But wait a sec. The images they’re talking about aren’t in the perfume ads. They’re not promoting fashion or celebrity or breakfast bars. They’re the pictures used to highlight the effects of eating disorders. The ones accompanying the articles that are supposedly designed to stop people going down the same route. Not only have some triggered those with existing eating disorders, they’ve given them new ideas on how to lose weight.
- 86% felt real life images portrayed in the media were damaging
- 60% have found media images to adversely impact on their self esteem
- 70% have had their body image affected
- 47% say media images have prevented their recovery
It’s not enough to simply cover the issue of eating disorders. The way in which we do so is just as important.
Those with these kinds of struggles are often particularly vulnerable to suggestion – especially the power of visual images. They are drawn to pictures of sufferers – each one thinner than the last. They scan the articles for new tips on how to lose more weight. Numbers, whether height or weight or calories or time spent in the gym. And rather than acting as a warning, these same articles are too often a stimulus to try harder. To get thinner. To eat less. To exercise more.
And please don’t mishear me. This isn’t lay the blame solely at the media’s door. Of course the reader projects onto the page some of their own desires. But some of what passes as ‘responsible reporting’ is in fact poorly researched, sensationalist ‘entertainment’ that feeds the misery it claims to alleviate.