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The Media and Me

By Christina Keefer--When I was knee-deep in my eating disorder, I played the dangerous game of “Am I skinnier than her?” with every image set before me. On the television, I compared my body to that of actresses who played 17 year olds on Gossip Girl. I looked at the tabloids and fashion magazines while waiting to check out in a grocery store and I practiced mental measurements of the bodies of models I saw on billboards. I played that twisted game too many times to count – and I lost every time.

A sensible me would have asked, “How could these reporters possibly know that she is XX pounds - without a formal news release from her publicist?” But the distorted thoughts that fueled my eating disorder were not sensible, and instead I continued to make arbitrary comparisons to the fabricated weights and images of celebrities. I disregarded any notion that most of the image I saw were doctored with Photoshop, make-up, lighting and other industry tricks.  I made myself feel worse about my body by believing that any image I came across of someone who appeared tinier than me was fact, undoctored and life-like. I drove myself insane by putting a distorted image of myself side-by-side with a manually distorted image of someone I had never met, and always came out the loser.

But as I continue to grow stronger in my recovery, and as my mind emerges from the depressive fog of malnutrition, I am looking at the media in a new, more critical light. I still sometimes compare my body to that of celebrities - that is a hard habit to break. But when I catch myself doing it, I play a new game and try to find the ways in which the image I’m seeing has been ‘touched-up.’ It’s an easy question to answer if I’m looking at magazines - especially now with websites like Jezebel and XOJane putting out articles with “before-after” images and examples of botched Photoshop jobs. It’s also an easy question to answer if I’m watching a movie and can realize that every camera angle was carefully selected to both enhance the scene and the image of the actors present.

I try to take these images with a grain of salt. And I also try to tell myself that other people’s bodies are of no concern to me; just as how my recovery body looks is of no one else’s concern. We all have different body frames, bones and essentially different lifestyles.

But sometimes, I do have a bad body image day and want to start a new round of the dangerous game. That is the time in which I turn away from the media completely– those days, I turn off my TV, computer or magazine app. I text my sister, I talk to my friend in person, or I do a breathing exercise to reconnect with my own body.

When I find the media triggering, I tell myself that the trigger is a blank shot. As long as I can connect with how I’m feeling, with how healthy my body is now, with others who understand how messed up it is that prepubescent body type is becoming an ideal for adults, I know I will be fine. I know that the bad body image moment, hour, or day will pass - as long as I connect with somebody or something real.

About this blogger: Christina Keefer is a recent graduate of the University of Florida. She currently lives in Washington DC and is interested in identity and how body image plays a role in cultivating and shaping our personalities. 

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