Eating Disorders: Personal or Social Problem?

Topics: Nutrition, Body shape, Female body shape Pages: 5 (1874 words) Published: March 1, 2006
In today's society, there is much attention being given to the subject of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia; unfortunately it is because these disorders seem to be becoming more and more common. The question that remains is whether eating disorders such as these are simply personal problems of the individuals, or if they have become a social problem that needs to be addressed more aggressively. Having grown up in this society, I see this issue as a definite social problem. To say that these increasingly common eating disorders are personal problems, implies that the causes of them are personal as well, which I believe is not the case. A social problem is something that goes against society's goals and values; it would seem to me that being exposed to something that causes a potentially life threatening disease would go against most people's goals. The media in this society increasingly dictates to young women that in order to be desirable, you must be painfully thin with a very specific body type that is unrealistic to most of us. Young women are being pushed into disordered eating in an effort to live up to the media's representation of what women should look like, and this is definitely a social problem. Anorexia involves depriving oneself of food in order to lose weight, and bulimia is when a person eats, but then forces themselves to vomit up the food they have consumed in hopes of losing weight. The common thread between these two disorders is the end result, weight loss in the most unhealthy of ways. When anorexia goes too far, the person may be hospitalized, as they are starving themselves to death. Though they get so thin that they are unable to get out of bed, they still refuse to eat because they are afraid they will gain weight. If anorexia is not treated the person may go into organ failure and can die. Persons with bulimia often have a great deal of pain as a result of continuously vomiting up stomach acid, which burns away the tissue in their throat. In addition to this, starvation can lead to hospitalization, organ system dysfunction, and sometimes death as with anorexia. Even those who have gotten extensive therapy and counseling for their disorders often continue to struggle with the disease for the rest of their lives. These are very serious life threatening diseases which are all too common, and need to be addressed by our society, since it is a main component of our society which seems to be perpetuating the ideas that lead to such disordered eating. The average size of models and actresses that the media continuously portrays as desirable, are sizes 2 to 4. The average American woman is a size 12 or 14. It is no surprise then, that so many women in our society are struggling to lose weight in order to more closely resemble the size 2 models we are told we should look like. We are constantly being shown pictures of women who are 5'11" tall, 100 pounds, and being told, "this is what sexy women look like" or, "anyone who is larger than this is fat"; when in reality that size is simply unattainable by most women no matter how hard they diet and exercise. A typical model's body type is in the vast minority, however it is so over represented by the media that it sends out the illusion that women who are of a larger, curvier size are the minority, and that they are outcasts. It is extremely rare to flip open a magazine and see any women in the advertisements who accurately reflects the average American woman's body type or weight. It seems like anybody over a size 6 is considered fat. It is no wonder that after all of these repeated messages being sent out through our society, that young women are falling into eating disorders in their attempts to fit into the tiny mold of what they are told they should look like. Also, in many of the trendy stores that teenagers shop at, clothes are not even available to girls that aren't overly thin, pant sizes may only go up to a size 8....

Cited: Hitchon, J., Park, S., Yun, G. (2004) "You Can Never Be Too Thin" -- or Can You? A Pilot Study on the Effects of Digital Manipulation of Fashion Models ' Body Size, Leg Length and Skin Color. Race, Gender & Class. Vol.11, Iss. 2. pg.140.
Orbach, S. (1994) Slimness: The New God? Health Weight Journal. Vol. 8, Iss. 4; pg. 75
Polivy, J., Herman, C. (2004) Sociocultural Idealization of Thin Female Body Shapes: An Introduction to the Special Issue on Body Image and Eating Disorders. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology Vol.23, Iss. 1; pg. 1, 6
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