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The Media and Eating Disorders

Kyler Jett Mrs. Verdun Eng. IV-H/ Period 7th Due: March 25, 2014

In the United States, the media has a profound influence on body image. Recently, the media has caused an on-going fascination among female teenagers and women to appear slimmer than their normal body type. Countless amounts of dieting advertisements, beauty products, images, and messages are reinforcing the idea that skinnier is better. Therefore, many females have become dissatisfied with their body, and as a result, are suffering from eating disorders to create this somehow perfect image of what it looks like to be valued in todays society.

Billboards, magazine articles, television, movies, etc., are constantly glorifying slender models, actresses, and musicians. All of these women are regarded as being successful and attractive, so the idea comes across to females that being skinny would lead to a similar life style. In addition, females began to measure their worth by how physically attractive they are. According to the National Eating Disorders website, about 20 million women and girls in the United States, alone, are suffering from a potentially, life-threatening eating disorder, which affects a persons emotional and physical health (National Eating Disorders, 2005). Also, eating disorders have historically been associated with young, white women of privilege; however, eating disorders do not discriminate (National Eating Disorders, 2005). Instead, eating disorders have become prevalent among Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians in the United States (National Eating Disorders, 2005). Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are all types of eating disorders that have been linked to the medias size discrimination (National Eating Disorder, 2005).

Subsequently, females who are afraid of becoming overweight, afraid to eat, and/or obviously have a distorted body image can lead to self-destructive behaviors, such as dieting or eating disorders, that may lead to anorexia or bulimia. As stated in the Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website, anorexia nervosa is characterized by emaciation, a relentless pursuit of thinness from self-starvation and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight (ANAD, 2014). As a result, females who are 15 percent below ideal body weight experiencing anorexia, suffer from muscle loss, weakness, fatigue, severe dehydration, fainting, skin, hair loss, the risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower and, can eventually lead to death if continuously abused(ANAD, 2014). However, the recurrent binge-and-purge cycles are symptoms of bulimia. As well as about 50 percent of females who have anorexia develop bulimia or bulimic patterns (ANAD, 2014). According to National Eating Disorders website, bulimia cycles can affect the entire digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ function; these health consequences include tooth decay, staining from stomach acids, chronic irregular bowel movements, peptic ulcers, pancreatitis, and inflammation (National Eating Disorders, 2005). Moreover, females with eating disorders may start to excessively exercising at an unhealthy rate to maintain their skinny physique and/or to preoccupy their mind away from thinking about food. As stated in the Eating Disorders Statistics article, women between the age of 15 and 24 are 12 times more likely to die from an eating disorder than any other cause of death within that age group (Rader Programs, 2012).

Overall, developing and maintaining an eating disorder can cause many damaging and sometimes fatal effects to your body.

Additionally, not all females become anorexic or bulimic from the pressures of the media, but may actually resort to binge-eating. According to Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website, binge eating disorder is characterized as a vicious cycle of recurrent bingeing without purging filled with feelings of despair, disgust, and a sense of loss of control (ANAD, 2014). Females with binge eating tendencies may also have low self-esteem and a poor body image. Yet, these young women still have the fear of gaining weight and unfortunately, most these females this nightmare comes to past, which makes them feel even worse about themselves. It does stand to reason that not all females go about losing weight the same nor do they deal the stress of the media bombarding them with skinny figured, attractive women, either.

Historically, women were always expected to strive for a specific ideal of beauty and as early as the 1800s, painful, health-impairing corsets were used to accentuate the breasts, hips and buttocks (Ross, C., 2012). However, over the course of the 20th century, the changing standards of beauty and the media emerged with a now growing emphasis on thinness, which has caused young women with or without eating disorders to develop low self-esteem and/or depression. The media teaches our young women to believe that being above a size 6 is fat. Much less, people who are obese are viewed as indulgent, without self-control. According to the

article Why Do Women Hate Their Bodies?, 80 percent of women in the United States are dissatisfied with their appearance, while psychologists have coined the term normative discontent to explain the idea that it is normal if you are a female to be unhappy with your weight (Ross, C., 2012; Oliver-Pyatt, 2003). Unhappy females should seek professional help before it evolves into an eating disorder as well as the women who have already developed an eating disorder. Early diagnosis and intervention may enhance recover (National Eating Disorder, 2005).

On the other hand, it may difficult for the young women, including their family and loved ones, who are seeking and/or getting treatment for an eating disorder, but could ultimately save a life. According to the article Eating Disorders (Including Anorexia and Bulimia), teenagers in general, especially with anorexia nervosa may deny that they have an eating disorder (PsychCentral, 2006). Still, treatment is highly recommended and each type of treatment eating disorder varies, the most effective and long-lasting treatment for any eating disorder is some form of psychotherapy or psychological counseling, coupled with careful attention to medical and nutritional needs; it is important for females struggling with an eating disorder to find a health professional they trust to help coordinate and oversee their care (National Disorder Eating, 2005).

Furthermore, the media realizes they play a role in the development of females feeling bad about their appearance because they are profiting from females buying diet supplements,

work-out videos, and exercise equipment to become physically and socially fit. From an early age, girls are taught to play with dolls; however, has girls get older and began to understand television they are fascinated by the commercials advertising dolls, such as Barbie, Polly Pocket, and Bratz, that all appear either physically fit or abnormally skinny. Girls naturally began to believe that they must live up to that standard of physical attractiveness. Admittedly, it is great for the media to promote healthy living, eating and being physically fit, but not to the extent that anyone who doesnt fit that criterion should be seen as repulsive. Recently, magazine companies are even airbrushing models and actresses to make them look skinnier, further projecting to young girls that that body image is attainable, leading to unhealthy eating behaviors. According to Medical News Today website, Dr. Key estimates that about 20% to 40% of fashion models are currently expecting an eating disorders(Nordqvist, C., 2007). This indicates that females, especially, within the medias boundaries, such as actresses and singers, are expected and pressured to appear slimmer to their public audience. Media Influences article estimates that 73% of teenage girls who abuse diet pills and 79% of teenage girls who selfpurge frequently read womens fitness and health magazines, which further proves that the media has a powerful influence on young girls, who subjectively views the media as being the real world (Rader Programs, 2012). With this in mind, parents need to really monitor their daughters emotions and behaviors that may have begun with the effects or influences of the mass media.

Although biological and genetic factors play a role in development of eating disorders,

psychological and social factors are to blame, also (Eating Disorders Genetics). Indeed, the media should take some responsibility for influences young girls and began to promote varies body types as being gorgeous to help in the prevention of young girls rejecting their body appearance or developing or worsening their eating disorder. According to the article Why Women Hate Their Bodies?, social media websites such as Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest are increasingly banning pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia messages; at the same time, there are growing websites dedicated to healthy portrayals of real women, including the I Am That Girl blog (Ross, C., 2012). Prevention programs can, hopefully, educate and discourage females from behaviors associated with eating disorders. According to the article Treatment Basics, targeted programs use a cognitive dissonance approach by asking girls and women to question the media and cultural messages and present information on eating disorder prevention to other, which creates a dissonance leading to a change in their own destructive eating patterns (National Eating Disorders, 2005). Though treatment for an eating disorder can be expensive, it may be worth it; however, some females can also overcome body dissatisfaction by merely readjusting their thoughts to develop a positive body image.

According to the article Eating Disorders Help Guide, for females to overcome an eating disorder, they must rediscover who they are beyond their eating habits, weight, and body image (Helpguide.org). Young girls and women should know that their value is not determined by how dedicated she is at counting calories, overly exercising, and being skinny than the

skinniest girl amongst her peers. It also involves learning to recognize and deal with the media images and messages on or about having an ideally thin body types without letting that affect them, mentally and/or physically (HelpGuide.org). Yet, it is common for females to relapse in the recovery process of an eating disorder. So, females seeking recovery should seek family and friends support, while also actively participating in fun activities or hobbies, such as drawing, singing, and/or dancing. Still, it will take a lot time and effort to overcome an eating disorder. The key is for the females and their loved in to be patient.

The media and its exposure of majority people with small body frames that are being highly celebrated have influenced many young girls and women to achieve this size, no matter how dangerous, the consequences. In this case, young women are developing eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and/or binge-eating to achieve the dream of being skinny. Many females think that the key to happiness, success, popularity, or love is to become skinny. Also, they are lead to believe that if she can control her eating habits, shell be able to control her life. However, the only way for females to truly recover from an eating disorder and gain confidence, self-empowerment, and happiness is by accepting themselves for who they truly are.

Bibliography

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