Health

Should there be limits on digitally altering models?

It's no secret that the images of models and celebrities that we see in magazines are heavily altered on computer programs like Photoshop before they make it to the newsstands. A few recent incidents have shown just how extreme the digital reworking has gotten: Ralph Lauren had to apologise after running an ad with an alarmingly thin model, and the blog Jezebel criticised Self magazine for their heavy-handed retouching of singer Faith Hill. But does all this reworking of women's bodies have serious health consequences?

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It’s no secret that the images of models and celebrities that we see in magazines are heavily altered on computer programs like Photoshop before they make it to the newsstands. A few recent incidents have shown just how extreme the digital reworking has gotten: Ralph Lauren had to apologize after running an ad with an alarmingly thin model, and the blog Jezebel criticised Self magazine for their heavy-handed retouching of singer Faith Hill.

But does all this reworking of women’s bodies have serious health consequences? The American Medical Association thinks so, and they’re now asking advertisers to scale back the Photoshopping because it sends an unhealthy message.

In a statement, the AMA said “Advertisers commonly alter photographs to enhance the appearance of models’ bodies, and such alterations can contribute to unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image — especially among impressionable children and adolescents” and pointed to growing research that looking at these images is tied to eating disorders in young women. Many of the images show up online on controversial pro-ana sites, created and visited by anorexics as inspiration to get and remain dangerously thin.

The AMA also pledged to work with public and private groups to develop new guidelines for advertising, in an effort to reduce the number of unrealistic images of weight and appearance, of both men and women, that consumers are seeing. But since these guidelines will only be suggestions and won’t be enforceable, it remains to be seen if they lead to changes in what we see when we pick up a magazine. As long as consumers are still buying the publications that put these altered images of famous beautiful women on the cover, there unfortunately isn’t much incentive for publishers and advertisers to do things differently.