Eating Disorders It is not surprising that eating disorders are on the increase due to the value society places on being thin. In modern Western culture, women are given the message at a very young age that in order to be happy and successful, they must be thin. Every time you walk into a store you are surrounded by the images of emaciated models that appear on the front cover of fashion magazines. Women are constantly bombarded with advertisements catering to what is considered desirable. Thousands of women and girls are starving themselves this very minute trying to attain what the fashion industry considers to be the ideal waif-like figure.
During this paper I will mainly be discussing the effects on females, though males are afflicted with eating disorders, the causes are different than those in the opposite sex. The average model weighs 23% less than the average woman. Maintaining a weight that is 15% below your expected body weight fits the criteria for anorexia, so most models, according to medical standards, fit into the category of being anorexic (Brumberg 205). Women must realize that society’s ideal body image may in fact be achievable, but at a detrimental price to ones body. The photos we see in magazines are not a clear image of reality.
Adolescents and women striving to attain society’s unattainable ideal more often than not, increase their feelings of inadequacy. In contemporary society young women easily cling to dieting precisely because it is widely practiced and an admired form of cultural expression. In the twentieth century, the bodynot the facebecame the focus of female beauty. As a consequence of this media portrayal of beauty, dieting has moved from the periphery to the center of womens lives and culture. Dieting has manifested in two noticeable and important ways that have consequences for eating disorders. First, upon comparing physical appearances throughout the twentieth century, the female body size has become significantly slimmer.
According to Joan Jacobs Brumberg, author of “Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa,” (1988) society experienced a “brief flirtation with full-breasted, curvaceous female figures during 1950s, our collective taste returned to an ideal of extreme thinness and an androgynous, if not childlike, figure.” Our cultural tolerance for body fat has diminished over the years, causing an infiltration of these feelings to adolescents and young women, the group most afflicted with eating disorders. Second, society projects an image that being thin is tied to attractiveness, popularity with the opposite sex, and self esteemall primary ingredients in adolescent culture. Nearly 50% of all women are on a diet at any given time (Bordo 140). The fact that women have such strong concerns about attractiveness is compelling evidence for the power of dieting message. Given western cultures longstanding admiration of thinness, it is no wonder that so many young women resort to dieting and that eating disorders have become part of the psychopathology of females. Diet commercials are constantly appearing on our television screens telling us that once we lose the weight, we will be happy, content, and successful.
You stand in the check out line at the grocery store surrounded by magazines claiming to have the newest and best diet. Each month another new diet appears claiming to be the diet to end all diets. Whatever happened to last month’s diets that claimed the same thing? Dieting has become an obsession in modern western culture. Many of the diets on the market right now are unhealthy. They deprive you of the proper nutrition your body needs to survive and can lead to health problems. The diet and fashion industries are not totally to blame for society’s obsession with thinness.
We are the ones keeping them in business. We buy into the “ideal” body image. We allow ourselves to believe the lies being thrown at us constantly. We buy their magazines, diet books and products, hoping that this time they will work. We are throwing away our hard earned money trying to live up to the standards that society has set for us. Be prepared to spend lots of money on your quest for the perfect diet and be prepared to never find it, because there isn’t one.
Eating disorders were first diagnosed in the 1950s or early 1960s and have spread rapidly over the following decades (Brumberg 3). Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa, the two officially recognized eating disorders, have become major focuses of attention among the public due to rapid increases in occurrences. Both of these diseases are associated with one overriding desire: all encompassing drive to be thin. (Chernin 28). The causes of these disorders are numerous.
Some are biological, but the strongest causes are due to sociocultural factors. There are several sociocultural causes of eating disorders. For instance, an improvement of the economic conditions of woman, family characteristics, and visual exposure to ideal image of the female body in the media would influence eating disorders (Bordo 52). First, eating disorders are culturally specific. More than 90% of the cases of severe eating disorders are found in young, white female of middle to upper socioeconomic status who are living in a competitive environment.
(Bordo 53). Anorexia is also more likely to occur in professions where there is a culture of slenderness like dancing, athletics, modeling, etc. In the 20th century, there has been a huge change in the concept of attractiveness. As women had more chances to get higher education and enter into better professions, there was prejudice against women in the workplace. In the sense that heavier women began to be perceived as lacking competence. Slender women became the standard of attractiveness for women who were graduating from college and entering their professions.
This change of ideals would help women to fit in with the male-dominated workplace. The following was collected from Home Journal, Playboy magazine, and Miss America participants by Garner, Garfinkle, Schwartz, and Thompson. According to this data, 69% of Playboy centerfolds and 60% of Miss America participants from 1959 to1978 had weights 15% or below the average weights for their age and height (Brumberg 254). Second, an ideal body image differs among different ethnic groups. The research of Madeline Altabe, a psychologist at the University of South Florida, indicates that Caucasian and Hispanic-Americans showed more weight-related body image disturbance than African-Americans and Asian-Americans. African-Americans had the most positive general body image.
Ethnic groups were similar in their ideal body image traits (Bordo 53). Third, there are common family characteristics among eating disorder patients. Many of the patients are from middle and upper class backgrounds whose parents are high achievers. The typical anorexic family seems to be hard-driven and concerned abo …