There has been an alarming rise in eating disorders among teenagers. Our culture and its idealization of a slender figure is a leading cause. Many turn to the media for trends and to find out what’s “in”. Through advertising, television, films, and the fashion industry the message relentlessly being shown is that thin is in. The desire to be skinny and pretty has driven teenagers to anorexia or bulimia as the solution to getting the “perfect body”. However, it can lead to numerous problems. Extensive, not to mention expensive therapy is needed in order to get back in good health.
What’s worse is that sufferers tend to hide this behavior which makes it harder for them to get help before it’s too late. Through the media’s easy control over teenagers who look up to models, or actors/actresses, and social pressures; it all leads teens to have unhealthy eating habits with consequences and this needs to be stopped by all means. It’s clear that there’s no single cause for eating disorders for it is a complex condition and it can happen to anyone regardless of race, gender, or age. Some of the contributing factors include biological, interpersonal, psychological and social issues (Siegel, Brisman, Weinshel 39-59).
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Many Americans blame the media’s obsession with appearances for causing eating disorders though. Their power over our development of self-esteem is extremely strong. We’re constantly bombarded by images of thin celebrities in tabloids, TV, advertisements, film, and any other entertainments. They have always considered image to be of major importance which leads to the development of eating disorders. As a result “…slim has become our culture’s message” (Siegel, Brisman, Weinshel 5) The entertainment industries have taken the message too far. It’s common to hear them say something like, “She’s great, but can you get her a little thinner? (Kerlin qtd. In White). They are pushing the limits along reality and idealism. Now with the ability to do computer enhancement the media is making models look thinner (White). Giving off this false image will ruin a person because as they try to make their bodies “perfect” it’ll only end up with harming their bodies. The media has also created societal pressures and jobs that require thinness. Stars such as Kate Dillon and Tracy Gold became anorexic due to the pressure but luckily were able to recover. (Worsnop) Sarah Putnam who was majoring in theater found that pressure intolerable.
She says, “…the pressure to be thin in theater ‘was obviously killing me’ (qtd. In Prah). Their standard of beauty is too much and putting wrong ideas into teen’s minds giving them stress over a silly matter. In addition more and more young individuals are becoming “fat-phobic”. Physician Rome says, “It’s not uncommon to find 8 to 12 year olds with these disorders” (qtd. In Prah). The age group is lowering because, “The people watching fashion shows [or reading fashion magazines] are young, impressionable [men and women]…” (Hellmich). With most of their role models in the entertainment industry becoming anorexic therefore so are the teens.
Even some toys such as Barbie dolls and G. I. Joe have been said to influence young people (Gay 26). Though it is an abnormal thinness the impression given to younger generations says otherwise. Teens have been blinded because, “[The media] does make anorexia glamorous,” (Bunnell qtd. In Eating Disorders). There are only consequences from eating disorders. These behaviors weaken physical health, self-esteem, and a sense of competence and control. It can also cause a person’s hair to fall out, fingernails to break off (Gay 38-39). That doesn’t sound very glamorous at all. “The emotional pain of an eating disorder can take its toll, too” (qtd.
In Worsnop). It makes the victim become vulnerable to what other’s think. Also, having an eating disorder doesn’t help your social life. It will make one more “withdrawn and less social” (Eating Disorders: Part II) because they become obsessed with their weight. Then they won’t be able to concentrate on anything else. Eating disorders are not fun and no good comes of it. It’s also seen that “both anorexia and bulimia can lead to feelings of guilt and depression” (Hellmich). The worst is that eating disorders can lead to death, and at best, they leave a person with mental issues such as feeling and looking horrible.
The media needs to portray more diverse and real images of people in order to show positive messages about health and self-esteem. This won’t eliminate eating disorders completely, but it will help lessen the pressures many feel to make their bodies conform to the distorted views of skinniness being everything. In the process it can also “…reduce [social stigma against] obesity, and ultimately decrease the potential for eating disorders (qtd. In Eating Disorders: Part II). In short, the media has been a big part of the rise for eating disorders among teenagers. It has warped and hurt much of young peoples’ minds and bodies.
Children should be taught that people come in all shapes and sizes and should be accepted for who they are, not what they look like. For these reasons, it should not be a life-style choice or even considered as one. As White stated, “We need images of [people] who can be considered beautiful. ” This way the controversial issues on the media and eating disorders can be eliminated. Works Citied “Eating Disorders: Part II. ” Harvard Mental Health Letter Nov. 1997: 1-5 Gay, Kathlyn. Eating Disorders-Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating. Berkeley Heights, Enslow Publ. , 2003. Hellmich, Nanci. Do Thin Models Warp Girls’ Body Image? ” USA TODAY Sept. 25, 2006, n. p. Prah, P. M. 2006, February 10. “Eating disorders. ” CQ Researcher, 16, 121-144. March 1, 2007, from CQ Researcher Online, . Siegel, Michele, Judith Brisman, and Margot Weinshel. Surviving an Eating Disorder: Strategies for Family and Friends. New York: HarperPerennial, 1997. White, Tanika. “Fashion industry starting to ask whether too thin is in. ” Baltimore Sun 2 Feb. 2007, The (MD). Worsnop, Richard L. 1992, December 18. “Eating disorders. ” CQ Researcher , 2, 1097-1120. March 1, 2007, from CQ Researcher Online, (1992, December 18).