Body Image and Eating Disorders

April 6, 2011
“From the time I was 12, every time I looked in the mirror I hated my body. My reflection in the mirror only exposed garish imperfections: extra skin here, fat there . . . I scrutinized my face every morning, certain that I was developing a double chin. I felt isolated and awkward at school and with my family. I directed my uneasiness and distress towards my body, telling myself I only needed to lose another 10 pounds in order to feel good. Ashamed to admit my physical ‘flaws,’ I hid my misery from my friends and family, thoroughly convinced that my weight was the source of my unhappiness” (“Eating Disorders”). There are many similar stories of how girls starved themselves just to fit in because of the media, including Sandra Gordon’s story above. Magazines and models negatively impact girls’ images of their bodies.

Magazines and eating disorders negatively affect body image. First, it’s all about the ‘teen magazines.’ Mostly women and teens read magazines to get ‘facts about how to lose weight’. In many magazines there are ads and pictures of people getting skinnier by products being sold. Some of the celebrities are getting surgeries to be skinny. “Women are sold to diet by reading magazines and watching television programs, which makes us feel anxious about our weight,” says media activist Jean Kilbourne (Kowalski).The next thing women lose is their confidence looking at models. Watching TV and seeing models very skinny makes women feel less confident. Girls feel very insecure of their bodies and start having eating disorders. According to The American research group Anorexia Nervosa & Related Eating Disorders, Inc, “1 out of every 4 college-aged women uses unhealthy methods of weight control- skipping meals, excessive exercise, laxative abuse & self vomiting.” Almost every teen skip meals to not gain weight. “Eating Disorders sufferers say: ‘How come it’s OK for celebrities to look like that and not me? How come they are being celebrated on the front cover of a magazine and I’m the hospital being told I’m going to die?’” (Body Image, p. 34)

Models on T.V and in the media also negatively impact the body image of how girls’ feel about their bodies. In, American Next Top Model, models that appear on that show mostly doesn’t show if they eat or not. It’s very embarrassing to see those girls very skinny because some of the girls go to the ER when they feel hydrated. “Two Latin American models died from eating disorders and one after collapsing on the catwalk” (Body Image, p.33). It is not healthy to be starved only to be perfect. “People are being paid to create an image or and illusion,” says Sarah Stinson. (Eating Disorders Program at Fairview Redwing Health Services in Minnesota.) A writer said the fashion world was “numb” looking at models only as “Clothes Hangers” and “failing to see whether they were healthy or not” (Body Image, p.33). “Certainly the media is setting standards for how girls and boys should look defining what is beautiful in our culture,” says Mimi Nitcher. When the University of Arizona professor interviewed girls for her book ‘Fat Talk: What Girls and Their Parents Say about Dieting’ most girls choose a “Barbie-doll” looks: Tall, thin, and large-breasted. It is estimated that the diet industry alone is worth anywhere between 40 to 100 billion (U.S) a year selling temporary weigh loss (90 and 95% of dieters regain the lost weight.) (Beauty and Body Image in the media).

One third of girls in one study felt unaccepted in their social environment according to Eric Stice, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin (Kowalski).Teen magazine 2003, 35% of girls 6 to 12 years old have at least one diet and that 50-70% of normal weight girls believe they are overweight. This is another story of girls/women starving themselves and having eating disorders. “I never felt l was the skinniest, prettiest, smartest or most popular, I thought I was just plain old average or less than and that wasn’t good enough for me. I don’t remember how or when my eating disorder started, but I know that underneath it all had pure self- hatred. Eventually my eating disorder became my entire identity and that is when my process of self- discovery came to a halt. I thought, as the author of Life without Ed, Jenni Shaefer, would put it, that ‘Ed’ would help me find the answer to true happiness and success in life. As you all know, the excitement and glamour of eating disorder does not last forever. My life was consumed with food, insecurities and my outward appearance. While other kids were learning what their favorite sports or colors were, I had my head in a toilet” (Eating Disorders Blog Recover).

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