What potential lies dormant in those of us who spend so much energy working towards the unrealistic ideal? Can unrealistic standards created by media negatively affect couples? How does the media and personalized advertising impact young people? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks with Jean Kilbourne about how media and advertising feed into the eating disorder culture.


In the late 1960s, Jean began her exploration of the connection between advertising and several public health issues, including violence against women, eating disorders, and addiction, and launched a movement to promote media literacy as a way to prevent these problems. A radical and original idea at the time, this approach is now mainstream and an integral part of most prevention programs. According to Susan Faludi, “Jean Kilbourne’s work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture -advertising. We owe her a great debt.” Mary Pipher has called Kilbourne “our best, most compassionate teacher.” Her films, lectures and television appearances have been seen by millions of people throughout the world. Kilbourne was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses. She is the creator of the renowned Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women film series and the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids (with Diane E. Levin). Find out more and connect with Jean here. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Branding yourself
  • Promote media literacy
  • Imagine!
  • Damage across the board

Branding yourself

With the rise of technology and the nuances added through social media, advertisers are able to directly influence and target individuals, catering specific ads to their wants. The increase in technological advancements of social media also gives people the ability to ‘market’ themselves as a brand; people can photoshop and edit themselves, ‘selling’ an ‘idea’ of themselves to their followers and some people view this as their authentic self, whereas in reality, it is a manufactured self.
It used to be that we would compare ourselves to the super models … we would compare ourselves to them and strive to achieve the ideal and all of that, but at least in some sense there was this idea that these women were goddesses or something like that, whereas now, girls end up comparing themselves with idealized images of each other and that makes it probably even more shameful that they feel that they can’t achieve that image in real life. (Jean Kilbourne)

Promote media literacy

A ban on filters or editing apps would not be possible, however, a lasting way to make an impact in people's lives around the addiction and need to use filters would be to promote media literacy, and educate people about the dark corners in the world of advertising. Educating young people about the ins and outs of media can also help to expose the shallow nature behind being obsessed with your look; how much money, energy, and time people spend on creating an image that matters more to other people than it does to you. There is so much emphasis on the external because:
Emphasizing the external sells a lot of products, whereas if you emphasize compassion, athletic ability or reading more books … basically, advertising works by creating anxiety about something. (Jean Kilbourne)
Advertisers sell products to help you soothe this induced-anxiety, they use your anxiety to make themselves money.


Consider all the time, energy, and money people put into creating a specific appearance for themselves. Now, consider if everyday people who wake up hating their bodies woke up instead to loving their bodies, and they dedicated all that energy, time, and money into pursuing their careers, their hobbies, their life goals, and being an active member in their communities and families; society would flourish.

Damage across the board

Pursuing and believing in idealized images of men and women do not only negatively impact people who are part of those groups, but they can damage one another. Idealized images of women can harm men and vice versa because it perpetuates a culture of people as sexual objects. These idealized and unrealistic images can also get in the way of some couples creating meaningful and intimate relationships because if they get caught up in being seen and seeing one another through this skewed lens, they begin to judge one another with unrealistic and harmful standards.



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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