Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Props to the American Medical Association!

You may or may not share my enthusiasm for this bit of news, but as you might know, I am a big fan of pointing out positive movement when it comes to body image and the ways that the media portrays beauty. I just read about some new policies that the American Medical Association (AMA!) adopted at its annual meeting that met recently in late June in Chicago. One of the policies that they voted on is below (scroll down-- I lifted it verbatim from their website:)).

 The basic idea is that the AMA is acknowledging the harm that photoshop and digitally altering images can have and often does have on people, especially children and adolescents. As a result, they are working towards establishing guidelines with marketing and advertisement organizations to represent a healthier, more realistic portrayal of bodies in the media. While they do not specifically say how they plan to do this (I imagine this will take quite a bit of thought+time+work), it is encouraging that physicians are emphasizing the importance of the media's impact on how we perceive beauty and the resulting potential health implications. This isn't to say that the media causes eating disorders- I say this often- because the media does not cause eating disorders. However, unrealistic photos can encourage unrealistic expectations about what our bodies are supposed to look like, which often leads to dieting/disordered eating, which can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. 

For more, check out the AMA's website here.
BODY IMAGE AND ADVERTISING TO YOUTH: Advertisers commonly alter photographs to enhance the appearance of models' bodies, and such alterations can contribute to unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image – especially among impressionable children and adolescents. A large body of literature links exposure to media-propagated images of unrealistic body image to eating disorders and other child and adolescent health problems.

The AMA adopted new policy to encourage advertising associations to work with public and private sector organizations concerned with child and adolescent health to develop guidelines for advertisements, especially those appearing in teen-oriented publications, that would discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.
"The appearance of advertisements with extremely altered models can create unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image. In one image, a model's waist was slimmed so severely, her head appeared to be wider than her waist," said Dr. McAneny. "We must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software."

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