"Too Thin Is Not In"

May 5, 2011
By RSilverstein BRONZE, New City, New York
RSilverstein BRONZE, New City, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

“Studies have shown that five to fifteen percent of anorexics in psychiatric treatment die” (Blum 65). It is crucial for people to try to prevent eating disorders because they have become consequently widespread and destructive. Many people blame the media due to body image pressure. The media argues that they are not doing anything wrong because they can not control the way influential, famous people appear to the public, and how their bodies affect the mindset of teenage girls. However, because the media portrays women as dreadfully thin, eating disorders have become an epidemic and not only destroy girl’s bodies, but also their state of mind.

Girls who have eating disorders have an extremely distorted body image, because they are disgusted by every ounce of fat on their body. They think that being skeletal makes them most beautiful (Blum 67). An example Blum describes in the article “Children Who Starve Themselves” is when, a 19 year old girl who recently went down to a weight of 80lbs, dancing in a leotard in front of her younger sibling singing, “I feel pretty, oh so pretty”. Girls’ minds are corrupted by the images of being thin. Teenage girls with eating disorders are not in the right state of mind, and without being thin they view themselves as imperfect. “People with a mother or sister who has had anorexia nervosa are 12 times more likely than others with no family history of that eating disorder, to develop it themselves”( Eating Disorders Have Multiple Complex Causes). Girls who are brought up in a family where weight is a constant obsession and issue are likely to become obsessed themselves. Their family is so strict on weight that they have no choice but to follow in their parent’s footsteps. “People with eating disorders tend to be perfectionists” (Eating Disorders Have Multiple Complex Causes). They can never live up to the unrealistic expectations that they set for themselves. According to Allison Fields, a lead author of a Harvard study of peer, parent, and media influence on children’s dieting, behavior and body image-attitudes, adds that, “even small cues-such as making self-deprecating remarks about bulging thighs or squealing in delight over a few lost pounds-can send the message that thinness is to be prized above all else” (Eating Disorders Have Multiple Complex Causes). This demonstrates how a person with an eating disorder will go to extreme measures to get what they think is desirable. They don’t grasp the idea that losing or gaining 2lbs is not a life or death situation. Because of mental health issues and the influence of unhealthy family members, girls see their bodies in an unclear manor and don’t realize how unhealthy they are being by having an eating disorder (Eating Disorders Have Multiple Complex Causes).

Health Magazine states that while only 5% of women are underweight in U.S viewership, yet nearly 32% of female television actresses are underweight. On the other hand overweight characters on television are only represented by 3%, however, 25% of women are obese (Eating Disorders Have Multiple Complex Causes). The media does not represent real women: it only portrays are very small percentage of the everyday women. It is unfair for women to compare themselves to these unrealistic ideals, when it is nearly impossible to meet their standards. The average American woman is 5’4 tall and weighs 140lbs. The average American model is 5’11 tall and weighs 117lbs (“11 Fact about Eating Disorders”). This statistic clearly shows that models are simply not like everybody else and impossible to be compared to. In May 1999, research was published that demonstrated the media’s unhealthy effects on women’s self-esteem and body awareness. In 1995, before television came to their island, the people of Fiji thought the ideal body was round, plump, and soft. Then, after 38 months of Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, and similar Western shows, Fijian teenage girls showed serious signs of eating disorders (Eating Disorders Have Multiple Complex Causes). The media completely brainwashed these innocent girls on what they thought was beautiful. Even after a lifetime of tradition, it only took 38 months to drastically change their entire mindset. Compared to people who don’t watch T.V, regular watchers of three or more nights a week are 50% more likely to feel too big or overweight. The media guilts girls into believing that they are not good enough because of what they see on T.V. Because women on television are dreadfully thin, everyday women are the ones to suffer, because they are frequently comparing themselves.

More people die from anorexia than any other psychiatric disorder. There are many obstacles to successful treatment. One thing that makes eating disorders so difficult to treat is the fact that the patient is ultimately in complete control, says Dr. Orestes Areuni in the article “Children Who Starve Themselves” written by Sam Blum. Sometimes the patients are fed by tubes; but when the tubes are taken out, they refuse to eat. Another difficulty to successful treatment is how long the treatment can take. Often times a hospital stay of two or five months is required. After hospitalization, long term therapy is a must (Blum 67). This can be expensive, exhausting and cause teens to fall behind in school. Many patients who are hospitalized are incredibly anxious to be released. They know that the only way to get released is to gain weight. They do this, go home, relapse, and do not acknowledge that their eating is not the problem. The obstacle that these children face is that they do not want to mature and become adults. “This requires intense therapy”, says Dr. Areuni. So, not really understanding what their problems are makes it incredibly difficult to treat. There are cultural pressures on teens, making thinness equal to beauty. Models in magazines are painfully thin and influence impressionable teen girls in unhealthy ways. Michelle Cottle in, “Model Behavior”, says the fashion industry should not be held responsible for the negative impact of emaciated models on the body image of young people. Theses images are impossible to escape, and create yet another obstacle to the treatment of eating disorders.

There is not enough being done to eliminate eating disorders in teenage girls’ culture. There has, however been some progress. Most of us have seen the Dove commercials that are part of their campaign for self esteem. These commercials portray healthy beautiful girls and women of all sizes. The United States Department of Health and Human Services has developed a website; “Womenshealth.gov”. This website contains all kinds of information on body image and eating disorder recognition, prevention, and treatment, along with links to other helpful sites. However, more can be done. Magazines like Teen People and Seventeen that target teenage girls should be boycotted until they use realistic models and feature articles on healthy body images and eating habits. Schools should hire people who have a specific training to counsel students. They also need to help them with their school work if they miss school in order to seek treatment. School should have a special event to educate the students on eating disorders and have teens with eating disorders speaking to the students. Children with eating disorders should be treated similar to those of kids with learning disabilities. They need extra help, understanding, and compassion. Insurance companies should be protested against until they give the same financial coverage for mental illnesses, as they do for physical illnesses. Treatments are costly and many people can not afford it.

Eating Disorders among teenage girls are widespread and dangerous. Treatments are expensive and time consuming. No one treatment works for all people. The victims of this illness can be anyone’s daughters: even yours. It is important to reeducate America and its teens to develop healthy and realistic body images, in order to prevent eating disorders in the first place.

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