Run Hard When It's Hard to Run….Until You Get Hurt…

Three Things I Bet You Didn’t Know about Fitness Advertisements

I have three questions for each of you.

1. Are you completely happy with your body?

2. Do you know anyone who is?

3. Do advertisements affect the way you look at yourself and others?  Could fitness advertisements have a different outcome?

Whether you exercise or not, everyone has a body image, and most everyone has a negative one sometimes. Body image refers to what we think our bodies should look like, as opposed to what they actually look like.  Also, we think our bodies look one way instead of the way it actually appears; for example, you might consider yourself “chunky” when you are actually a healthy weight.

Exposure to the media and advertising causes many people, particularly women, to have false ideas on what their bodies should look like.  When you think your body looks differently than it actually does (thinking you look bigger than you actually are), or when you think your body should look differently than it does, then you have an unhealthy body image.

What makes this situation particularly awful is that advertisements can present an ideal body image that is genetically impossible for most women to achieve.  Fashion advertisements highlight the tall, skinny, and curvy figure for women.  Now with fitness advertisements, women are encouraged to ALSO have muscle tone.  This can get ridiculous!  You can’t have it all, but for some reason, women believe they should.

Surprisingly, advertisements for fitness do not have AS MUCH of a negative impact as other body-based advertisements do.  Clearly, they can and do spark negative body image.  However, I found it interesting that research has found these fitness advertisements might be less harmful for three reasons.

1. Fitness advertisements usually promote more than weight management.  These advertisements might cause less self-discouragement because they encourage individuals to actually be healthy, not just thin.

2. Additionally, fitness advertisements highlight what the body can DO, instead of only what it looks like.  This can also impact body image, since other research has suggested that body image improves not only with appearance changes, but with its capabilities. People who notice they have improved in strength, flexibility, or endurance think about their bodies in a more positive way.

3. Lastly  the bodies of “fit” people can be seen as “extreme,” a.k.a. unattainable.  Some research suggests that advertisements of extreme bodies do not have as much of an impact on our body image as more realistic bodies do.  Thus, there is a possibility that seeing  a toned fitness model is less harmful to our body image, since for some reason this is seen as less achievable than a skinny fashion model.

Well, I guess THIS doesn’t exactly turn me green with envy…

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If anything, this controversial information proves that we need to be aware of how we react to advertisements.  Are we appreciative and impressed by the power of the body, or do we beat ourselves up?  Nobody is going to have perfect body image all of the time (unless you’re one of my conceited brothers, but they have other mental issues….just kidding); however, we can always work to improve it.

Next time you look in the mirror, find at least ONE aspect of your body that you like.  This is not arrogance!  You do not have to post any shirtless pictures on Facebook (in fact, please don’t!), but you do have to be able to look at yourself and NOT cringe COMPLETELY.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-9861.2010.00047.x/full

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