Eating Disorders Essay Research Paper HypothesisThe media

Eating Disorders Essay, Research Paper


The media are inducing eating disorders by exhibiting pictures of ‘stick´ like models. Personal Reasons for Research

My own personal reason for choosing to research and find out about eating disorder is my ex-girlfriend suffered from bulimia, and I witnessed first hand how badly it affects the sufferer, and their loved ones. I would like to use this opportunity to find out how to help people who suffer, and to learn more about the diseases, so that if I ever encounter somebody who suffers, then I´ll be able to help them more. I am also interested in the main reasons for why people develop eating disorders; because they feel that they´re ‘fat´? Depression? Stress? or maybe a combination of different things.

Anorexia Nervosa People suffering from anorexia nervosa think about what they eat and how many calories are in their food all the time. They hardly ever eat carbohydrate or fat in their diet, and attempt to skip meals. They are afraid that if they eat normally they will become ‘fat´ and/or that people will laugh or tease them. This fear leads them to want to be less than what to others is a normal weight. They are tremendously afraid of not being loved and not having the approval of others. At the same time as doing this they may build a barrier between themselves and others that care for them to avoid letting others get emotionally close to them. People who suffer from anorexia nervosa try very hard to count the calories they take in, making sure they only consume small amounts. They may over exercise, often getting up early in the morning or hiding away, doing exercises, running, swimming etc. They may also push themselves ever harder in order to lose weight and punish their bodies. Gradually as weight is lost they begin to feel that they can achieve something. Starving themselves and over exercising gives them a ‘high´ and that can make them feel special. At this stage they often have endless energy and feel they cannot keep still. This is the body’s way of encouraging them to find food, but this signal is often misunderstood, leading them to do more activities. However as they lose weight they may also feel depressed and gradually become very tired and weak. They may not be able to think rationally, concentrate or move around much. They feel isolated, sad and even suicidal. Everyone around seems angry, concerned and upset. However much they try to be in control, in reality they have control because their concern about food, calories and weight is actually controlling them. Deep down inside they know that they are very ill. SYMPTOMS MAY INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING PHYSICAL

· severe weight loss

· periods stopping(in women)

· difficulty sleeping

· dizziness

· stomach pains


· feeling bloated

· growth of downy hair

· constipation

· feeling cold

· chilblains PSYCHOLOGICAL

· believing they are ‘fat´ when underweight

· being irritable

· setting high standards

· lack of interest in normal activities

· wanting to be left alone and losing friends

· increased interest in food, calories and cooking

· difficulty in concentrating BEHAVIOURAL

· excessive exercising

· having ritual behaviours

· lying about eating meals

· cooking cakes and meal for the family

Bulimia Nervosa When people suffering from bulimia nervosa feel panicky, they go to the food cupboards and eat as much as they can, as quickly as possible. They feel physically and emotionally sick, and guilty about their behaviour. To try to compensate they make themselves sick, starve for a few days or take large amounts of laxatives to rid themselves of the food consumed. Those who suffer from bulimia nervosa feel ashamed or disgusted by what they do themselves. They try to keep their behaviour a secret, not wanting to admit to others what is happening. They feel inadequate, unattractive or worthless. They may act impulsively, sometimes regretting their actions. At times they feel OK, but at other times they may feel like committing suicide. Many people with bulimia nervosa seem to be popular and able to cope well with their lives. But inside they feel worthless and a fraud. They feel vulnerable, scared, helpless and lonely. They think that if people really knew what they were like they would be rejected. They feel trapped in a cycle in bingeing and then punishing themselves, with no escape. Repeatedly taking laxatives and making themselves sick will damage their health. In females, periods may become irregular or stop altogether. Like anorexia, bulimia can be fatal. SYMPTOMS MAY INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING PHYSICAL

· Sore throat

· Mouth infections

· Irregular periods(in women)

· Dry or poor skin condition

· Feeling tired

· Difficulty sleeping

· Swollen glands

· Tooth decay

· Bad breath

· Stomach disorders

· Fits

· Dehydration


· Hair loss

· Kidney and bowel problems PSYCOLOGICAL

· Feeling emotional and depressed

· Feeling out of control

· Mood swings

· Obsessions with dieting BEHAVIOURAL

· Eating large quantities of food

· Being sick after meals

· Taking laxatives

· Being secretive and lying Why do people develop eating disorders? Eating disorders are the sufferers’ way of coping with painful feelings that they find difficult to talk openly about. The eating disorder is an unconscious attempt to avoid these feelings, or to keep them under control. During the process of growing up the body undergoes many changes both physically and emotionally. Slowing down or stopping these changes can be seen as a way of trying to regain control of this changing person. It is a way of avoiding all the demands of growing up and the issues that it brings. There are many reasons why a person may develop an eating disorder. Often there is no one cause, but a whole series of events that makes the person feel unable to cope with his or her life. Researchers have shown that some people are genetically susceptible to developing an eating disorder. The eating disorder is triggered by factors such as life events and/or family situations. All of the following can contribute to an eating disorder being developed:

· Family problems

· Death of someone special

· Perfectionist values

· Being valued for achievements

· School problems

· Lack of close friends

· Lack of confidence

· Sexual abuse

· Emotional abuse

· Being too keen to please

· Not wanting to grow up

· Being bullied

· Pressure of exams Eating Disorders in Men The delusion that anorexia nervosa is a disorder which exclusively affects young women must be almost as widespread as the mistaken view that it is a ‘slimming disease´. It is estimated that approximately 5-10% of people with eating disorders are male. Despite greater media interest and public awareness of anorexia and bulimia over recent years and its recognition as a serious health problem, a considerable number of men with eating disorders still remain unknown to the medical profession, self-help groups and other support structures. This is partly due to the reluctance of people with eating disorders to seek help, together with a strong denial that anything may be wrong. In addition, many health professionals do not consider anorexia nervosa a possible diagnosis in males and are surprised about the existence of men with eating disorders. Boys as young as eleven or twelve may become anorexic, though the disorder is one to which women are a lot more vulnerable. Marilyn Lawrence of the Women´s Therapy Centre describes this well. She writes:

“Anorexia is a problem crucially related to women´s psychology which in turn is related to women´s way of being in the world. The fact that it sometimes affects men only indicates that the psychology of women and men is not wholly distinct: issues problematic for most women can also be so for men.”


The Psychology Very many people take part in dieting. Health professionals could be forgiven for assuming that reducing diets are for ‘fat´ people. However, this is far from the case. Up to one third of men and women in the western world are said to be overweight. Yet twice as many believe that they weigh more than they should. Thinking that one is overweight is more common in normal weight women than in men. Also, not only do these normal weight people believe they weigh too much, many also have lives that are in some way restricted by worry about weight. In this perspective, dieting is extremely common and people of all weights are trying to lose weight. In 1980-81 Dr Jeffrey and his colleagues from the University of Minnesota surveyed 2000 people living in the town of Minneapolis. The results showed that 72% of female dieters and 44% of males had never been overweight. This has been found in many other studies, mostly that people, women in particular, mistakenly believe themselves to be overweight and at least one in every 2 women who are not overweight has tried dieting. The popularity of dieting is fuelled by several factors, the first being a national dislike to fatness. This attitude sets in at a very young age. In one study, schoolchildren showed a stronger dislike to being overweight than to being blind or physically crippled. Even children as young as 8 are restricting the amount of food they eat, and by the age of 15 one in three children has been on a diet. The second factor is a multimillion pound slimming industry which grows ever more resourceful in its attempts to persuade veteran dieters that “this one really works”. This industry also creates the popular myth that body fat is a “Cinderella substance” that fits on top of the real person underneath, that can be controlled with the right diet and the right degree of willpower. Another factor is pressure from the media to look extremely thin. Extremely thin women and well toned men are shown on TV, in the papers and on the internet, these can lead to people believing that they have got to look like that to be accepted into society. At best modern weight control programmes can help the dieter achieve weight losses of around 15lbs, but the proportion of people who maintain losses for over 5 years is in single figures. Only one in twenty people who join commercial weight control programmes is said to reach their goal weight- but not all of these people are clinically obese and there is no information about how many of the successes re-enrol at a later date. In addition, half of all dieters put back on even more weight than they have lost. The physical risks The first of these has something to do with the physical changes we go through when we eat less than we need. There is increasing evidence that dieters get locked into a losing battle with their own bodies which fight like mad to resist the starvation process. In addition there is growing evidence that repeated cycles of dieting can make matters even worse, in that people may have to eat less and for longer to lose the same amounts of weight. Kelly Brownell has reported on research done by colleagues on the effects of weight cycling in rats, which is like yo-yo dieting in humans. A group of rats were dieted and then re-fed. In the second cycle of restriction the rats needed 46 days on the same calorie intake to lose the weight they had previously lost in 21 days. It took them only 14 days on the second occasion to regain as much weight that they had previously regained in 46 days. While we cannot compare these results with humans directly and no firm conclusions can be drawn from such human studies, it is interesting to note that athletes who have to keep within a weight range from one season to another complain that it becomes progressively harder to lose the same amount of weight from one season to another. Doctors recommend that no diet should be started by anyone of any weight without considerable planning.

These are pictures that the media show of extremely thin women. These are taken in many cases to be what women should look like. The media makes this work when somebody like Melanie C of the Spice Girls gets a healthy amount of body fat, and they start saying about how fat she is just because she´s not a size 6/8. This can lead to women who really are not at all ‘fat´ believing that they are, just because they are not a size 6/8. Some of the stars don´t make the matter any easier either, for example, Britney Spears getting a breast enlargement may make women feel they have to have large breasts to be accepted in society. Kelly Brook, amongst others, showing up for show-business events in skimpy dresses, not leaving much to the imagination, and that may make women feel they have to be able to look as good as that in a similar dress. Background Information Eating disorders are becoming more and more common in society today, but are we doing enough to help people with eating disorders, and are we doing enough to try and prevent people developing the disorder in the first place? Statistics from, US, shows that:-

· 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance.

· 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.

· 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat

· The average woman is 5´4″ tall and weighs 140 lbs. The average American model is 5´11″ tall and weighs 117 lbs.

· Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women.

· 51% of 9 and 10 year old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet.

· 46% of 9-11 year olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.

· 91% of women on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting.

· 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.

· 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day.

· Americans spend over $50 billion (£33.34 billion) on dieting and diet-related products each year. Some of these statistics are very “scary”, especially those where it is children of 7-11 years are taking part in diets. Another of the more shocking statistics is that although models are on average 7 ins taller than the average American women, hoe they can be on average 23 lbs lighter. Several thing could make these people want to diet the way that they do, and in this project I will hopefully uncover some of these reasons, and hopefully find some way of helping to cut down on the number of people who have eating disorders.


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