Unaltered Cindy Crawford Bikini Photo Sparks Body Image Discussion

A leaked image of 48-year-old super model Cindy Crawford in all her wrinkly, not-so-perfect glory, showing her body in a skimpy bikini, has sparked an online discussion about women and self image. Normally, Crawford's photos, as well as those of other magazine models, are heavily airbrushed and retouched to make them look almost perfect. According to CNN, the leaked photo of a "real" Crawford was from a photo shoot for foreign editions of Marie Claire magazine.

Marie Claire addressed the photo on its website in a statement that reads, "An unretouched photo of Cindy Crawford has been circulating on Twitter this morning, revealing a body that defies expectations — it is real, it is honest, and it is gorgeous."

A True Reflection of Women

Although it's unclear how the photo made it out to the public, British ITV News anchor Charlene White tweeted it to her followers, claiming to have found it on a friend's Instagram feed. "Women come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes," she told CNN. "I think it's important to see all sorts of body shapes on our screens and in our magazines so that people have a true reflection of what people look like."

Given the artificial perfection normally portrayed in magazine photos, the Crawford photo shows that even someone considered to be a global representation of beauty isn't perfect. A healthy body image and acceptance of imperfections is crucial for women of any age, particularly in the formative years. At the premiere of her new documentary last week, Crawford said, "I really think—at any age—it's learning to be comfortable in your own skin. ...If women would treat themselves with the same kind of love they give to their friends, that would be such a great gift we could give ourselves. ...What makes you the most attractive is self-confidence. That's what people see."

According to WomensHealth.gov, negative body image is linked to eating disorders and over-exercising, both of which are physically dangerous. WomensHealth.gov recommends changing the way you think about yourself to view your body in a positive light. The site also points out that you can keep your body healthy and at its peak through healthy eating, exercise, rest, and stress management.

A Positive Image Should Start Young

If you're a parent, show your children that you're comfortable with your own body to help offset negative pressure from peers and media images. WomensHealth.gov recommends letting kids know that weight gain is normal during puberty and parents should build their children's esteem by recognizing their strengths and accomplishments. Provide healthy food, and don't make negative statements about weight, body types, and food choices. The media will continue to set unrealistic standards, but your family will develop healthy attitudes if you keep counteracting those messages.