Women's Health and Equality Queensland


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Body Image & The Media

Body Image

Body image can be heavily influenced by cultural and societal norms, which are constantly changing. Historically, the ‘ideal’ body image has been portrayed as curvy and voluptuous. Then came the popularity of corsets, slimming the waistline. In recent times, there has been a shift towards slim and slender, particularly in the early 1900’s. Fuller body types became more popular in the mid 1900’s, before reverting back to favouring slim bodies into the early 2000’s. These days, there is certainly a lot more celebration of diverse body types in the media and fashion. There are still ever-present comparisons in everyday life, in communities, with peers, the media, and even pornography. These things create influence, whether you are aware of it or not.

Body image is a combination of the thoughts and feelings that you have about your body. Body image may range between positive and negative experiences, and one person can feel positive or negative or a combination of both at different times. Body image is influenced by internal (such as your personality) and external (like your social environment) factors.

When someone accepts, appreciates, and respects their body, they may be described as having a positive body image. This is not the same as body satisfaction, because you can be dissatisfied with aspects of your body, but still be able to accept it for all its limitations.

Body dissatisfaction occurs when a person has constant negative thoughts and feelings about their body. Body dissatisfaction is an internal emotional state that is heavily influenced by external factors like pressures to look a certain way. Although body dissatisfaction can impact people of all ages, teenagers, women, people with gender dysphoria, higher weight, low self-esteem, and depression are at higher risk. Body dissatisfaction can drive people to engage in unhealthy weight-control behaviours, which increases the risk of developing an eating disorder. If you, or a someone you know are experiencing concerns related to body image, food or eating, it’s important to reach out. 

Body Image & The Media

The media shows us images that may be difficult to live up to and creates an unrealistic and negative perception of real body types. A lot of the media we see every day lies to us about the way someone looks, enhanced using professional make-up artists, stylists, personal trainers and Photoshop. Many studies have shown that the more time we spend viewing media, the higher the chance we’ll experience low self-esteem, and that social media use is associated with increased body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.

The use of social media has grown dramatically over the last decade, making it even easier to constantly compare ourselves to others both in the way we look and out everyday lives. Social media is often a highlight reel of someone’s life. It is easy to believe someone’s online presence as a representation of their normal life, which can lower our self-esteem if we’re not careful.

Negative body image and low self-esteem can lead to other mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression and should not be taken lightly. Careful consideration of how you use social media and the people you engage with is important in building and maintaining a positive relationship with your body. If you feel that you have detrimental self-esteem and body image issues, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. It’s okay to reach out, speak with mental health professionals, or use online tools to help you cope.


Weight bias, also known as fatphobia, describes the negative attitudes and stereotypes surrounding larger bodies. Fatphobia is also an abnormal and irrational fear of being fat or being around fat people. There are many ways that weight bias and fatphobia are present in society, such as:

  • Medical discrimination, where medical professionals prescribe weight loss or dieting advice, ignoring the real issue
  • Clothing stores not stocking diverse sizes or using diverse models
  • Public seating or spaces without chairs that fit people of all sizes
  • The presentation of larger bodies in the media
  • Discrimination in the workplace

Our society is ridden with diet culture which equates bodyweight to worth. The stigma, discrimination, and bullying that may surround bodyweight can often have a life-long negative impact on a person’s mental health, body image, and their relationship with food and exercise. Some of the ways you can reduce and challenge weight bias and fatphobia include:

  • Diversifying your ‘feed’, who you interact with on social media
  • Challenge weight bias or fatphobic thoughts you find yourself having
  • Challenge your friends, family, and those around you
  • Learn to appreciate and accept your own body

For more information, visit The Butterfly Foundation

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