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Patricia Pitts, PhD  
Female
Los Angeles, CA

Interests: anorexia, bulimia, Eating disorders

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The Ugly Side of Beauty        by Dr Patricia Pitts, PhD

Oct 08, 2012 - 8 comments

Whether or not we like to admit it, the images of beauty generated by the media have a profound impact on our own self-image, and go a long way toward bolstering – or depleting – our self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem.    
   Only a few decades ago, the standards of beauty to which millions of American women struggled to conform were set almost exclusively by the über-thin, airbrushed models depicted in fashion magazines (incidentally, the average American model is 5'11" tall and weighs 117 pounds; the average American woman is 5'4" tall and weighs 140 pounds).  Similarly unrealistic images of beauty still exist today, but now in addition to magazines, we are inundated with them in movies, on TV, and on the Internet, which streams into our consciousness not just through our home computers but through iPads and smart phones that accompany us wherever we go.
   We are now living in an era when, according to a 2010 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the majority of 8- to 18-year olds spend upwards of ten hours a day gobbling up media-driven content, and in the process consume as many as 5,000 advertisements each day. There is no denying that our culture has reaped countless benefits from the digital age, but these advancements also have a dark side:  The 24/7 deluge of advertising sends a powerful and often deeply destructive message to women in particular.  There are, of course, many variations on this theme, but the message goes something like this:  Thinness equals beauty, and you must be beautiful to be loveable.
   Media-driven messages affect us all to some degree, influencing the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, and the brand of breakfast cereal we eat. But young women – whose identities are still so malleable and who succumb so easily to insecurities about their appearance – are especially vulnerable.  The constant reinforcing of the message that thinness equals beauty, acceptance, and success compels a frightening number of young women to strive for this ideal at any cost.  
   As an eating disorder specialist with 30 years’ experience treating anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and related disorders – and as someone who overcame my own battle with anorexia in my early 20s – I understand well the relationship between media pressures and the onset of eating disorders.  In the United States alone, an estimated 24 million people are fighting a life-threatening battle with an eating disorder, and a shocking 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia occur in girls 15 to 19 years old.  While these statistics are disturbing, they are not surprising.  Merchandisers actively seek out this demographic of women, often using sales tactics that prey upon insecurities about the size, shape, and overall appearance of their bodies.  
   When actor and activist Ashley Judd came forward with her bold and articulate essay [hyperlink to http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/12/ashley-judd-share-your-puffy-face-moments.html ] that railed against our culture’s “pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic" expectations of beauty which, according to Judd, “affect each and every one of us in multiple and nefarious ways”, I forwarded a copy to everyone I know.  We may not have the power to stop the messages that permeate our airwaves, but we do have the power to stop listening to them.  We can judge ourselves against the image of beauty so often depicted in the media, or we can appreciate the distinctive features that make us uniquely ourselves: our curly red locks, lanky torso, crooked smile...  When we look for our particular brand of beauty, we find it – and the lens through which we view ourselves is cleansed.      


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by llb991, Oct 08, 2012
Now how do we educate people on this issue?  Both male and females alike seem to just fall for the fake advertising.  Articles like yours are a good step in the right direction, thank you.

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by Ubu2, Oct 10, 2012
Great!!! Thats amazing someone feels exactly like i do didn't think anyone did :) your completely right we can't stop all of the garbage on the tv n everything produced to get money by putting nudity or fakeness everywhere directed and aimd at men cause they arn't too bright when it comes to images of us :) if we can get women to believe in themself and stop taking it as if they arn't skinny they arn't perfect it's complete BS!!! No one is perfect to everyone and never ever will be even if we get model like or superstar like or whatever the degraded girls on pornos n tv are called not everyone on this planet would agree that we are perfect cause looks are only opinions of what other people see and the only opinion that matters is your own :) i believe everyone is perfect until they prove me wrong by being horrible inside or how they act changes how i see them even if they are the most beautiful lady ever to men if they are doing gross stuff they are not pretty at all they are just low and pathetic and saying that not all the people on tv n stuff are degrading n stuff they are beautiful by how they act n iunno how they are in real life so to me they are fake :3 also like i said before looks are opinions n opinions differ from each person there will be people with the same opinion but they are just following the rest like sheep i think we definatly don't need sheep especially if it's distergrating the world and peoples feelings i think everyone should give themself the love they deserve wether or not they believe they are beautiful and they definatly shouldn't listen to the bad n negative crap in the world i'm 19 n i've known since i was 14 DO NOT GIVE A SHITE WHAT PEOPLE SAY IF IT EFFECTS YOU BADLY and ive brushed it off faught back said my opinion and they don't stop so now im in this emotional state where i can't even watch a simple movie with any women in it cause one person can only take so much bs n thankyou so much for writing this post it's completely cheerd me up n i think thats all we gotta do is cheer everyone up :) hope your all well and having a good time living ^_^

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by JoeDePlumber, Oct 14, 2012
Here's the problem I have with your article.  Never once do you propose the obvious solution, namely to turn off the tv.  Not only would this raise people's self-esteem but it would encourage them to do more creative things with their time.  It would also encourage them to think for themselves rather allowing for the kind of brainwashing you condemn to influence them.

bottom line:  no one has to view adverts if they don't want to.  But people do, and then they complain about how degraded they feel.  We all have a choice.

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by jmheard, Oct 16, 2012
have been experiencing some pregnancy symptoms for the past 3 months. I have had a missed period since may 25th. I have nausea but no vomiting, sore feet, full breast but no soreness, fatigue, and my abdomen is very firm. When I press down on my lower abdomen it feels like whatever it is that i am touching, it is pressing on my bladder.. like a baby. it feels the exact same way when i would touch my stomach when i was pregnant with my first child. i have taken several pregnancy test but all came back negative.I can't afford to go to the doctor because it cost to much and they won't help me. I have had some vaginal bleeding or about 2 weeks. just this morning it had become a little bit heavier. i also feel something moving inside my stomach. just like before when i was pregnant and it felt exactly the same. what should i do because i am scared because i am bleeding. but no pain.

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by Shellylynn529, Oct 18, 2012
I'm 34 and have lived a life of horror as far as struggling with looks. As a kid I was always overweight. I was tormented not only by classmates but at home too. Media and family play a huge role on our self complex. Now I am not obese but get ridiculed for being to thin. I have lost over 80 pounds because of undiagnosed problems. I am finally back up to 160. So weight has been a never ending battle for me.

I agree with you Joe. Turn the tv off. I don't have cable and I don't miss it.

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by Ben727, Oct 20, 2012
Ms Pitts, I agree with your primary message. But I wonder why you don't address the big picture. Teenage obesity is far more prevalent in this country than teenage anorexia. If your premise is that the media is driving eating disorders, then you should explain how this obesity epidemic fits in. Are all these heavy people simply ignoring the message that they're not beautiful unless they're thin? And why are so many people too heavy or too light?

Here's the cold truth: Not everyone gets to be [what our culture currently defines as] beautiful no matter what they do to themselves. Cosmetic surgery won't do it, starving yourself won't do it, you are fundamentally what your genetics dictate. Lets start by telling people that, and then work our way into the idea that what our culture defines as beauty is a temporal concept, and that true beauty is something everyone can define for themselves. Once we understand these concepts, it's easy to accept that strenuous exercise 3-4 times a week for one hour along with a diet of non-processed foods (low in meat and high in vegetables) will have 99% of the population looking their very best!

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by Altamisal, Oct 22, 2012
Well said Ben.  Quality of life is the important thing, and we will look our best when we feel our best.  And that means eating well and exercising.   Forget surgery!

By the way, I don't think eating well means denying ourselves foods we like.  It's all about balance, and we can often
find ways to satisfy our cravings by tweaking recipes etc.   I stay away from cake, cookies and other high-sugar items for example - I don't think the detrimental effects are worth it. But I just made carrot bread using this recipe:
http://milkforthemorningcake.blogspot.com/2008/05/residue-thats-good-for-you-carrot-pulp.html
It came out great, and is delicious toasted, with or without butter.

I mostly don't eat pizza either, it's just too heavy.   But I'll have Italian food once in a while along with a generous
serving of greens.  You get the picture!

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by beacaro, Nov 07, 2012
Well the ugly side beauty is important for us the women because our aparience is in cause most important that our health, Why? I don't know, but the life it is. we need to think our health first , if we have own-love...

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