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Study: False advertising, photoshopping mars our body image – Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 7/22/2015

OGDEN – Supermodel Cindy Crawford once said she wished she looked like Cindy Crawford.

That’s because after her photo is taken, the computer begins to create its magic, erasing wrinkles and blemishes, airbrushing a flawless, perfect look.

Other images of people are manipulated through Photoshop by increasing bust sizes, lengthening the legs and neck, changing the color of hair and eyes, sculpting cheek bones and abdominal muscles, reducing weight, adding cosmetics and more.

But people are not photoshopped in real life. No one is as flawless as the images seen in magazines and billboards, but the false advertising continues to cause an enormous problem with self-esteem.

According to research by Common Sense Media, a child advocacy group, more than half of girls and one-third of boys as young as six to eight think they are overweight, even though they aren’t. The report also found one in four children have tried some kind of diet by the age of seven and 89 percent of 10 year-olds are afraid of becoming overweight.

“I think a lot of people do not have a healthy body image,” said Julie Hansen, a registered dietician and exercise physiologist who teaches nutrition at Weber State University and has her own private nutrition counseling practice. “I do think the advertising industry needs to be held accountable when they use Photoshop. A disclaimer on ads would be great. If you have never watched the Dove Real Beauty campaign, you should watch it on YouTube at It shows how models are photo shopped and look nothing like themselves.”

Hansen said if kids do not feel good about their bodies, they may focus too much on trying to change them, which can lead to eating disorders.

“It also says a lot about our society,” she said.

According to, the body size of women in mass media ads are continuing to get smaller. The average female fashion model weighs 120 pounds, but according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average weight for an American woman is 166.2, a number that many women see as overweight.

“The unrealistic body image in the media distorts reality and leads people to believe they are abnormally heavy when they really aren’t,” states. “There are certainly some very direct messages associated with body weight in the media; celebrities, fashion models and show hosts are often seen as role models, especially by teenagers.”

In addition, the website states the term “thin-ideal media” refers to media images, shows and films that contain very thin female leads.

“This is something that comes up a lot in fashion magazines, clothing catalogs and pop culture television shows. Thin-ideal media highlights the idea that thinness is a good and desirable thing to be, even if it is to a level that is potentially damaging to a person’s health,” the site states.

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The Common Sense Media report also states that five- to eight-year-olds are more likely to hate their bodies if they think their mothers are unhappy with their own body.

“We need to be careful how we talk about our own bodies and comments we make about other people’s bodies,” Hansen said. “Avoid using words like ugly and fat.”

Ogden Clinic pediatric physician assistant, Zane H. Williams said young people need to be taught that beauty is not captured in a “selfie,” but rather in one’s contribution to society.

“Body weight and self-esteem are very personal issues and each is tied to genetics, parenting, education, general interests and long-term aspirations.” Williams said.

Although children are more and more free to express themselves as they choose, Williams said in today’s culture, many of them are comparing themselves against those they choose to follow through social media, which is a concern.

On the other hand, Williams said as a clinician he if often frustrated by blanket statements regarding weight and self-image.

“As a society, we shouldn’t place blame on any one institution or movement. Parents should be in tune with their children enough to see when a desire to be healthy is causing so much anguish that is it harmful to the child,” he said. “On the other hand, parents and clinicians should also not shy away from openly teaching and talking about healthy weights and body images in a constructive, positive manner.”

Williams also said pop culture is the tail that wags the dog in some cases, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

“Parents should teach by example. Empowering kids and finding out what motivates them to be their best self is ultimately the only way to foster good long-term health.”

Hansen agrees.

“I do think that we need to accept that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Promoting fitness is a healthy way to help kids feel good about themselves and their bodies,” she said. “Research also supports this. Many people are so focused on eating good foods verses bad foods and then they become good or bad when they eat them. That is also a confusing message for kids that can get integrated into their body images. So, if parents feel good about themselves, chances are, their kids will also.”