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Perfectly Imperfect

Beauty is a multi-billion dollar industry in this country, but there’s not much that’s beautiful about it.

With the mass media setting the standard for what is considered ‘beautiful’, more and more people end up believing they are in need of improvement.

Magazine covers and billboards feature sexy celebrities, musicians wear skimpy outfits, and television shows star thin and beautiful actors. Some experts believe these images have an impact on the most vulnerable audience, who is becoming younger and younger each year.

“Media know that our looks are our ultimate vulnerability, and they take advantage of that,” said Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a psychology professor at CSULA. “And they start with younger audiences every year.”

Fifth-graders told researchers at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute they were dissatisfied with their bodies after watching a music video by Britney Spears. Forty percent of the 10-year-olds said they have tried to lose weight.

“It starts young,” Durvasula said. “ And then it’s that sense of ‘I don’t measure up’ or ‘I’m not good enough’…It comes from a lot of different places, but the bottom line is that it can really go to the dark place of people doing some really dangerous things with food and eating behaviors.”

It’s not just the mainstream media perpetuating the idea of an ideal body type. Roughly half of the women in the U.S wear a size 14 or higher, but many retailers carry only sizes 14 and lower. Psychologists say this modern-day shunning of a particular group can lead to disordered eating.

“Whether that’s from a message they were told by their family or their culture, or whether that’s from media images, it’s an issue of socialization,” said Dr. Veronica Stotts, coordinator for the Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating at CSUN. “It’s a misrepresentation of how we’re supposed to measure our worth; that it’s not about our brains, it’s about how we look, and we’re taught that from an extremely young age.”

Ninety percent of those diagnosed with an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 and 25, according to The Center for Mental Health Services.

“Women have learned to use food for everything but what it’s designed for,” Durvasula said. “Most women a long time ago stopped listening to themselves. Instead what they listened to is other people, (about) how they should look, how they should eat, that they should live to please.”

Durvasula is a former over-eater, and the author of “You Are WHY You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life”.  She said the key to controlling disordered eating is learning to accept one’s body as it is.

“Body image is how a person sees oneself,” Durvasula said. “The core of an eating disorder is when a slim woman sees that she needs to lose weight when she doesn’t. It starts inside your mind, not the body.”

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign released a video in April portraying a sketch artist working on a drawing of a woman as she described herself, and then working on a sketch of that woman as described by someone else. The first sketch, based on the woman’s own description, shows someone older and plainer than the sketch based on another woman’s description. The campaign’s message was simple: women see themselves as less attractive than others do. Millions viewed the video on Youtube within days of its release.

Durvasala said young women and men must learn to celebrate their bodies and learn to love themselves the way they are. “I want you to enjoy that body you find yourself in,” she said. “It can be yoga, it can be hiking — something to show you that this thing is a beautifully engineered machine.  Grow to love it, take care of it, and nourish it with healthy things.”

“Focus on health,” Stott said. “Get enough sleep. Move your body. Eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re full. Be in tune with what your body needs at any given moment, and just treat yourself well spiritually and emotionally, and your body will find exactly where it’s supposed to be.”


Moderator: Nattashia Arrango

Anchor: Ruben Saenz

Reporters: Tasnim Hanafy and Iuliia Vazhenina

Producers: Erika Yasuo and Malcolm Hoyle





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