What’s the ideal body? Who says the media gets to tell us? A constellation of sociocultural factors that are making us sick.

We all know that gender roles in media affect people mentally, and consequently physically. During childhood and adolescence these media exposure events become part of a constellation of sociocultural factors that promote a thinness schema for girls and the muscularity schema for boys amongst other ideals.

Consider these facts about the development of body image which begins developing when we are just newborns. A child immediately begins to explore what his or her body feels like and can do. This process continues his whole life. A child’s body image is influenced by how people around her react to her body and how she looks. A pre-adolescent becomes increasingly aware of what society’s standards are for the “ideal body.”

It is long known that the media (television, movies, magazines, etc.) have, since World War II, increasingly held up a thinner and thinner body image, (and now ever more physically fit image) as the ideal body configuration for women. The ideal man is also presented as trim, but muscular.

the association of attractiveness and thinness was present in over 100 female characters appearing in 23 Walt Disney animated films (cel cartoons) produced over a 60-year period.

Thin female characters in television situation comedies were more likely than heavier female characters to be praised by male characters, and less likely to be insulted by male characters.

Since the 1980s magazines have increasingly depicted the male body in a state of objectified undress, such that a significant focus for the camera and viewer is raw, exposed (“chiseled” or “ripped”) muscularity. This might be the reason my oldest son was chomping at the bit at fourteen to gain permission to start working out. (He didn’t get that permission until he was sixteen, but at that juncture he jumped right into it, buying a gym membership and start working on a “six pack.”

Most working class adolescent girls are dissatisfied with their weight and shape. A study done by ‘Field, et., al in 1999, found that 70%  the girls stated that pictures in magazines influenced their conception of the “perfect” body shape, and over 45% indicated that those images motivated them to lose weight. Further, adolescent girls who were more frequent readers of women’s magazines were more likely to report being influenced to think about the perfect body, to be dissatisfied with their own body, to want to lose weight, and to diet.

Teen-age girls who viewed commercials depicting women who modeled the unrealistically thin (yet ideal by media standards), type of beauty, caused adolescent girls to feel less confident, more angry, and more dissatisfied with their weight and appearance. I wonder what the percentage is of girls that go on to form medical and psychological maladies like shyness, depression and others?

In a study on fifth graders, 10 year old girls and boys told researchers they were dissatisfied with their own bodies after watching a music video by Britney Spears or a clip from the TV show which showcased people thin “media ideal but uncommon in real life’ bodies.

In another recent study on media’s impact on adolescent body dissatisfaction, two researchers found that:

Teens who watched soaps and TV shows that emphasized the ideal body typed reported higher sense of body dissatisfaction. This was also true for girls who watched music videos. Reading magazines for teen girls or women also correlated with body dissatisfaction for girls.

Many children watch between two and four hours of television per day. The presence or absence of role models, how women and men, girls and boys are presented, and what activities they participate in on the screen powerfully affect how girls and boys view their role in the world. Studies looking at cartoons, regular television, and commercials show that although many changes have occurred and girls, in particular have a wider range of role models, for girls “how they look” is still more important than “what they do.”

In a 1997 study designed to study how children described the roles of cartoon characters, children (ages four to nine) “perceived most cartoon characters in stereotypical ways: boys were violent and active and girls were domestic, interested in boys, and concerned with appearances” (Thompson, 1997).

In another study, three weeks of Saturday morning toy commercials were analyzed. Within the sampling,
50% of the commercials aimed at girls spoke about physical attractiveness, while none of the commercials aimed at boys referenced appearance.
What are we teaching our young girls and boys?  Young males interacting with the toys or items being advertised, acted aggressively in 50% of the commercials aimed at them, while none of the girls behaved aggressively. Even voice-over for young male’s toys was overly presented with speed and aggression.

With regard to work roles depicted on television in a study doen by Sobiera in 1995, no boys had unpaid labor roles, while girls were mainly shown in traditional female jobs or roles of unpaid labor.

Dr. Nancy Signorielli, Professor of Communications at the University of Delaware examined the types of media most often viewed by adolescent girls: television, commercials, films, music videos, magazines and advertisements. While the study did find positive role models of women and girls using their intelligence and acting independently, the media presented an overwhelming message that girls and women should be more concerned with romance and dating (as it follows how they look and looks supposedly determine how successful they will be at their roles), while men focus on their strength, aggressiveness and occupations.

I would like to extrapolate out the conversation and ask you to consider the lasting effects of this ‘body image / gender moulding pre-occupation”. Can the high incidence in male and female dissatisfaction and deprssion be linked to these practices in our media or in a larger context, in our society?

Can we further say that physical maladies such as bulemia, anorexia and a host of anxiety disorders are a result of such seemingly unbalanced ideologies? I have to venture a ‘yes.’ Don’t forget about the boys.   Consider the boys who are twelve and thirteen and already asking for ‘muscle building supplements.’ or ‘chin up bars.’ All you have to do is visit any  MySpace profile pics for young boys and we see them flexing their muscles, which have yet to even finish developing!   Our society is sexualizing, under contextualizing / and gender moulding our children into very narrow roles causing them to see a narrow purpose that is connecting attractiveness with general personal worth.  These are dangerous times.  Kids are worried that they don’t fit in. Worried that they don’t measure up.  Some of them have acquired negative mental and physical manifestations of these anxieties and are killing themselves slowly or in a quick and deliberate way.

What can we do at a grass roots level? I invite discussion.



Say NO!! to “Uber-processed Foods!!” let’s have a “REAL FOOD REVOLUTION!!”

Ah…the diabetes epidemic, it’s epic and it’s sad.

Why are there so many people with diabetes? 23.6 million people—7.8% of the population!  “Why?” is the million dollar question,  but It’s not too hard to generate a pretty likely hypothesis.  If we look at the basic machinations of business, or, the way our food industry and national economy have changed, and the ever growing number of diabetics in the United States, it’s not hard to see a pattern. Here’s what I see.  The food industry more and more has evolved to produce largely low quality highly processed foods, food companies have answered the distress call from 2 income families strapped for time and have produced quick serve  inexpensive meals and accompaniments at very inexpensive prices.  This is great for busy parents and even singles who come home tired and have to throw a meal together in thirty minutes or less, but… In the process the  ingredients necessary to provide products  largely consist of uber-processed materials.

Uber-processed:  vacant of much nutritional value.

High in fat,  carbs and / or a high  glycemic index (which means it hardly takes any time for the body to turn the food into sugar, and most of it gets stored as fat) Uber processed means that it can have the likes of High Fructose Corn Syrup or other nefarious sugars, fats, oils, conditioners, bulking agents, coatings, thickeners, gums and colloids contained in it.  Even savory products can contain sugars like HFCS, xyanthan gums, colloids, or even titanium dioxide which is not assimilated by the body and it is just used as a whitening agent.  (did you know that white chocolate is not chocolate at all?  it’s all the other ingredients in chocolate without the cocoa powder but with the addition of titanium dioxide? ) That’s what makes it white!  Betcha don’t eat white chocolate anymore….it’s franken food for sure.

Franken-Food feeds diabetes

Given enough time, Uber pr0cessed food (Franken-food) contributes to diabetes.   One of the major problems is that the food companies have strayed very far from what is considered “real food”.   Why has this happened? It’s all in order to keep the food companies competitive in a struggling economy, or in ANY type of economy to be exact.  Whether it’s cruising along, or sinking under the weight of inflation, food companies will keep re-developing their existing products to keep a profit margin, or just to stay ahead of the competition.  It’s all about the almighty buck. This food matrix has been in progress since our food chain became corporate owned a slow process over many years.   It’s just the business of business with competition at the core.  When business gets tough products are re-formulated with ever cheaper ingredients.   But what about the product that goes on the shelf?  The customer may be Vons and the items sold may be vons syrups, or vons yogurt.  Now the consumer is buying a product that is not exactly the same (that’s okay actually, as long as the product has the same body, taste and the ingredients are exactly what is listed on the packaging), but when real sugar gets substituted with high fructose corn syrup (which acts compeltely different in your bloodstream) or a a natural starch, in a yogurt, is changed to a colloid or a certain type of gelatin in order to hold the body of the product. The consumer can be surprised by the change or not notice it at all.  It’s just business right?  Well in some cases.  Sometimes products are “changed to death”  I call it.  Take the highly regarded “Chips Ahoy.”  No…please!  TAKE THEM!!! really! they suck now!  …But really those cookies have been changed so mightly and so often that in my opinion, they have become the flagship of Franken-Food!, they have  become so processed and different than their original incarnation that I refuse to waste my money on them anymore.  I used to LOVE LOVE LOVE them!  No longer.  They are dry, crumbly, lack luster in taste, color and appeal.  They remind me of a  double walled 250 pound test cardboard box.  Yes, I used to be a buyer…you guessed it…of food ingredients and packaging.

Away we go to the  produce and meat and organic section

I understand what an R&D food lab does to stay ‘relevant’ cost wise, but to me…there are limits.  Or at least there should be.  Someone should tell that to Nabisco. The guys that continue to peddle  “Chips Ahoy” cookies to people too young to know what they are supposed to taste like.  Our food has gone from relatively healthy in the 1950’s …okay it was fatty and fried, but at least it was REAL!!!) on through the 1960’s to the beginning of the “diabetes age” which is currently in full swing and started in the mid 70’s.   I believe that most of the food on American retail grocery shelves can and should be classified as “frankenfood.”  Just start reading ingredients in the grocery store.  Our family made a pledge to cut out High Fructose Corn Syrup and in addition any type of diet sugar.  It has not been easy finding products on the grocery store shelf that lack either of the two!   It seems to me that  the only natural items to be found in the modern day grocery store are in the  produce or meat section.  Even there you have to make sure and find the section that is marked “organic” or “without hormones.”   The organic section, which most markets now have, contain items that are sometimes twice the price of the beautiful franken-veggies, sometimes they even cost three times more.  “Real food” is what the name “organic” should be changed to, it’s much simpler, more true.  But if it was simply called “Real food” do you think that retailers could make the consumer swallow such an increased price?  I don’t think so.  Organic sounds like an uncommon process that takes time and special concern and therefore, well…it’s worth the extra money right? better for you?  special?  Not.  Those are the ugly vegetables that the REAL ones the ones that we should have been eating all along! ,  It’s a shame that we have been duped into throwing away extra money on a selling point, when they are really selling our regular vegetables back to us the way they USED TO BE  before the farming industry decided to help nature produce at the most convenient time and with a prettier color and condition.

Boutique, Schmoo-tique.

So, when you go to the “real food” section,  you see labels like:  “Boutique mushrooms” or “heirloom” this or that.  but who can afford to buy the real food?  Yes some of us can, but most of us say why should we?  The process that the American food system has followed has been a sad one powered by the machinations of business and inherent capitalism.  Not that there’s anything wrong with capitalism, it’s what makes America go, and what gives us healthy competition to be better and better, but maybe it’s not right for the food industry.  Making food for ever increasing profit is innately going to fail the health of the people of America.  A failure for the people but a success for business.  Where is the collective conscience of the American Food Industry?  Why have we not see an action group that will first of all admit that “making food for profit” is a tall order that is only destined to fail consumers?  Or advocate for a “real food” / ” meaningful food content standard?” Just as the Mad Cow (Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis scare raised concerns and forged certain controls in the meat industry (whether they worked or not), those ideas of taking control of something in our food industry that was out of control, is beneficial.  It’s time to encourage the food industry to balance the quest for profit with the responsibility they hold as first and foremost providers of nutrients to the masses.   Is there a way to change our system or the supply chain in order to encourage this change?  It is true that business must survive but at the expense of increasing diabetes through offering food items increasingly void of nutrition is irresponsible.   Franken-food has fast become the majority of the food our nation is fed on.   Most of the products on our shelves (major grocery chains that serve most of our country and thus most of the citizens of the united states) have products that contain HFCS (High fructose corn syrup)* some type of color, artificial or added “natural” flavors and colors,preservatives for extensive shelf life among other food agents.

One Franken food leader rises to the top of the ranks

One hundred percent sucrose (Sugar)  got a bad rap back in the late 60’s and it got worse in the late 70’s, the word was out that it was making people gain weight and that calories mattered more than ever.  The real problem was that HFCS was introduced and so was aspartame and they were being formulated into coke and pepsi.  Sure people were using more and more sugar, but the real truth was that Coke and Pepsi’s war was heating up and as they competed and lowered prices to gain customers, they were re-formulating to keep their profit margin and yet offer their drinks in larger and larger serving containers!  The only way to do this was to substitute 100% sucrose for HFCS.  High Fructose Corn Syrup reacts differently in the human body causing the insulin levels to be come abnormal. Our society is drinking an steadily increasing amount of soft drinks such as diet coke since the late fifties and now these products contain aspartame (Diet Coke to this day has aspartame on it’s ingredient statement I just looked about  days ago), or other sweeteners which hold back the calories but have an extreme effect on blood glucose levels (the brain still perceives diet sugar  as sweet in fact tests show it is ‘perceived’ as sweeter and the body’s insulin levels react accordingly.  and reacts as so!). So it seems it  isn’t really the real sugar that is making everyone fat, it is the franken food ingredients such as HFCS and the high glycemic foods in our dirts. sugars….Sugar is in everything from bar-b-que sauce to tomaoto sauce and of course cake mixes and cereal and even in savory sauces you mix with water and pour over your pork chops for dinner. Most of it contains HFCS.  Our country is starving for real food and we are eating ourselves sick, but we are being provided food that is making us sick. We are sick with diabetes and commingling ailments as a result of diabetes.

Refuse to walk down Franken-Food aisles!

In the process our bodies assmililate this sugar (most of which is high glycemic) too quickly and store it as fat.  We can eat less and yes still stay fat or even get fatter on very little food.  Some people say…”Hey!  I hardly eat anything, only diet food when I actually DO eat! and I still gain weight!  Well the problem is what’s in the food.  Oh, and yes exercise can help but even if you get out there everyday, you must rid your body of franken food, which it does not know what to do with but store.   The only way this can change for Americans en masse is for the masses to revolt.  I’m talking about a food revolt.  We need to consciously decide to only buy real food.  Buy the organic (err…REAL fruits and vegetables), and dairy without hormones and additives and finally meats with no hormones or chemicals.  it means foregoing ANY processed foods.  No Uncle Ben’s mix it up mashed potatoes.  It means buying the potatoes that haven’t been sprayed (yes they might look a little uglier), but that’s REAL FOOD! it’s like getting so used to seeing  everyone with nose jobs, chin implants and boob jobs that we forget what REAL PEOPLE look like.  They come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, nose shapes, lengths of chins and there’s a reason for it all…natural selection and personality identification within a group.  Anyway, we must refuse to walk down the aisles with the Coke, Sprite, even the Crystal Light!  (Crystalline Fructose).  We must tell the food industry that they must treat consumers health as gold and that if they want to sell to us, they must make ‘healthy food’ number one in the equation.  They cannot sell us food that fits our price point IF the food is detrimental in ANY WAY to our bodies.  This is why our country is the leader in diabetes.  Body image is impacted as the body grows to abnormal size and a feeling of uselessness, sadness takes over thereby increasing the depression.  As doctors prescribe antidepressants to the depressed individuals, their bodies take on more weight as most medications to treat depression also increase appetite, and if that person is still hooked on franken-foods, the cycle enriches and widens perpetuating it’s self.  Pretty soon the only thing keeping the individual from deep medical depression or worse are the pills themselves that are making them fat.  Who wins? The food industry is staying afloat doing this (selling it’s franken food), and the pharmaceutical industry is having a field day off of the profits of medication for depression.  Never have I seen more commercials for a widening array of depression medication in my life.  This process is not easy to see at the outset but nevertheless this cycle becomes apparent with some reading and watching what is happening in our society.

We want real food and we want it now!

It seems to me that saying “NO” to “Uber-processed foods,” “Franken-foods” would be a start.  Let’s just stop walking all the aisles of the store and just circulate in the fruit / vegetable , meat and dairy areas. Let’s buy the ingredients to make our own bread.  We don’t have to give that up, but we can sure make it without dough conditioners right? and preservatives right?  If enough people say NO to uber-processed foods / Frankenfood, the food manufacturers will provide what the people want.  A bonus to saying “NO!” to Franken-Food is that farmers and farm co-0ps will have no reason to use mega-pesticides and dangerous agents in order to have a perfect looking crop, as there will be no demand for those perfect fruits and vegetables, and farm-workers may actually have the benefit of staying healthier as they come into contact less and less with these dangerous chemicals in their workplace.  We are who the food marketers study.  We are the people creating the “trends”  In order to react to the marketplace, they watch our every move.  Remember what WE BUY is what keeps THEM in business.  We have the control.  We the people.  We are the marketplace.  Let’s show them what we want.  We want health,  we want to be rid of diabetes as a society.  We want real food and we want it now.