Anorexia Nervosa. Bulimia Nervosa. Orthorexia Nervosa. Binge-eating Disorder.
Those names all have something in common. They are eating disorders. Eating disorders are influenced by many things, and one might even be in the palm of your hand. Social media. Body image isn’t the first thing you think about when you hear social media, but it’s something you see. Apps like Instagram and Snapchat make it possible with a click of a button. And it’s not just social media, it’s magazines, posters, and just about anything that could trigger someone to relapse. Pictures of models in their skin-tight clothes can cause someone to think such thoughts. Recurring images of stick-like ladies can cause girls to think that’s what they are supposed to look like, and they forget that they are perfect just the way they are. The comments that come with those pictures are just as bad as the picture. Beautiful. Wow, I wish I could be you! Outstanding! Those comments make girls and even boys believe that they need to change their body shape. Magazines create an idealization image of beauty, and that can destroy a person. Special characteristics are even given to each gender by the media.
“Girls developed eating disorders when our culture developed a standard of beauty that they couldn’t obtain by being healthy. When unnatural thinness became attractive, girls did unnatural things to be thin.”
Body image & the Media: An Overview states, “Generally, for women, the body image is extremely thin, as depicted by fashion models. There is also an emphasis on large breasts. For men, the physique is tall, slender, but muscular and toned. For both genders, the most valued and appreciated appearance is youthful.” The way the media depicts bodies is unfair to growing boys and girls. We are living in a world where people even filter their photos. Most people will take a selfie, edit it, and then post it. People hide their insecurities with a filter, and that could make others feel worse about their insecurities.
The media also touches up flaws that the model have. Most of the time they will even make the models skinnier than they already are. This provides an unfair image to the models and just about everyone else. You might be thinking, “The models? What?”. While they think they are skinny enough the companies are still editing them to make them even skinnier. That will hurt them even if people envy them. Isn’t it weird that people want to be a model, even though some of the models don’t even like the way they look? That’s what people don’t understand about eating disorders. It isn't glamorous and it sure isn’t something you want.
“Even the models we see in magazines wish they could look like their own images.”
- Cheri K. Erdman
Something needs to be done about this false idealization. 5-10 million young girls are afraid of gaining weight due to the mixed messages they get from commercials. About 1 million boys are having the same reaction as the young girls. In a study, people asked 9 and 10 year-olds if they have tried losing weight. 40% of them have tried losing weight because they were dissatisfied with their image. Those numbers might not seem like much to you, but it will be a major problem as the years go on. The advertisers don’t realize that they are doing this, and we know it isn’t on purpose. Advertisers care what the people have to say about their ads. At times, things need to be said to get a point across to someone. If a number of people come together and show the advertisers how it’s affecting people there is a chance they’ll do something about it. There is a chance they will put more average-looking women and men in the ads.
Another misunderstood concept about eating disorders is men aren’t affected by them. Boys compare themselves to images too. Magazine articles and Instagram post make men look like buff and more attractive. People all around the world are affected by eating disorders. 40% of men have been diagnosed by doctors with binge-eating disorders. Some even go undiagnosed due to being afraid of losing their manliness. So, imagine the numbers if they were all checked by a doctor. The same goes for ladies too. Except they are afraid of being judged by their peers. Men look at pictures with the same thoughts as women. They are different just because they are men, and sometimes we all forget that.
Now, I know there are some people who believe the media only has an influence on girls and boys but doesn’t really affect them. I understand why people would think that. I mean, girls and boys have had eating disorders before the dawn of the media. Eating disorders will snatch anyone they can and it can have nothing to do with the media. Genetics can also be a cause of these ugly disorders. “Eating disorder symptoms themselves also appear to be moderately heritable,” says Dr. Berrettini. The media can ignite the feelings of an eating disorder. After that, things can pile up and make a person believe they need to do something about it. Other times, it’s people wanting to be able to control themselves.
Losing loved ones can even be the case for people. That was the case for Marci Warhaft-Nadler and her brother. At 17, Marci lost her brother and she wanted to figure out how to control herself. After 20 years of her horrid disorder, she wanted to recover from it, and this is where the media comes in. In an article she wrote, she said “The media didn’t give me my eating disorder, but it sure as hell made it hard to recover from it. While my family was telling me that I was too thin, magazines were telling me I wasn’t thin enough.”. She eventually made her recovery, but with a few bumps in the road. She talks about cigarette ads and how they don’t give her cancer after her story. People can see very beautiful girls, and they don’t have to be affected.
At times, we focus much more on the media than the actual disorders itself. The seriousness of the disorders is not to be covered up by the media. The media does create Picasso idealizations about people. When I say that, I simply mean they create images of people that are distorted, and you can’t tell if it’s real or not. Eating disorders can be caused by the media or influenced. It doesn’t even have to have a factor in eating disorders at all! People have their opinions and beliefs and it truly does matter. It matters because no matter what happens it will have an effect on what people believe. What we all have to remember is we sometimes have to come together to help something even if we don't believe in it.
“Beauty is in the way you hold yourself. It is how you treat people. The way you love. It’s self- acceptance. Beauty is in your soul.”
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"Eating Disorders in Men Is Becoming More Prevalent and Deadly." Eating Disorder Hope. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2017. <https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/treatment-for-eating-disorders/special-issues/men>.
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