Friday, February 23, 2007

Body Image and Self Image
Body image and self image are pet issues of mine.
I taught 'Nutrition' and 'Food and Society', and as such I had to teach about healthy eating and body image.
I had the students (college students) write a journal which would be graded, and one of the exercises I had them do was interview a classmate about how they viewed their body.
I drew up a list of 20 question and the interviewer was assigned a classmate to interview. The interviewer then had to analyse the answers given and tell me if they thought that the person they interviewed was telling the truth about thier body and self image, or if they really should not have given the answers that they gave.
The results were a little bit disturbing to me.

There was one student that was interviewed (we will call her Annie), who was overweight, but clearly from what I knew from her, very smart, active, funny etc. The person who interviewed her (Dana), wrote that Annie felt good about herself as a person and saw herself as beautiful. Dana's analysis of the answers stated that she felt that Annie was lying. She stated that there was no way that Annie could ever feel beautiful because of the way she looked.
I looked at the interview for Dana.
Although Dana was less overweight a person than Annie, her own interview reflected how horribly she saw herself. By extension she expected a heavier person to feel worse.
Some of the more traditionally beautiful students also seemed to have poor self and body image.
Among the guys, there seemed to be just as much uncertainty as among the women. I was surprised about this fact. Shorter guys wanted to be taller and more muscular. Those guys who had a good body image did not necessarily have a good self image.
Those students who had a good self and body image, seemed to be more involved in extra curricular activities where they had an opportiunity to express themselves or be a part of a supportive group.
In a society where "Thin is in", body and self image tend to get incorrectly combined. We need to address this in proactive ways. The Dove Campaign is one such campaign geared toward this. It's effectiveness however is still in question.

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