As a clinical psychologist for 30 years, Arlington resident Emily Fox-Kales says, she has seen time and again how a distorted body image can lead to unhealthy weight-control behaviors and even eating disorders.
In her new book, ‘‘Body Shots: Hollywood and the Culture of Eating Disorders,’’ she presents case studies analyzing how the unattainable standards of beauty perpetuated in movies affect viewers’ self-esteem.
Fox-Kales, a professor of cultural studies and media psychology at Northeastern University, encourages people to continue to enjoy movies. The key, she believes, is viewing them with a critical eye in order to resist the potentially harmful effects of celebrity culture.
Parents can assist their children in developing this skill by watching movies with them and discussing the images projected on the screen: Do all popular girls wear a size zero? What are these characters’ values? What is this movie trying to sell you?
‘‘The critical questions are how did you feel about yourself before you watched this movie, and how do you feel now?’’ said Fox-Kales, who is also founder and executive director of Feeding Ourselves, an Arlington-based outpatient program for people who want to change the way they eat.
‘‘Movies convey certain messages that make it tempting to idealize certain kinds of bodies,’’ she added, ‘‘but the average woman is not 5-10, she shouldn’t weigh 110 pounds, and she doesn’t have the benefit of special lighting and camera angles.’’
Fox-Kales will discuss her book as part of an authors event at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Robbins Library, 700 Massachusetts Ave. in Arlington. For more information, visit www.emilyfox-kales.com or www.robbinslibrary.org.