AUSTIN—According to a groundbreaking report released this week by researchers at the University of Texas, tens of millions of citizens across the United States are bravely resisting the relentless pressure from the media to be thin and active.
The 80-page report confirmed that Americans are inundated with images of slender individuals in commercials, films, television shows, print advertisements, billboards, internet ads, and product packaging every day, yet noted that as many as 190 million citizens are “courageously refusing to conform” to these media ideals of physical fitness and leanness and are instead embracing the bodies they have.
“Given the media’s clear preference for thin physiques, we expected most Americans would be actively seeking to emulate such body types, but we found that nearly 7 in 10 American adults possess the inner courage and determination to overcome the constant pressure to maintain a trim figure,” said behavioral psychologist and the report’s co-author Olivia Trumbull, noting that these Americans boldly ignored, on average, 10 to 14 images of in-shape individuals every minute of the day. “This level of resolve is astonishing, considering that the media is saturated with models, actors, athletes, and pop stars who are no bigger than a women’s size 4 or a men’s large. However, if you look around any American town or city, you’ll find incredibly brave women who are size 18, size 20, even size 24, as well as brave men who routinely wear XXXL clothing. That’s a testament to American willpower.”
“These are regular people who, all day long, are bombarded with unrelenting messages touting the desirability of being athletic or even moderately healthy, and their response is to loudly proclaim, ‘No, that’s not who I am,’” Trumbull added. “That’s the definition of courage.”
The report emphasized the demographic’s “incredible strength of character,” noting that such individuals were able to look past the uniformly thin celebrities that popular culture has provided for them, as well as the healthful lifestyles these media figures purvey. Indeed, the report found that, rather than give in to the constant emphasis on a lean, shapely physique, the brave segment of the U.S. population consistently and valiantly avoided nutritious foods, reasonable portion sizes, and any exercise whatsoever.
Moreover, the study found evidence that most Americans were courageously becoming heavier and significantly more sedentary in proud defiance of the media messages that are broadcast at them throughout the day.
“What’s most intriguing about our findings is that these stirring individuals who are standing up against Hollywood studios and Madison Avenue advertisers are not people who have isolated themselves from popular culture; rather, these are people who watch television and are on their computers all the time,” said the study’s co-author, Dr. Wesley Steigman. “It appears that no matter how much the media glamorizes moving around, eating only three meals a day, or just generally treating one’s body with respect and concern for one’s future well-being, most Americans staunchly refuse to let these messages affect them. The fortitude and strength it must take to do this is truly inspiring.”
Although researchers identified such heroic members of society in every region of the country, they noted that the greatest levels of courage were found in low-income communities, particularly in the South and Midwest. Additionally, the report also drew attention to the “immense levels of bravery” among the nation’s children, many of whom were found to be rebelling against thin, healthy media stereotypes by embracing extremely large body types as early as two years of age.
While focusing mainly on body image, the report also briefly highlighted Americans’ remarkable bravery at withstanding other forms of media pressure, noting that millions of citizens were boldly rejecting messages to be educated, hardworking, and to maintain basic hygiene as well.
“When I look around and see thin, healthy people on every magazine cover and TV screen, it’s hard not to think that maybe I should alter my appearance to try to be more like them,” said research participant and Type 2 diabetic Henry Dobbs of Memphis, TN. “It’s a struggle each day when I see those people who look nothing like me and then I see myself in the mirror. But then I tell myself that I will not be bullied by the media or anyone else.”
“I’m not going to change my lifestyle just to live up to some media ideal of being an appropriate weight for my height or having a healthy body,” Dobbs added, pausing a moment to catch his breath. “And by setting a strong example, I hope I’m passing that same message down to my kids.”
In addition to confirming that Americans were currently standing up in record numbers against media pressure to be thin, the report concluded by noting that, according to all projections, the percentage of such heroic individuals is expected to only continue climbing sharply for the foreseeable future.