Why Target’s Photoshop scandal is a great thing for your body image

Mar 29, 2014, 9:29 AM | Updated: 9:29 am

In an age where people are constantly bombarded with images tweaked to perfection, it can be hard for even the savviest media consumer to determine what is real and what's not.

That's why experts and parents alike are happy when big-name retailers have big-time Photoshop failures.

Target recently made headlines when a blogger noticed something wrong with a teen modeling a swimsuit. The Ethical Adman, a blogger known for critiquing social issues in ads, first caught the retouching disaster.

Besides a poor attempt at thinning out the model’s arms and legs, an overzealous Photoshopper also took the liberty of carving out a bigger thigh gap, the Ethical Adman said, a recent alarming trend that many girls and women aspire to have.

The Photoshop failure quickly blew up across the Internet, and Target issued an apology the same day.

“It was an unfortunate error on our part and we apologize,” Target spokesman Evan Miller told ABCNews.com. “We removed the image from the site and we’re working to get a new image up there.”

Licensed social worker Juliann Jeppsen, a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah working on her psychology degree, said that many people are clueless when it comes to how much Photoshop is used and that it can harm one’s body image.

“It’s extremely damaging because people think that it's real,” Jeppsen said. “So they start comparing themselves to what they see in these advertisements.”

Jeppsen, who works with clients diagnosed with eating disorders, said that most people she sees have some kind of body image issue, big or small.

“I think that body image is such a huge factor in anywhere from a full-blown diagnosable psychiatric disorder like depression to simple low self-esteem, low self-worth,” she said. “It's widespread. I honestly have not talked to very many people either in my personal life or my professional life that don't have some type of concern with their physical appearance.”

That’s why it’s such a good thing to have these Photoshop “scandals” — here is tangible proof that these images aren’t real. For many parents, it’s a relief to have evidence to back up the argument.

Mom of three Kristen Bradford, from Sacramento, Calif., says that it’s the parents' responsibility to teach their kids from the start that most images they see today have retouching done, and boycotting the store isn’t the answer.

“We all know that just about every ad or magazine improves and perfects their images in one way or another. They aren't real,” Bradford said. “Target just got caught. If we haven't talked to our (kids) about this already, then it's past due.”

Jeppsen gives some advice for parents on how to help foster a positive body image. First, the number on the scale is almost always misleading.

“I highly, highly discourage against weighing yourself,” Jeppsen said. “Body weight is a very poor indicator of health for most of us.”

She encourages people to spend little time in front of the mirror and to not have a scale in the house. Instead, she wants parents to promote intuitive eating and teach their kids how to feel and respond to cravings in a healthy way.

She also said that people, especially younger ones easily influenced by images, need to be cautious about how much media they’re consuming.

“Honestly, I encourage people, especially younger teenage and twenty somethings that I work with, not to indulge in magazines and websites that have a lot of fashion and skin showing and these kinds of things,” she said.

And even though we see these images everywhere, even on our friends’ Instagram and Facebook profiles, it really boils down to how much self-worth a person has. Jeppsen said the most important thing is how beautiful we feel on the inside, even though it can be a difficult concept to grasp.

“We are are own worst critic. So whatever we see and what we don't like, other people don't see that,” Jeppsen said. “And quite frankly, most people don't really care. They care more about what's inside.”

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Why Target’s Photoshop scandal is a great thing for your body image