10/07/2010 04:25 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Body Image: Questions, Issues and Answers

Poor body image is a developing problem in our youth today. It is an issue that carries over as our population ages. Young and old, men and women all deal with some form of poor body image.

I see it everywhere; in my seventy-six year old grandmother to my nine year old cousin, and even in myself. Everyone is trying to be something they are not or were just not meant to be.

Department stores have millions of shelves dedicated to altering your appearance. Whether it is cosmetics, exercise equipment or diet pills it all tends to sent the message that you're not good enough to be you.

The New Harvard Guild to Women's Health says, "Body image is the inner perception of her (his) own physical appearance. This image may or may not correspond with reality."

But where does this image of the idea body come from? It's sad to say, but most of the time television, magazines, peers and family problems are typically to blame.

Media over-emphasizes looks by airbrushing, highlighting, and clipping photos to make a human become perfection. But not until recently did anyone want to explain that every magazine cover had been photo shopped, thus leaving everyone to believe that what they were seeing was an obtainable body.

Often women's magazines are filled with article about people losing or gaining weight. Or about someone who is hot or someone who is not. By focusing on the shell and not the inside, they are basically telling us that we are not good enough.

One overlooked effect of this is how it makes women compete against each other. This ultimately makes it hard for some women to form lasting friendships within their gender.

This pressure to be perfect or sexy can start at a very young age. Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus have been very influential in selling sex to our youngsters. No wonder today's children are having body image issues; they are comparing their bodies to retouched teenyboppers.

The fashion industry only adds to the pressure by producing clothes that could only hang right on a pencil and parading these clothes down the runway on the few human sticks that they found.

While magazine editors profess to be on the lookout for more normal models, not very many of them practices what they preach. If you look in most fashion or sports magazines today you will still have a hard time finding a model larger than a size four, or a man without bulging arms and eye-popping pectorals for that matter.

Beauty pageants and muscle competitions are a manifestation of body image issues. We have let our young women and men go as far as to compete on the shear premise of who looks best. This would be hard on an adult's self esteem if they lost, let alone a child's self esteem.

Cosmetic surgery alone is a testament to how out of control our views of our bodies have become. I remember a news story a few years ago where a woman had had several surgeries just to look like Barbie... Barbie! She's a plastic doll, but because we have taught our little girls that she's perfect, this woman went through all this pain and spent thousands of dollars just to look like her.

I interviewed Brenda Boyens-Correll, a pastor and teacher, about body image. Having been born in South Africa and spending time as a teacher in Taiwan and Israel, Correll said, "Body image is an issue around the world, but that America's projection of sexuality has given Americans, especially American women a stereotype in other countries."

In Asia, American women are considered cheap, while teaching in Taiwan, Correll asked why the felt this way. The answer she got was that they believed that American women were exactly how they were portrayed in our movies.

GQ columnist, Terrence Rafferty said, "When I look at women in the movies now, I often feel as if I were gazing not at real people but cartoon characters -- Olive Oyl, Popeye in drag and Jessica Rabbit." Though harsh he is giving a true sentiment of how actresses and actors look. It is extremely refreshing to see stars such as Kate Winslet, Selma Hayek, John Burke Krasinski, and Jack Black embrace who they actually are.

People in the media often do not think of the repercussions of their actions. They do not think of the millions of little girls and boys who feel less than just because of their movies or photographs.

These images can have many detrimental effects such as anorexia, bulimia, dieting and binging, depression and even suicide. If that is not bad enough anorexia and bulimia can cause an otherwise healthy person to have health issues such as heart disease. It can also make young adults engage in drugs, alcohol, and early sexual activity.

So now what do we do about it? The way we view our bodies has been ingrained into our psyche for many years, but with a few simple actions we could work toward helping ourselves and others obtain a healthy body image.

I suggest we move away from airbrushing and retouching magazine photos, and focus on real beauty. Whether that person is naturally thin or pleasantly plump they both represent tow separate types of beauty. Any person is beautiful if they would just believe it.