IT’S ALL IN THE MIND
Millions of people around the world suffer from low self-esteem, which often results in serious eating disorders such as anorexia. Why does this happen? Unfortunately, they are obsessed with their weight or other physical “flaws”. According to psychologist Caroline Hannes, these people are stuck in a vicious circle. “The more they focus on their body, the worse they tend to feel about their looks,” she says.
To have a positive body image requires the understanding that people come in many shapes and sizes, and that physical appearance does not reflect personality or value as a person. “It sounds so incredibly simple and logical,” says Ms. Hannes. But, unfortunately, it isn’t. A recent survey, conducted by the media company AOL (America Online), shows that 60 percent of American women suffer from issues related to body image. And as the age goes down, the numbers go up. Research findings by the children’s advocacy group Common Sense Media show that a staggering 80 percent of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet at some time and feel anxious about their appearance.
But women and girls are not the only ones affected by negative body image. “Today it is more challenging than ever for men and boys to live up to society’s ideas of the real man,” explains body-image expert Mike Larsen. As he sees it, our culture is obsessed with the “macho” stereotype, encouraging men and boys to be toned and muscular. But there is a heavy price to pay, especially since the use of steroids and other image-enhancing drugs is on the rise. “These guys don’t always realize that steroids may improve their looks in the short run, but over a period of time, they can do a lot of damage to the body,” he says.
Where is this all coming from? Why are people so obsessed with their looks? Ms. Hannes has an interesting view on this. She believes that negative body image starts at home and is then reinforced by the media. According to Ms. Hannes, parents who are constantly stressed out over their own appearance negatively affect their children’s body image. “These children learn very early on in life that there is a standard of ideal beauty and that their sense of self-worth depends on attaining that goal,” she says. And once these dynamics are set in motion, the media strengthens their insecurities by inundating them with photoshopped images of models who presumably have the “perfect body”. “It’s a set-up for self-hatred,” says Ms. Hannes, who then warns that these negative feelings can easily spiral downwards with devastating results.
So what can be done? Some schools in Britain are now offering courses on body image with promising results. In these courses students discuss ideals of beauty, unhealthy interactions with peers – such as making negative comments about weight – and focus on techniques for boosting mood and self-esteem. In addition, they learn about healthy eating habits and how to keep physically fit. “Programs like these should be welcomed,” says Ms. Clarkson, who teaches one of the courses on body image. “They support holistic health and teach children to think positively about their bodies.”
Answer these questions in English, according to the article.
What do we learn in lines 1-5?
What can we infer about Caroline Hannes and Mike Larson? (lines 6-22)
What is the connection between the fourth and the fifth paragraphs?