To define an eating disorder, and according to the American Psychiatric Association, it is an “illnesses in which the people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions” (Parekh). We know commonly with eating disorders you have to be ‘thin’ to have one, when really that’s only one of the kinds in the spectrum of eating disorders. This illness is caused by a majority of factors, but it is mainly “promoted partly by economic and social institutions” (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zoino). Every day we are faced with ads, shows, diets commercials, and even in books and literature full of unideal thin girls or the ideal male phasic. The main variables that cause for this is people having social comparison over media of each other, the food industry, and the weight-loss industry.
We compare ourselves to each other every day, it’s inevitable. With being “over-exposed to idealized images”, when comparing ourselves to it, it’s because of wanting to improve and overall, have the physical appearance of what’s across the media. This will as well involve the upward social comparisons, anything that is “threating to our self-image” (Branscomb, Baron). With this, it highly “involves physical appearance and eating habits” (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zoino). That is with comparing themselves to unnatural media images and idealized standards, this can have a heavy toll on young girls and boys and can lead to all kinds of mental and social issues as they get older. It can affect and “skew our perception of attainable beauty standards” (What Causes an Eating Disorder?). In depth, as women and men control their food portions and lower their body standards, they “measure of gendered social control and self-imposed” (Hesse-Bibber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zion). It’s a way to have control over certain aspect of their life that they think aren’t going well, and one of those problems can be wanting to be socially accepted by society and peers around them.
Along with the media, the food industry has sparked controversy about labeling food and what is ‘good’. The food industry, overtime, has become one of the biggest growths in America. This includes the crash diets or “yo-yo syndrome” from the millions of Americans that are doing it today, with young and older people (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zoino). In this industry, companies either label good or bad food, giving the experience of food or eating it, and lead to having “moral decisions” about how food makes us feel (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zoino). According to Social Psychologist Brett Silverstein, that this specific industry “promotes snacking so that consumer will have more than three opportunities today to consume food” (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zoino). This initially means giving us the latest or most popular diets on trend from celebrities or online. But unfortunately, with the increase demand for junk food and diets, this is called a “cultural paradox” (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zoino). Where Americans fail these diets and fail to reach their desired goal weight, they are highly to go into “rebound effect” (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zoino). Initially what they lost or tried to lose, is gained back with binge eating or eating too much. Thus, leading to low self-esteem and worsening body image, and leaving a “potential risk for the development of disordered Eating Behaviors” (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zoino).
Following with the food industry, coming right behind media is the diet and weight loss industry. Ads and commercials show you have to have a “magic diet pills”, pre-planned food meals, and special work out trainers in order to lose weight (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zoino). Not only is this being shown on the media and television, but as well as books and literature. More specially, dieting books or what people call them are “cult of thinness” (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zoino). Not all dieting books are harmful, but certain books are just as damaging as looking on the media. These books claim to know the “true path to health and happiness”, when in reality are telling you to have a certain look and “narrow your world of correct behavior” (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, and Zoino). With fitness, it is similar but has different aspects of eating disorders. Fitness in America is measured in “physical indicators– fat burned, pounds lost, and waist sizes dropped”, when it should be considered the more positive benefits (Cohen). According to the American Journal of Health Education, they discovered “those practicing certain unhealthy weight-control practices were significantly more likely to be frequent readers of women’s health and fitness magazines” (Fillon). If we or society changed the way we see fitness or food industry, we would have a more positive outlook on ourselves and everyone else.
The biggest question that still remains is, why does this still continue to exist? The first case of an eating disorder was in 1689 and is now the most common mental illness in the world in today’s century. This illness recurs not because of one factor, but of multiple ones. A professor from the UCSD Department of Psychiatry, Walter Kaye, says eating disorders are like “genetics load the gun and environment pulls the trigger” (Cohen). It takes a multiple of triggers to have an onset of an eating disorder. A couple of perspectives is the person culture and environment. The persons culture can have a “associating thinness with positive qualities like attractiveness, health, success and love” (ULifeline). Growing up with this association or being taught what this ideal was could a major factor, that success could only be led by your overall appearance. Environment has a part in it too, including bullying, traumatic childhood, or family relationships (ULifeline). Recently, genetics has been found to have an impact on a person with an onset of an eating disorder, a “specific chromosomes have been linked to both bulimia and anorexia” and tend “to run in families” that are past down to parents or siblings (ULifeline). With eating disorders being the most complicated mental illness, it today is still be researched how and why it continues to exist.
The implication of an eating disorder for its continuance is the cohort factor. From young adolescents, children and teens are at risk for this illness. In a six-year longitude cohort study, goes on to demonstrate the risk factors of developing an eating disorder. Specifically aimed towards “risk factors for eating disorder symptoms in a population-based birth cohort of young adolescents at 12 years” (H. Evans, E., J. Adamsonab, A., K. Reillyab, J., J. Reillyc, J., & N. Parkinsonab, K.). As a population-based study, the “different patterns of predictors and correlates of eating disorder symptoms” were different for both male and female. But amoung the list, “body dissatisfaction, a purported risk factor for eating disorder symptoms” was the highest and most common with these children (H.Evansa, E., J.Adamsonab, A., K.Reillyab, J., J.Reillyc, J., & N.Parkinsonab, K.). The study’s findings found an understanding of the importance of intervention and its effectiveness. Their findings of this illness “strongly suggest the importance of early interventions (before the age of 9 years) to address children’s eating disorder symptoms” (H.Evansa, E., J.Adamsonab, A., K.Reillyab, J., J.Reillyc, J., & N.Parkinsonab, K.).
- E.Quinn, C., Hesse-Biber, S., Leavy , P., & Zoino, J. (2006, June 5). The mass marketing of disordered eating and Eating Disorders: The social psychology of women, thinness and culture. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277539506000070
- E.Quinn, C. (2006, June 5). The mass marketing of disordered eating and Eating Disorders: The social psychology of women, thinness and culture. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277539506000070
- Parekh, R. (Ed.). (n.d.). What Are Eating Disorders? Retrieved 1AD, from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/eating-disorders/what-are-eating-disorders.
- What Causes an Eating Disorder? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://eatingdisorder.org/eating-disorder-information/underlying-causes/.
- Cohen, N. (2018, September 10). Why Our Gym & Fitness Culture Needs an Attitude Adjustment. Retrieved from https://www.waldeneatingdisorders.com/why-our-gym-fitness-culture-needs-an-attitude-adjustment/.
- Fillon, M. (2018, October 8). Fitness Magazines and Eating Disorders: Is There a Relationship? Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/fitness-magazines-and-eating-disorders-is-there-a-relationship/.
- Let’s Get Real About the History of Eating Disorders. (2018, February 24). Retrieved from https://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/blog/february-2018/let’s-get-real-about-the-history-of-eating-disorders.
- Eating Disorders: Why Do They Happen? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ulifeline.org/articles/400-eating-disorders-why-do-they-happen.
- H.Evansa, E., J.Adamsonab, A., K.Reillyab, J., J.Reillyc, J., & N.Parkinsonab, K. (2016, September 6). Risk factors for eating disorder symptoms at 12 years of age: A 6-year longitudinal cohort study. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666316304536