Media's Effect on Body Image and Eating Disorders

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Media’s Influence on Body Image and Eating Disorders
A study was recently done to determine how body image was viewed in society several years ago and how it is viewed in today’s society. When comparing the average model and the American woman, it is stated by Dr. Jonathon Rader, PhD, chief executive and clinical officer of Rader Programs that “twenty years ago, the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less” (Rader). Twenty to thirty years ago, full figured women were accepted and also admired. Being voluptuous was a sign of wealth and beauty. Women were not obsessed with diet fads, or trying to look a certain way, but were more concerned with eating healthy and were comfortable with the natural body shape given to them by God. Since 1970, eating disorders have increased by 400% (Rader). What has happened since then to shift the emphasis from a healthy feeling of self worth to a need to fit the description of the standard set by the media? The media realized that fit people sell products, and suddenly being stick thin has become the standard for being considered attractive. It has become more popular to have thin models in magazines and on TV commercials, and as time has passed it seems as if the models are getting thinner and more emaciated. Now, it is seen everywhere in our society, and there is no way to avoid it. False ideas about body image are portrayed everywhere, giving people distorted ideas about reality and causing several problems. To illustrate how much emphasis is constantly placed on appearance, an article found in the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center states that “one out of every four television commercials send out some sort of message about attractiveness” (Body Image). Teenage girls are striving to look a way that is not even realistic and are taking drastic measures to reach their desired body weight. Unfortunately, when these teens realize they are not achieving it the way they had hoped, body dissatisfaction begins and often leads to eating disorders. Eating disorders are a serious health problem that is rapidly increasing in the United States each and every day. Not only are they seen in women, they are additionally found in men as well. Researchers at Harvard University Medical School have new data that suggests that up to 25 percent of adults with eating disorders are male (General Information). Due to that information, it is obvious that eating disorders are less frequent in men, but in no way are they absent. The rationale for this difference in genders may perhaps be because of the way society views males and females. When reading an article by the National Eating Disorders Association, it has been seen that clinics and counselors see many more females than males, but that may be because males are reluctant to confess having what has become known as a "women's problem." Also, health professionals do not expect to see eating disorders in males and may therefore under diagnose them (Eating Disorders Information). “Because eating disorders have been described as female problems, males are often exceedingly reluctant to admit that they are in trouble and need help. In addition, most treatment programs and support groups have been designed for females and are populated exclusively by females. Males report feeling uncomfortable and out of place in discussions of lost menstrual periods, women's socio-cultural issues, female-oriented advertising, and similar topics” (General Information). Besides adults having struggles with the issue of body image, whether it is men or women, it seems as if more children at younger ages are beginning to develop abnormal eating patterns in order to achieve a certain body weight. Young girls tend to pick up the message from their parents, the media, and role models that to be thin is not only desirable, it is required. An interesting statistic found in a book written by Carolyn Costin states that “studies...
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