Iowa State University dietician and clinician Alison St. Germain recently applauded London’s ban on advertisements that feature unrealistic body images on its public transportation system.
According to St. Germain, images of unrealistic body types can strengthen misconceptions on what is considered healthy. In some cases, these kinds of advertisements can play a role in the development of eating disorders. She said there is a need to promote that any body size and type can be healthy.
“The more often we see those images, the more often we want to look like that, and a lot of young women and girls will beat themselves up trying to look that way,” St. Germain said. “They’re often trying to reach a body shape or size that is unattainable and would require doing something harmful to their body, such as over-restricting, unhealthy dieting or over-exercising.”
Iowa State associate professor of advertising Joel Geske says the U.S. does not have a legal way to limit advertising this way. The First Amendment protects advertisements, and the Federal Trade Commission is limited to regulating commercial communication to avoid deception.
Geske suggests that consumers be aware of what goes into creating an advertisement that promotes body types that are unrealistic, including camera angles, lighting, editing and makeup.