Eating Disorders And Media Essay Research Paper

Eating Disorders And Media Essay, Research Paper

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

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

store, flipping 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 disorder. 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 beauty. 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.


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