This is a guest blog by Laura Connell.

There are 3 big lies the media tells that increase bad body image.

1. Fashion models are naturally thin.

Fashion models are under incredible pressure to remain very thin, even emaciated, and there is a constant threat of being replaced if they gain weight. Models as young as 15 reveal being advised by their agents to eat “half a rice cake a day” to remain underweight. Others tell of immunity problems brought on by malnutrition, excessive exercise like running miles at 3 am to work off the calories from a single croissant, and dangerous habits such as dipping cotton balls in orange juice and ingesting them so they won’t eat for up to five days.

And those are only the ones who are talking. ED is such a secretive disease that the majority of models suffering likely do so in silence.

Be careful when you hear anyone say models are “built that way”. Most of the time, they’re not.

2. Fashion advertising has to be “aspirational” in order to work.

Aspirational advertising is based on creating images that are unattainable so women will keep buying products in a futile attempt to try and achieve an impossible standard of beauty. Whenever anyone questions the big beauty brands about why they continue to publish images they know are making girls and women feel bad about themselves, they reply that it’s the only way to sell their products.

Except it isn’t.

Ben Barry, a Canadian model agent whose agency specializes in representing diversity, recently published PhD research which shows that “aspirational” advertising is a myth. He found that women increase their purchase intentions when the model in the advertisement looks more like them.

3. Fit bodies are thin.

“Fitspiration”, images which purport to provide inspiration for a healthy lifestyle, are often faceless shots of chiseled and sweaty abs pictured mid-crunch. They are usually accompanied by a graphic suggesting that if you don’t look like this you are not working hard enough. But the women in these images are underweight and the amount of “work” and restriction of food intake it would require to achieve their look is more aptly described as an obsession. These images are considered by many to be abusive as they create feelings of shame and self-doubt in the women who view them.

Countless former body builders and competitive athletes have come forward to admit they succumbed to eating disorders because of pressure from media to look a certain way. Many of the elite female athletes you see on the covers of magazines and even out on the field are starving themselves to achieve a certain image. The truth is: fitness and thinness have nothing to do with one another. Fit bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

Laura Connell is a certified Girls Circle facilitator who will be hosting a body image program for girls 11-14 this summer in Richmond Hill. Call 416-903-9714 to join or for more information go to: http://mygirlscircle.com/