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Eating Disorders Related to Media

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Mary Dinh

WR121 Jensen


8 June 2016

Eating Disorders Related to Media

The media today portrays an unrealistic standard of beauty that has a powerful influence on the way females view themselves.  Society presents us with an “ideal body” through advertisement, magazines, as well as in television. Social media also plays a role in the way we see ourselves. With these unattainable standards, women are led to believe that they must risk their health in order to be beautiful. We strive to look like our role models/idols and in the process we end up harming ourselves.  Females who are repeatedly exposed to the “thin idea” are at a greater risk of developing body image disturbance and eating disorders.

Back in middle school, I always felt the pressure to be being skinny and pretty. I was obsessed with fitting in with everyone else. My mom was no help either. She constantly told me I needed to eat less if I wanted to be skinny. Back then, there was no Instagram, or Facebook. The internet was still fairly new. I got ideas about the “ideal body” through movies and TV shows. I watched my favorite celebrities with envy. My mom would point at the TV and say “If you want to look like them, don’t eat too much.”  I took her words seriously. For almost a week, I ate about once a day and that was during dinner time. Towards the end of that week, I felt sick and tired and my stomach felt tangled up. I woke up that last night with bad stomach pains, and I went to my mom’s room to wake her up. She took me to the ER, and there was I was forced to admit that I had not been eating because I didn’t want to be fat. My mom was in shock; she had no idea what had been going on. I couldn’t help but feel anger towards her since it was her words that caused me to do it. I couldn’t completely blame her though. I let peer pressure and the media get to me. That was the first and last time I let myself do that to my body. I am thankful that it didn’t go past that point. It’s a good reminder to not let people get the best of you.

An eating disorder is characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. Anorexia, bulimia, purging, binge-eating are all examples of eating disorders. Anorexia is diagnosed when your weight is below normal for your age and height. People with anorexia nervosa refuse to maintain a minimal body weight. They are intensely afraid of gaining weight and have a significant distortion in the perception of the shape or size of their body, and have body dissatisfaction (National Eating Disorder). Binging and then taking measures from gaining weight such as vomiting or extreme fasting and exercise—that is known as bulimia. Purging is when you don’t binge but still force yourself to throw up. Using laxatives is another form of purging. Binge-eating is consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time. 25% of college-aged women take part in binging and purging to control weight.

In a survey of 185 female students on a college campus, roughly 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight. 83% of the students that dieted were doing it for weight loss. 44% of the students considered their weight to be normal. 95% of teenagers and adults ages 12-25 are affected by eating disorders (ANAD). Adolescents are most vulnerable to media exposure because of the biological changes their bodies are going through during puberty. 47% of girls in 5th-12th grade want to lose weight because the pictures they see in magazines. 69% of the students say that magazines influence their idea of an “ideal body” (ANAD).

Images in advertisement, TV and music portrays the ideal women as “tall, white, thin with a tubular body and blonde hair. Only a small percentage of women in the western countries meet the criteria media uses to define “beautiful” (Sedar). In recent years, body sizes have gone up, yet societies standards have gotten smaller. Still, women are repeatedly exposed to media images that imply a woman is not accepted or attractive if they don’t match societal standards (Serdar). Thin models are so embossed that exposure to them is unavoidable.  It shows false representation for women and girls between their actual size and the ideal body. Research has shown that constant exposure to thin models harbor body image concerns and disordered eating. 91% of millennials (15-34) use Facebook (Smith). We spend an average of 490 minutes online a day (Quartz). This goes to show that we are constantly aware and up to date with what’s going on in the media daily.

Sedar found that women who reported a lot of exposure to TV during adolescence were more likely to experience a large amount of body dissatisfaction as oppose to women who weren’t exposed to TV as a child.   Many models shown on TV, advertisements and other forms of popular media are approximately 20% below the ideal body weight. This meets the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa (Serdar).

Vitello suggests bullying as another reason behind eating disorders and disordered eating. For those who don’t consider themselves having the “ideal image” the outcome is low self-esteem, the start an unhealthy diet where they have a biased perception on how much food they should eat, and poor eating habits that lead to health risk and problems. Adolescents want to be like their role models, usually an actress or singer and go through extreme measures to achieve it. Media research has shown that adolescents often depend on television characters to set a standard for them to follow. The stronger the “relationship” with the favorite character, the greater the motivation to be as much like them as possible in terms of body shape (Vitello). If you don’t fit in, you are a target for bullying. You get made fun of and you called names.

Eating disorders take a toll on your body. One of the most noticeable effects of an eating disorder is weight-loss. The weight loss is usually dramatic. People with anorexia fear gaining the weight. People suffering from anorexia have low reproductive hormones and often lose their menstrual cycle due to it (Morrisey). It is a condition called Amenorrhea.  Roughly 4% die yearly from anorexia and about 3.9% die from bulimia (Kaye). The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is twelve times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females age 12-24. 20% of people suffering from anorexia will die early due to complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.



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