- Mental Health
Eating Disorders - Whose Fault is It?
In recent years, the numbers of individuals suffering from eating disorders have shot up. Eating disorders are one of the hardest to treat as patients are often uncooperative and unwilling to change their habits, often landing in tragedy. In this hub, I urge us all to support and promote increased education and media awareness among young girls in schools so that they will be discerning and critical media consumers who are spared the consequences of striving to attain the unrealistically thin perfect body as portrayed in the media.
Research shows that media exposure to images of stick-thin women increases women’s body dissatisfaction and lowers women’s self-esteem (Grabe, Ward & Hyde, 2008). Over the years the media has been saturated with models that deviate increasingly from the average women’s weight, aggravating the distress that girls experience when they engage in social comparison. While we normalize the use of such images for entertainment, young girls who do not know better internalize these messages and feel trapped when they realize they cannot conform to these ideals. Research shows that school-age children with body image issues are often targets of bullies, and this childhood teasing is positively correlated to higher instances of depression and social anxiety as adults (Roth, Coles & Heimberg, 2000).
The National Eating Disorders Organization Association revealed that since 1930, more girls suffer from eating disorders in each decade. A study on 1st to 3rd grade girls revealed that 42% wanted to be thinner (Collins, 1991). It is at age 15 – 19 when dieting develops into a full-blown eating disorder (Hoek & Hoeken, 2003). This is not only heartbreaking for parents but also puts these girls at risks of future health complications such as osteoporosis and other conditions related to poor nutrition. This long term health threat should be enough to compel us towards preventive action.
I applaud movements such as the Dove Campaign and Love Your Body, and celebrities like Tyra Banks who debunk media stereotypes in their shows. Results from a study (Oswalt & Wyatt, 2007) examining the effectiveness of Dove’s media campaign showed that while 46% percent of Women who saw the advertising felt neutral about their body image, 36% agreed and strongly agreed that they felt better about their body image. The response of this 36% is promising and is an indicator that Dove’s message is helpful and necessary. Indeed, the government needs to support this message to reach a younger impressionable audience, who need to know that healthy and beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Through the provision of funds, schools can have the resources to organize activities, invite celebrities to increase awareness and provide healthy role modeling so girls will grow up with a healthy image of their bodies.
In fact, there is a smaller but strong proportion of individuals suffering from eating disorders that are male. This message needs to reach them too, and wherever possible, we need to give this message a stronger voice through stronger endorsement and stronger funding.
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