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UPDATE: Targeting the Media

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April 2010 Volume 21, Number 2
©2010 Gürze Books

In mid-February, the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Eating Disorders Section (RCPsych) asked the government to establish a forum to discuss the problem of media portrayals that may promote eating disorders. The group also wants media to mark images with a special symbol when they have been airbrushed. The British psychiatrists are asking the government to establish a forum to discuss the issue with representatives from the media, advertisers, experts and organizations on eating disorders, regulatory bodies and politicians. Dr. Adrienne Key, a consultant psychiatrist and member of the RCPsych, announced that the aim of the forum would be to “Collaboratively develop an ethical editorial code that realistically addresses the damaging portrayal of eating disorders, raises awareness of unrealistic visual imagery created through airbrushing and digital enhancement, and also addresses the skewed and erroneous content of magazines.” Three targets were selected. The first includes images of preteen and underweight models in the media that suggest the ideal body is a thin one, to the extent that airbrushing and digital enhancement is often used to portray an unrealistic image of physical perfection. A second target is magazine articles that give advice on dieting without balancing it with information about long-term effectiveness and the dangers of extreme dieting. A final target is ads that glamorize weight loss and inaccurately portray eating disorders as personal weaknesses or mild disorders instead of treating them as serious mental illnesses that need specialist support.

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