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The Communicator NEWS & POLITICS

IPFW Community Discusses Body Image

Written by: adminDecember 15, 2016

Written by: Paige Bird

She looked in the mirror, and she was absolutely disgusted.

That’s when the fit, 13-year-old girl decided to begin starving herself, a behavior that would lead to hospitalization and self-esteem issues six years later.

Body image is the way someone perceives their body and assumes that others perceive them, according to the Do Something website. About 91 percent of women are unhappy with their body, and the resulting eating disorders can have serious consequences for health, productivity and relationships.

Kyra Hoffman, a Fort Wayne native and sophomore graphic design major at IPFW, said her friend struggled with body image issues throughout high school. Although she never had issues of her own, she could tell her friend was affected by the appearances of models in the media.

“There shouldn’t be one specific way girls should look,” Kyra said. “We shouldn’t have to strive to have the body that the media shows us. We’re all different, and that’s a good thing.”

IPFW psychology professor Lesa Rae Vartanian said body esteem is also affected by peers and loved ones. Vartanian did a study about body issues and how people are affected by them, mentally and physically, and what aspects of culture increase body-esteem.

“We often villainize the media, but at the end of the day people are the media,” Vartanian said. “In a sense it all comes back to the humans and the messages that people give each other. Yes, we are affected by the media, but we also have to take some responsibility for what we say.”

Ali McQueen, a junior elementary education major from Fort Wayne, spoke of a family member’s problem with body image and how a loved one increased that issue.

“My grandma would always tell her, ‘You need to stop eating or you’re gonna get fat,’” McQueen said. “Now she’s 21 years old and weighs maybe 90 pounds.”

IPFW and Parkview Health Center counselor Floie Stouder said some issues students come to her with are anorexia, bulimia, depression, anxiety and more. She said there are two distinct factors that affect people’s body image and self-esteem: family and the power people have on them.

Stouder said, although she is a counselor, she is always learning. She is enrolled in a class at IPFW that has been discussing the media and its effect on people’s lives. She said recently in her class they have been discussing the pornography industry.

“People don’t like to talk about it because it makes them feel uncomfortable, but the pornography industry has an undeniable effect on our society,” Stouder said. “The average age of exposure to it is age 10. That is giving children the impression that this is how a body should look, and this is how sex should be.”

Social influences, including the media and mainstream culture, may promote specific images and standards of beauty and attractiveness, according to the National Association of Social Workers. These unnatural images go against healthy lifestyles at a young age and could lead to problems later in life.

Vartanian said IPFW students should know that as they get older, body image issues will dissipate.

“By the time you’re out of college, your sense of who you are is much more developed and multifaceted,” Vartanian said. “As you get older, the sense of who you are isn’t all about how you look.”