences our perceptions or decisions. All I ask is that you be aware of how these messages impact not only your perceptions but your actions.
Your actions. When you take action related to your body image, is it in response to a recent media message? Be aware of what motivates you, and tune it out to tone it up.