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Anorexia

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Lying on her blue and yellow plush Coach beach towel, the gaunt-faced blond reluctantly eats a mint and takes a swig of water. Three hours later, she eats a handful of grapes: 10 in total. Living as an anorexic in today's society, this is a normal daily diet for this teen girl. When she stands up to leave, she stuffs her towel and water in the bag, and throws the bag over her extremely bony shoulder. She puts on a sweat suit and sunglasses to appear normal as she walks to the car. As she walks by, I catch a glimpse of her face. Her once vivacious sea-blue eyes look empty and sad, like they are hiding a secret. Her cheekbones sink into her skull, and her bones can be pointed out from a distance. This is not an abnormal sight in Hollywood today. In fact, this girl could be your sister, daughter, best friend, celebrity idol…. or it could even be you. Anorexia is the number one killer, as far as psychiatric diseases go. The media and culture mostly cause this problem. Although maintaining a normal weight is crucial for you health, and dieting in moderation is good for some people, eating disorders will destroy you body or kill you. I strongly believe that Eating Disorders and Body Image Distortion Syndrome are a direct result of negative media and celebrity influence, along with our own American weight standards.

There is a group of teens that is at very high risk for eating disorders. All types of athletes are expected to live up to high standards. Some of the very vulnerable are individual athletes, such as gymnasts, dancers, runners, tennis players, and cheerleaders, among others. These teens all wear form-fitting uniforms, perform in front of many spectators, and many also have weight requirements. Athletes tend to have the perfectionist quality. People often have the misconception that the tiniest girl on the cheer squad is the best, which is far from the truth. Athletes need to have strength and flexibility, not a size 2 skirt. Elite athletes push themselves even harder than your average player, so they often resort to unhealthy training methods to get results. Coaches are a big part of the problem. Their negative attitudes can rub off on the player, making them feel self-conscious. The need to be skinny is not necessarily 100% the media's fault. In conclusion, we, too, make the problem even bigger by the little things we say and do every day. Even though we deny it, Americans are very judgmental. We grow up with the philosophy that "the first impressions are crucial". Just a simple joke or laugh can make a vulnerable gangly teenage girl run to the bathroom in tears, only to gag up lunch. One look or taunt can make an overweight teen resort to bulimia or anorexia as a solution to their problems. In a recent survey taken by Kevin Thompson, in the United States alone, 42% of female teens said that their lives would be better is they looked like the celebrities on TV. Furthermore, 28% of those girls said they starve themselves or refuse to eat when they feel "fat'. Most importantly, 72% of girls say that everyday they will be judged by their weight and appearance at school. Overweight people are often shunned and treated with less respect. So you see, we are part of them problem, although we lie through our teeth to deny it.

Body Image Distortion Syndrome is not only a physical disease. It is a psychological, physical, emotional, interpersonal, social and behavioral disorder. Anorexia is the number one killer, as far as psychiatric disorders go. According to Jennifer Schwirzer, 15% of all anorexics will die within 6 months to 10 years (depending on their BMI), if there is not a serious intervention. Anorexia is also one of the least funded causes. Given the current number or anorexics, and the federal budget for anorexia, each person roughly gets $1.60. What will that even buy? Two candy bars will not solve it, but thanks for the try, Mr. Bush. The three leading causes for B.I.D.S. are cultural, biological and psychological influences. TV shows, magazines, the news, movies, radio, music and other media sources have a huge impact. They brainwash girls, and teach them how to talk, look, dress and act. Basically, for hundreds of years our culture has had odd expectations for women's bodies.
For hundreds of years, women have resorted to crazy body expectations to please men and society. According to Cathy Newman, in Chinese early centuries women had ribs removed so they would appear skinnier. There was no anesthesia then! They also bound women's feet as a cultural tradition. The process (starting at age 4) involved scrubbing off flesh, an animal blood "soak", the breaking of every single toe, and the constriction of the foot in bandages. This was repeated often. When the women are older, they would often fall, break hips/legs, or get an infection, which could lead to the amputation of toes and other medical problems. That was all for one reason: men liked tiny feet. In the late 1800's, the corset became popular. This was yet another invention to make a woman appear skinnier. This sometimes led to dizziness, crushed internal organs and fainting spells. Today's generation has found another "solution". Nowadays, you can nip, tuck, lift and sculpt every body part you can imagine. Many girls are turning to plastic surgery to feel comfortable in their own skin. Within the last 100 years, Americans have become obsessively meticulous about appearances. Women are expected to live up mens' and societies' ideal body figure. As a result, women turn to alternative methods, because they are an instant gratification.

Celebrities focus most of their time on appearance and body weight. According to Susan Bordo, Oprah Winfrey (role model to millions of girls across the world) says that her greatest lifetime achievement was losing 67 pounds on a liquid diet. I guess she forgot about the numerous awards, and the thousands of African children she helped give an education. She also noted that Sylvester Stallone (American icon, also known as Rocky Balboa) says that he "likes his women anorexic". Shortly after he said this in an interview, his girlfriend, Cornelia Guest, lost 24 pounds in three weeks. A Crystal Lite ran a commercial a few years ago singing, "I believe in being the best I can be…I believe in watching every calorie." Twiggy, a modeling icon for the past 30 years was the first teenage supermodel ever. She first debuted as a gangly-legged girl on the cover of Vogue. She was five-foot-seven and 97 pounds. Her popularity spread like wildfire, and everyone wanted the "Twiggy" look. Barbie has been the most popular girl toy Mattel has ever created. Almost every girl in the world has a Barbie, had a Barbie, wants a Barbie, or at least knows what a Barbie is. If Barbie were a real person, she would be six feet tall, and she would weigh 100 pounds. That is not normal! The average woman today is 5 foot 4' and weighs 145 lbs. As the years go by, the requirements for women's bodies get harder and harder to fulfill. When will it ever stop? Today's average models are 5 foot 11', and 117 pounds. That is pretty close to Barbie, if you ask me.

Media, along with American culture and expectations are the main cause of eating disorders today. Although the situation seems grim, the body image problem can be solved. Since body image distortion syndrome starts in the tween and teen years, health classes should cover new curriculum. This should include healthy eating, exercise, safe ways to lose weight, and how to feel comfortable in your own skin. Gym classes are a horrible place for overweight or unfit children and teens. They are already embarrassed enough, and now they have to deal with taunting that comes along with the gym class and locker room/showers. Gym classes should be ranked by physical fitness, so everyone can feel comfortable exercising with kids similar to themselves. Next, there should be no patient (student) confidentially with cases including eating disorders regarding a minor. Also, there should be an age requirement for plastic surgery. High school girls should not be able to get a "tummy tuck" or liposuction. Lastly, schools should address the body image problem with all students from grades 4-12. Female students should have the option to sign Seventeen's "Body Peace Project". Thousands of girls have signed the petition so far, agreeing to respect their bodies as they are-beautiful. Among the thousands that have pledged, some celebrities are: Miley Cyrus, Ciara, Fergie, Ashlee Simpson, Carrie Underwood, Pink!, Katherine McPhee, Brittney Snow and Hayden Panetierre among others. The girls would then know that they are not alone, and it also gives them positive role models to look up to. We cannot completely crush eating disorders once and for all, but we can help. Everyone as an individual can play a role in this project. National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 24th-March1st. So wear a t-shirt, buy a bracelet, call a friend, and spread the word. "We can't put a face on an eating disorder, but we can face them."





Join the Discussion

This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

Dreamergirl said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 9:41 pm

That was inspiring! Keep on writing! Beautiful job!

Take care,

Dreamergirl

 
Scar_Tissue said...
Feb. 26, 2011 at 3:27 pm
Media is not the main cause of eating disorders. Mine started when I was continuously molested. My friends when she was abused. The media may contribute but it's not the main cause.
 
Bethani said...
Jun. 14, 2010 at 11:22 pm
62913 signatures on the seventeen body peace treaty! let's hit a million! :)
 
emily b. said...
Aug. 22, 2008 at 1:43 am
thanks for the feedback!! It amazes me, also, that these facts are true. This is the sad reality of pop culture today. IF YOU READ THIS please comment or check out my other articles! thanks : )
 
musicgirl757 said...
Aug. 17, 2008 at 3:56 pm
OMG! i was shocked when i read this article! that guy really said that he liked his girls anerxic?!? what is with america today? and barbie and oprah? and to think people wonder what causes eating disorders! thank you for writting this!
 
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