Body Image, Eating Disorders and the New Ideal Person

Introduction

Media has influenced teens for many years that they have to be thin to be beautiful. Celebrities don’t help with the influence on body image; they are all thin and beautiful and fall into what is accepted in society. Though not all celebrities were thin, once they became famous people told them they needed to look a certain way to make it big so they did what they had to. They developed eating disorders and lost the weight in the most unhealthy way possible. They wanted to be able to be role models for young kids, and have people look up to them. Overtime, body image and eating disorders have become more prevalent but the new ideal person is no longer a size zero.

Body Image

The definition of body image is the subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body. Body image is how one sees themself when they look in the mirror or when they picture themselves in their mind. Body image incorporates what someone believes about their own appearance: including their memories, assumptions, and generalizations. It incorporates how someone feels about their body including their height, shape, and weight, how they sense and control their body as they move and how they feel in their body, not just about their body (“What Is Body Image”).

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Negative body image happens to many people of many ages, races, and genders. Negative body image is a distorted perception of one’s shape, and can perceive parts of their body unlike they really are. They are convinced that only other people are attractive and that their body size or shape is a sign of personal failure. With negative body image, one tends to feel ashamed, self-conscious and anxious about their body; they feel uncomfortable and awkward in their own skin (“What Is Body Image”).

A lot of people are very confident and have a very positive outlook of their body. Positive body image is a clear, true perception of one’s shape, they see the various parts of their body as they really are. One celebrates and appreciates their natural body shape and they understand that a person’s physical appearance says very little about their character and value as a person. They feel proud and accepting of their unique body and refuse to spend an unreasonable amount of time worrying about food, weight, and calories. When one has positive body image they feel comfortable and confident in their body (“What Is Body Image”).

People with negative body image have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low-self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss. Everyone has days when they feel awkward or uncomfortable in their bodies, but the key to developing positive body image is to recognize and respect ones natural shape and learn to overpower those negative thoughts and feelings with positive, affirming, and accepting thoughts(“What Is Body Image”).

Eating Disorders and Symptoms

Many people have eating disorders, some eating disorders are more severe than others. An eating disorder is any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. Anyone can have an eating disorder whether they are a young child or an elderly adult. Here are a few some of the most common eating disorders.

Anorexia is a lack or loss of appetite for food. An emotional disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat. Anorexia is also known as Anorexia Nervosa. Anorexia is not getting enough calories in, which leads to a significantly low body weight. A person with Anorexia will also show an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. But if the fear is not shown, there is still persistent behavior that interferes with weight gain, even though weight is significantly low. When suffering from Anorexia Nervosa, a person also has a hard time recognizing the seriousness of their current weight, or is unable to see how thin or underweight they are. The person is very reliant on their body weight and shape for their self-evaluation. People with anorexia have an abnormally low body weight and exercise compulsively. It causes people to obsess about weight and what they eat. It affects more females than males but males still suffer from it. There are more than 200,000 diagnosed cases per year (“Types and Symptoms”).

Bulimia is an emotional disorder involving distortion of body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression and self-induced, vomiting, purging, or fasting. Bulimia is an eating disorder in which a large quantity of food is consumed in a short period of time, often followed by feelings of guilt or shame. It is defined as recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating includes eating an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat within a two hour time period, with a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode. Overeating is a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control how much one is eating. In Bulimia Nervosa, a person also recurrently tries to make up for eating by compensating with fasting, self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise or use of laxatives, diuretics or other medications. A person with bulimia is very worried about their weight or shape. It is binging, followed by methods to avoid weight gain. There are more than 200,000 diagnosed cases per year. Bulimia seems to be more common than Anorexia. Females are still affected more but a lot more males are affected by bulimia than anorexia (“Types and Symptoms”).

Binge eating disorder is defined of recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating includes eating an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat within a two hour time period, with a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode. A binge eating episode may also include eating much more rapidly than normal, eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry, eating alone because of embarrassment over how much one is eating and feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed or very guilty afterward (“Types and Symptoms”).

These are the main eating disorders people know about but there are many other feeding or eating disorders. Atypical Anorexia Nervosa is a meeting of all the symptoms of Anorexia with weight at or above normal range. Purging disorder is when a person purges without binging. Night eating syndrome occurs when a person consumes at least 25% of their daily intake after the evening meal. Waking up after going to bed in order to eat may also occur. Unspecified feeding or eating disorder is for disorders which do not meet the criteria of any of the above disorders, but still cause great emotional upset or interferes with daily life. Orthorexia is a pattern of disordered eating with a focus on foods we may think of as healthy and “pure”. Orthorexia is not currently recognized as a clinical disorder by psychologists, but this type of disordered eating is increasingly common (“Types and Symptoms”).

There are many different symptoms of an eating disorder; there are emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms that someone who has an eating disorder may have or could develop. Chances for recovery increase the earlier an eating disorder is detected. In general, behaviors and attitudes indicate that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns.

A few behavioral and emotional symptoms are: dramatic weight loss. Dressing in layers to hide weight loss or to stay warm. Refuses to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food, like no carbohydrates. Makes frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss. Denies feeling hungry. Appears uncomfortable eating around other people. Fear of eating in public. Drinks excessive amounts of water or non-caloric beverages. Maintains excessive, rigid exercise regimen despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury due to the need to “burn off” calories. Body weight is typically within the normal weight range; may be overweight. Extreme mood swings. These are some emotional and behavioral signs of having an eating disorder (“Types and Symptoms”).

There are also many physical signs of having an eating disorder like, noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down. Difficulties concentrating. Abnormal laboratory findings like, anemia, low thyroid and hormone levels, low potassium, low white blood cell counts. Dizziness, especially upon standing. Feeling cold all the time. Sleep problems. Dry skin. Dry and brittle nails. These are some physical signs of having an eating disorder (“Types and Symptoms”).

Who Is Effected?

Anyone can have body image issues or eating disorders, no matter their age, gender, location, or sexuality. Nearly a third of children aged 5 to 6 in the US selected an ideal body size that was thinner than their current size when given the option. By 7 one in four children have engaged in some type of dieting behavior. A report based on a review of existing studies on body image and media also found that between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders in the US spiked 119% among children under age 12. In the UK nearly a quarter, 24%, of child care professionals have reported seeing signs of body confidence issues in children aged 3 to 5. The rate of eating disorders for people 10 to 49 in the UK rose from 32.3 per 100,000 in 2000 to 37.2 per 100,000 in 2009. But the peak age of onset for an eating disorder diagnosis in women was between 15 and 19. When kids are becoming teens, they are developing their own identity and trying to figure out what is socially acceptable so when there are images of a particular body type shown to them. They are more likely to absorb the idea that, that particular body type is ideal. Out of 6,411 South Africans 15 and older, 45.3% reported being generally dissatisfied about their body size. Overweight and obese study participants underestimated their body size and desired to be thinner, where normal and underweight participants overestimated their body size and desired to be fatter. Only 12% and 10.1% of participants attempted to lose or gain weight (Howard). Per above it is clear that all ages, genders, and people of different countries may have body image issues or an eating disorder.

Celebrities With Eating Disorders Or Body Image Issues

Many people within the entertainment industry struggle with body image issues and/or eating disorders. From actresses to singers to dancers and models, many people struggle with body image and the way they see themselves. Eating disorders can affect anybody, from adolescent girls to middle-aged men. Around 30 million people in the United States have an eating disorder, and this number includes many celebrities (“9 Celebrities with Eating Disorders”).

Demi Lovato has become an unofficial spokesperson for young women with eating disorders since being treated for bulimia and anorexia in 2010. She once said in an interview, “I lived fast and I was going to die young. I didn’t think I would make it to 21.” Currently she is on a journey to discover what it is like to be free of all demons. Her theory is “you can’t win if you don’t play the game”. When she is comfortable in her own skin she feels confident. When she looks back on her life she feels that if she did not have music, she does not know what she would have. She has her friends and family but music gave her a purpose when she was bullied in school, it gave her the motivation to keep going, and prove to everyone that did not believe in her that she was going to be something someday. She knows what music can get someone through and what it can do emotionally for someone because she has experienced it herself and she wanted to create that for other people. She says there is nothing more beautiful than being able to connect to someone through music in her eyes (Davis). The outspoken role model is focusing on her overall health and fitness as part of her recovery process. She also uses her fitness routine to help manage her bipolar disorder (“9 Celebrities with Eating Disorders”).

When Paula Abdul began dancing at age seven, she began to feel insecure about her muscular frame. She began binging, purging, and over-exercising. She explained, “whether I was sticking my head in the toilet or exercising for hours a day, I was spitting out the food and the feelings.” She finally checked herself into a mental health clinic in 1994. She still relies on the help of nutritionists and therapists. Abdul has worked with the National Eating Disorders Association to encourage young women to seek help (“9 Celebrities with Eating Disorders”).

In 2012, Lady Gaga revealed on her site Little Monsters that she’s struggled with anorexia and bulimia since the age of fifteen. She posted about her cycles of weight gain and loss and shared photos. Her Born This Way Foundation connects young people with resources to help with body image, bullying, drugs and alcohol issues and more. The non-profit exists to let struggling teens know that they’re not alone and to help create a more compassionate world. She continues to encourage anyone struggling with body image, saying, “It’s really hard, but… you’ve got to talk to somebody about it.” (“9 Celebrities with Eating Disorders”).

Elton John has had a tumultuous history of alcoholism, drug abuse, and bulimia. He underwent a treatment program for drug addiction and bulimia. For many years, it was difficult for him to acknowledge that he even had a problem, but as he told Larry King, “As soon as I said those words [I need help], I knew that I was going to get better, and I was determined to get better.” He has also spoken about how much it helped to know that his close friend Princess Diana struggled with bulimia as well. Since then, he has embraced his body, sexual identity, and life. He now focuses his attention on his family and humanitarian work through the Elton John AIDS Foundation (“9 Celebrities with Eating Disorders”).

Change

Look at how often the definition of beauty changes. Reflect on the ideals imposed upon people and how fast they evolve, because there is no standard template for beauty, so people should celebrate the diversity of the female form. Emma McClendon said, ‘We as a culture, as a society, are obsessed with size. It’s become connected to our identity as people.’ This obsession oversized fuels societal pressures to appear a certain way and to have a certain body type, especially with young women, stemming from a culture construct of the “ideal” body, which has changed over time (Howard). A lot of people wish for different actresses waist lines or a singer’s legs, but the media’s concept of the ideal woman’s body is not constant. The silhouette of the “Ideal woman” has been put through a series of fun house mirrors like fashion, movies, pop culture and politics. The idea woman changes year after year so the physical qualities embraced today are different from those of previous generations (Hart).

2000, out with the pale, gaunt, glass-eyed look of the 90s. In with the era of visible abs and airbrushed tans. Everyone wanted a personal trainer and loved to layer on a couple coats of spray tan before the award ceremonies (Hart). In the 2000s everyone was losing self-confidence. 2010 can be described in two words: booty bonanza. That decade had a contribution to the shifting landscape of women’s body image. Twenty years after Sir Mix-a-Lot sang “you can do side-bends or sit-ups, but please don’t lose that butt,” it seems the media was finally carrying the banner (Hart). In 2010, plus-size models started gaining popularity and support on social media, hoping to revert societal standards for female body types (Bushak). 2010 was all about embracing diversity. Since the start if the 21st century, there has been a shift toward celebrating diverse body types in the media and fashion. The trend correlates with the use of social media, where diverse types are represented by everyday users online. But social media can also give some teens a negative body image. More than a quarter of teens who are active online stress about how they look in posted photos. Though, the rise of social media has allowed for real women to celebrate real body types, it works as a frontier for body-positive expression (Howard).

Over the last 50-plus years, the American ideal has shifted from curvy to androgynous to muscular and everything in between. As ideals change they are reflected and reinforced in the culture through media, whether it is fine art, advertising billboards or music videos however they are presented, they can still influence the body image of young women and even children. In 2007, the first episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” aired and ever since the bodies of the sisters have been a frequent focus of magazines, with their curvy body ideals. In 2015, the first plus-size model was featured in Sports Illustrated, a swimsuit issue. In 2016, a fashion designer featured five plus-size models in his show during New York Fashion Week. That same year, toy manufacturing company Mattel debuted a line of Barbie dolls depicting diverse body. As for the current state of beauty, some health experts are warning of the dangers of the selfie and social media culture as influencing body image, as the rise of Instagram and YouTube has allowed for the bodies of everyday people to be idealized, not just the bodies of supermodels. But when the body type is different from the one girls and young women have, they can be vulnerable to low self-esteem. Parents can help children develop positive body images through role modeling. In 2017, the show Project Runway, included models ranging from size 0 to 22 for the first time in its history (Howard).

Conclusion

The past several decades have largely revolved around an “ideal” body image that involves skinny women, but lately there’s been a pushback from women all over the world who are tired of glorifying impossible female figures. The body-positive movement aims to overturn these outdated standards for women, and represent bodies of all shapes and sizes in the media (Bushak). Body ideals, like everything else in pop culture, are a trend. Rather than chase the preposterous laundry list of attributes, embrace what one already has. The media’s idea of beauty is subjective and changes, but confidence is always in style (Hart).

The media has a negative influence on people’s body images and can even cause eating disorders. This paper explains what negative and positive body image is, what an eating disorder is as well as symptoms of one, different celebrities that have them, how shame affects body image, and the changes of body image between the 1900s to now. Body image is how someone perceives their body. In today’s society people believe everyone should be thin because that is what makes someone beautiful. Media and celebrities show teens what society wants them to look like not that it doesn’t matter how one looks. Media negatively affects body image and that is not something that will change anytime soon.

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Body Image, Eating Disorders and the New Ideal Person. (2022, Aug 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/body-image-eating-disorders-and-the-new-ideal-person/