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Eating disorders and the Media Essay

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It almost everywhere you look. Pictures running rampid on magazine covers,

advertisements, billboards: everywhere. Standing in the line at the grocery store, flipping

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through a magazine, or just glancing at the advertisements on television. It is quite

evident by looking at the emaciated pictures of young women and surprisingly men too,

what the media considers as the “ideal” figure. This perception society has created, plays a

major part in our countries obsession with thinness and extreme dieting. America’s

obsession with health and diets and the fashion industry and television exhibiting waif thin

models as “sexy and voluptuous”, gives a distorted notion sending many young women the

wrong idea about body image.

In today’s society these eating problems, such as anorexia

and bulimia, are becoming all too common. Yet, the question still remains, what are the

causes and factors contributing to this destructive behavior, and what kind of impact is the

media contributing to these problems?

Although there are only a few quantitative studies on the issue of eating disorders

and the link between the diseases and the media: the research that has been done is quite

informative and interesting. Hopefully though, in time more research will fill in some of

the links to the enigma of eating disorders. The fashion industry, television, and society’s

norms have all promoted not only a distorted perspective of what a “beautiful” person is

defined as, but influenced many to deception therefore leaving many with an eating

Looking at the television one can easily notice all of the ads and diet commercials

claiming to have to newest and hottest diet. With these ads and societies norms, many are

led to believe once the weight is lost, we they will be happy. Surely everyone has noticed

the magazines while standing in line at the grocery store. Most of them claim to also have

the latest and best diet. What happened to last months diet claims? Without a doubt,

dieting has become a insane obsession in North America. Billions of dollars are spent

trying to look the way society tells us we need to look. People go to extremes from

starving themselves to paying for various cosmetic surgeries. It is very unusual to find

actors and actresses in Hollywood overweight-because that is not accepted in today’s

society. Many actresses and actors that seen on television have endured countless hours

of strenuous exercise and have deprives themselves of nutrition in order to maintain a thin

figure. Television is obviously a big influence on many teens. Thousands of girls are

starving themselves this very moment trying to attain what the fashion industry considers

the “ideal” figure. The average model/actress weighs 23% less than the average women

(Bulk 46) yet what society is telling us is that this is normal. When I was watching the

Grammy’s a few weeks ago I was disgusted when I saw some of the celebrities. Most of

them looked like they had not eaten in months-seriously. I do not know what is so

glamorous about this look, but it seems to have caught on, and many are jeopardizing their

health trying to achieve this look. So who is to blame for our countries obsession with

thinness? Fashion industries, Hollywood ?? Think again, the American public is the one

keeping them in business. The public is the one buying the magazines, purchasing the diet

foods, and also guilty of paying big bucks for the various cosmetic surgeries.

It is a known fact that eating disorders are on the rise, and the statistics are even

scarier(McMurray 30). From a very young age we are lead to believe that the only way to

be accepted and fit in, is to be thin. Along with this we are also lead to believe that those

who are thin are more successful and happier. It is no wonder that many colleges and

universities around the country are reporting an increased prevalence of eating disorders

among many female students. One out of four people between the ages of 12-21 have

some sort of disordered eating, whether it be anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive over eating

(Couture 47). Researchers feel though, that the prevalence of eating disorders among

female college students is not a necessarily a new phenomenon, but is now receiving more

attention due to not only the media’s, but Hollywood’s fixation about weight and

slenderness being associated with being attractive. Obesity is not very attractive nor health

conscience either, but the weight of a person is not relative to how they should be

judged. During the 40’s 50’s and 60’s curviness was considered desirable. The norms set

during that those time periods were infact very different to those say of the 90’s and today.

Marilyn Monroe for example, is probably considered one of the biggest sex symbols in

American history, even though she wore a size 12 at one time in her career(Arndt) .

Models and actresses today at most wear half that size. Colleen Kay Hutchin, Miss

America in 1952 weighed 143 pounds during her time as Miss America(Caballero 21).

Caballero, who is the head of the Miss America pageants is aware and concerned of the

trend in extremely thin contestants and winners. Caballero states, ” Our concern is not so

much the physical health but the mental health of the girls watching…because Miss

America is held up as a role model.” Caballero fears that excessively thin winners will

contribute to the social pressure to be skinny that sends some adolescents into eating

disorders. Society has forgotten what comes from within is what is really important. It is

unfortunate that in today’s society, people have forgotten what is inside a person that

counts, not what is on the outside. The American society needs to start loving and

accepting each other, not for what they may look like. Yet, every time you walk into a

store you are surrounded by images of emaciated models wearing the latest fashions. Does

this really affect the young women and men ? I think it does, because even I find myself

wondering if I was skinnier or prettier would I be guaranteed all the “happiness” and

attention that all of the models, and actors and actresses are believed to have. I asked my

little sister this question thinking that since she is in middle school, a time when youths are

greatly affected and influenced by their appearance, and was surprised from her reply.

Actually, I was shocked by her answer. My sister informed me of one of her friends who

already takes diet pills!! Diet pills in eighth grade seems so unreal to me. She also said that

many girls do not eat lunch because they are afraid they are going to get fat. This was very

disturbing news, because I know from personal experience how eating disorders can not

only control, but ruin your life. This disease that affects many young women as well as

men, is complex psychiatric and psychological condition that can be deadly.

Although the exact causes leading to eating disorders still remain a mystery one

thing is for sure, many college students are a high percentage of those who are affected by

this disease. It is no wonder that one in six female college students has some sort of

disordered eating( McMurray 30). For many, food is a comfort or security in a time of

confusion and stress. The transition from high school to college is an important, most

being freshman and leaving home for the first time in their lives. This experience can be

traumatic for many, and the unrecognized dependency of parents and lack of experience

making adult decisions on their own can cause problems functioning in the less-controlled

college environment. Living in a dorm or apartment with other students means getting

along with others, withstanding the normal coming and going as students leaving for

school. This situation among the other stressful situations college introduces, can leave

many students vulnerable therefor more susceptible to problem eating. For students who

already feel vulnerable to problem eating, this situation can may cause more feelings of

helplessness, thus worsening the problem even more. In a recent edition of People

magazine, a researcher analyzed and studied the rise in eating disorders among college

campuses, and came up with some surprising conclusions. The researcher found that the

connection between an unfamiliar place and insecurity using problem eating to gain

control. Also, being in an unfamiliar place, social acceptance is a major issue and also

another key in eating disorders. Many young women feel as though if they are skinny then

they too will be accepted. These young women are surrounded by images of rail thin

models in magazines and actresses on television who are thought to be beautiful, so they

too think that is they are thin then they will be accepted and therefore, happy. Many girls

who are already very self conscious may look to catching a guy to fulfill their emotional

needs they lack. In doing this they believe that they have to look a certain way or be a

certain size to be wanted. “This situation carries all the dynamics that can also contribute

to problem eating”, states Chelsea Waters in her biography Diary if an Eating Disorder.

Many girls then turn to extreme dieting and bingeing and purging to control the situation.

Although many researchers have found college stress and lifestyle change, and social

acceptance to be a major factor in the prevalence of eating disorders among college

students, family life is also another key factor.

There are many psychiatric and psychological reasons behind eating disorders,

including both mental and emotional anguish. Psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Couture has found a

connection between the family relationship and the effect it has on young women and men.

Dr. Couture found that women especially have been abusing food since they were small

children. As children they learned to reach for a sweet instead of a potential friend. Also,

certain variables also contribute to a young women’s problem with food. For example,

most dorm cafeteria’s serve food mainly high in fat and protein. Students who study late at

night and become hungry cannot access healthy food like they would at home. Therefore,

many female college students find themselves handling stress by bingeing or starving

themselves. Several researchers trace difficulties with food and eating habits back to family

origin. Those students suffering from bulimia or bingeing and purging, often came from

families characterized by lack of parental affection, negative, hostile, and disengaged

patterns of family interaction, and alcoholism. Researchers also found a link between

childhood sexual experiences and bulimia. Families in which the mother’s daughter from

each other, also show a correlation with anorexia and bulimia. For many young women,

poor eating habits evolve as a way of exerting some sort of control in a difficult family

situation. Many women suffering eating disorders report that their families lack

commitment, help, and support, so instead of reaching out and expressing their

frustrations and anger, they feed their eating disorder with this negative feedback. Those

who came from a family with such problems also reported suffering from other conditions

such as: depression, social phobia, and hostility. Cynthia Bulk, another Psychiatrist, found

that many anorexics and bulimic hold fears similar to those with social phobia. These

people have issues about social situations and are insecure and ashamed of their bodies. In

that sense, many suffering from eating disorders feel like if they achieve their goal weight

they too will find the happiness associated with what our society values as slenderness and

Researchers are still looking at the factors of eating disorders, from the stressful

college transition, family life, and the media’s impact , to find some answers to this myriad

and perplexing disease. Researchers feel that the prevalence of eating disorders among

female college students is not necessarily a new phenomenon, but one gaining recognition

because of the prevalence and acceptance and exploitment in the media. Although there is

a great deal of information between the family origin and the resulted eating disorder

behavior, and the stress of the impersonal college living with maladaptive eating, the

information on the link between the media and eating disorders is quantitative.

It is a tragedy that our society is partly to blame for eating disorders due to the

value they place on being thin. It is also very unfortunate that so many young women and

men are starving their bodies and souls to fit what our culture has considered to be “ideal.”

People have forgotten that what is inside a person that counts, not what is on the outside.

The American society needs to learn love and accept themselves, and also begin to love

their bodies, no matter what size they are. Along with that, the children need to be taught

to be proud of who they are. People come in all shapes and sizes, and should be accepted

them for who they are not what they look like. It is scary when children as young as the

age of ten are becoming obsessed with dieting and their bodies. They are becoming afraid

of what our society says is unacceptable and is looked down upon: being fat. If a child is

raised to love and accept who they are and what they look like, they will be less likely to

strive to fit into society’s unattainable standards. Society cannot control what the media

says or what they may claim, but they do not have to support it. Stop buying those fashion

magazines that just make you feel bad! Stop believing all the lies told by the fashion and

diet industry. Our society needs to learn to be realistic and focus on learning to love and

accept themselves. No number on a scale and fitting into a smaller dress size will make

anyone happy. Real happiness can only come from within.

not available

Cite this Eating disorders and the Media Essay

Eating disorders and the Media Essay. (2018, Jun 13). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/eating-disorders-and-the-media-essay/

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