Healthy Habits

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Too often we make judgment calls on what people look like. It's a person’s character that counts.

Healthy Habits

Many companies target people based on their self-esteem to try to sell “quick fix” items like extreme diet pills and high-energy drinks. Be careful what gimmicks you buy into. The cost is high — money, unrealistic expectations and health.

Healthy Habits

The teen years are full of changes, both inside and out. Remember that images in the media that you see are made perfect by changing them with lighting or the computer.

For TeensReal Body Image — Don't Be Fooled!

We Are All Unique

Body image — your perceptions about your body — is a touchy subject. This is especially true when you consider how media and society affect you and your peers' view of how you think you should look and what's considered "right" or "attractive." Add to that the change going on inside and outside your body at this time of your life. The pressure to look good can feel overwhelming.

Friends_readingHere's Health Trek's reality check of the day. There is no one ideal body weight, shape or size. We are all unique. We come in different shapes and sizes, and that doesn't mean if we're not model perfect we're unhealthily fat, out of shape or physically challenged. Stars and models are NOT the norm. Most images in the media are changed to make them look perfect. The images are manipulated with special lighting, slimming camera angles or lenses, airbrushed photos, and more. It's time to start loving who you are. Get real, a real body image, that is. And don't be fooled!

Fear of Fat

The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Furthermore, approximately 10 million girls and women and 1 million boys and men are struggling with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder or borderline conditions (that is, not quite bulimic and not quite anorexic, but showing signs of these behaviors).

What is 'Body Image'?

Where do we get our ideas about appearance and self-image? What are some of the factors that influence our body image (media, culture, friends, parents, a little voice in the mirror)? Take Health Trek's Body Image Survey, then read the Points to Ponder and think about how they relate to your answers.


The Health Trek Body Image Survey

  • Most people could look like models in magazines.
    • Agree
    • Disagree
    • Don't Know
    Point to Ponder

    The majority of models in magazines are airbrushed to get rid of "imperfections" and to look more appealing. The current media ideal of thinness for women is achievable by less than 5% of the female population.

  • All thin people are healthy and in good shape.
    • Agree
    • Disagree
    • Don't Know
    Point to Ponder

    For some reason, we tend to think the word "healthy" means thin in this context. Think about what "healthy" means to you. Is thin an important part? A lot of factors contribute to our all-around fitness and good health.

  • All overweight people eat too much and do not exercise
    • Agree
    • Disagree
    • Don't Know
    Point to Ponder

    We are all born with a predetermined body shape. Society seems to be accepting of variations in height, so why don't we accept variations in weight? Many factors influence our body types, most importantly genetics.

  • There is not one body size, shape or weight that people should attempt to achieve - we all have our own unique bodies.
    • Agree
    • Disagree
    • Don't Know
    Point to Ponder

    Not to harp, but we are all born with a predetermined body shape. Only 10% of the population has the body type to look like models in magazines.

Youth today, especially girls, are bombarded by conflicting advertising messages. On one hand, they are encouraged to buy junk food and fast food in magazines and on TV. On the other hand, the same ads use pencil-thin models to sell their products. This is a potential danger for young women.

Girls aren't the only ones affected by this trend. Advertisers are sending the message that to be a "real man" guys must have huge muscles, a "six-pack" abdomen and very little body fat. This is a difficult look to achieve for most boys and men. Problems surface, such as steroid use, when excessive exercise and other extreme measures are taken.


Recent experiments show that exposure to magazine photographs of super-thin models produces depression, stress, guilt, shame, insecurity and body dissatisfaction. Magazines like Vogue and Elle are banned in many eating-disorder clinics, because of their known negative effect on body image.

What Are The Ads Saying

OK, it's time to have some fun and turn the tables on the magazines that sell these highly unrealistic body images.

Ad Mad

Grab a couple of your favorite magazines and thumb through them. Then ask yourself the following questions relating to particular ads:

  • What is this ad trying to get me to buy?
  • How is the ad gaining my attention?
  • What do the models in this ad look like?
  • What do I really think of this ad?
  • How does this ad make me feel?

Tell Them What You Think

Now it's time to send a card or two to the magazine(s) commenting on the images used in the ads that have a negative impact on you and your peers. Use the subscription reply card stuck in the magazine (let them pay for postage!) or make a postcard with a heavy stock paper to make sure it reaches your target. Find out the editor's name in the magazine (usually in the front) so you can direct your comments directly to that person. Include the following info:

  • What issue the ad is coming from (for
    example, August 2010).
  • What page the ad is on.
  • What product the ad is trying to sell.
  • What you think about the ad. Share your
    honest opinions!

You Are the Real Deal

Having a realistic body image is about increasing your media literacy — understanding that many companies often sell dreams and false expectations instead of reality. You are what you are, you're unique! And guess what? That's the way it should be. Don't let anyone else tell you, or sell you, otherwise. That's having a real body image, an image you can live with.

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