Eating Disorders In recent history, the idea of feminine beauty has been shifting toward a less healthy, overly thin model. More than 25,000 years ago when humans first evolved, women exaggerated their reproductive organs, like breasts and hips, using fertility symbols. Slim women were not considered beautiful because they did not seem healthy enough to nourish and raise a family, or make it through the winter. Slim women were also considered to be poor, because they could not afford enough food to keep their body full and healthy. During the Renaissance era, beautiful paintings from world famous artists, including Michelangelo, featured full-figured women.
Full figures continued to be popular throughout the Mannerism and Baroque periods, which continued up through the 1730’s. In the mid-1700’s, women’s figures started to change. The women began to wear girdles, cinching up their waist to exaggerate their curves. The girdles were painful but women wanted to get their waist as small as they could. In the 1900’s, waists became even smaller. The Roaring 20’s brought radical changes to women and their bodies.
Young girls called flappers became popular. They wore their hair short and boyish, wore rolled down stockings and short, baggy dresses exposing their arms and legs. They were defined as rebels, and embarrassed the older generation by the way they dressed and acted. They refused to be lady-like, and they were wild. Twiggy was the most popular fashion model in the 1960’s, named for her ultra-thin body. She exposed more and more of her stick-like body to the camera, and inspired other girls to become like her, because she was popular, different, and wild. The super-skinny image is still portrayed today, even though it is not healthy.
In the early 1990’s a magazine headline read, You Can Never Be Too Thin. Some women literally believed this, and died of starvation and suffered from anorexia nervosa. Teenagers are directly targeted because they always conform to high fashion. We live in a society where it’s the standard for a teenager to worry excessively about her body and gaining weightthis aberrant behavior has become the norm (Bell 67). Women now are so worried with their figure that they develop life-threatening psychological habits, get plastic surgery, go on crash diets, and even starve themselves. Women’s obsession with their weight is causing them serious health problems.
Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychologically based disorder. It is not a new disease, but one which has recently become more widely recognized (84-88). The reason anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate is because it can be kept a secret, until it is almost too late. When victims start to become anorexic the public might compliment them because they’ve lost a little weight and look good. When they start to become too thin, concerned comments like are you losing weight? may actually be taken as a compliment by anorexic victims because they have brainwashed themselves and now have the mindset to be as thin as they can.
Victims of anorexia nervosa develop a warped view of optimal thinness. Even when their bodies become dangerously thin, they feel that they are too fat and this drives them to even more drastic food reduction (89). In the process of starvation, when women lose too much weight they have trouble regulating their internal body temperature resulting in cold blue hands and feet. A layer of hair called lungo grows on the skin as a coping mechanism to help keep the body warm due to a loss of insulating fat (Nikles 1). Anorexia nervosa victims can not stop dieting, and sometimes they die because they are too thin (Ahrens 70). In order to die from starvation, one must not eat anything for over 2 months, and their own body eats itself.
This is very painful and weakening for the woman, she may need to stay in bed or be hospitalized. That kind of self-discipline proves how obsessed women are with becoming thin. Many anorexic women also indulge in occasional eating binges, and half of them make the transition to bulimia. About 40% of the most severely bulimic patients have a history of anorexia. It’s not clear whether the combination of anorexia with bingeing and purging is more debilitating, physically or emotionally, than anorexia alone (Grinspoon and Batalar 1).
Both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are psychological disorders that also cause physical harm. Brittle bones are common from a lack of calcium; muscles dissolve and begin eating themselves because there is not enough caloric intake. Some anorexic victims exercise profusely without eating, which causes their body to self-destruct. Anorexic victims also have problems with their heart and blood from the lack of iron in their diet. Bulimia Nervosa is defined as two or more episodes of binge eating (rapid consumption of a large amount of food, up to 5,000 calories) every week for at least three months. The binges are sometimes followed by vomiting or purging (use of laxatives) and may alternate with compulsive exercise and fasting (1).
The consumption of high-calorie junk food, even though they throw it up, may cause the victim to gain fat cells. The victim gains some weight, goes on a diet, and the cycle repeats itself (Nardo 97). Though bulimia is not as dangerous as anorexia because the victims almost always maintain a healthy weight, bulimia has far more side effects. These include fatigue, weakness, bloating, and dehydration from overuse of laxatives. The cause of bulimia is unclear, although it is thought to be a combination of many different physical, emotional, and environmental issues (Grinspoon and Batalar 1). Dentists can actually tell if a woman is bulimic from the shape of her teeth. They are more rounded, with the erosion of dental enamel because when they throw up, they are causing stomach acids to enter back through their mouths. Stomach acid is very powerful; it eats away all of the protective enamel on their teeth.
These side effects may not seem life threatening, but they are very unpleasant. Aside from the fact that bulimia victims are depriving their bodies of essential vitamins when they purge, bulimic victims are less stable emotionally and are more likely to commit suicide (1). Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is another mental disorder where women are overly obsessed with their body. Approximately 5 million Americans have BDD (Brody 79). BDD victims usually obsess over something very slight, or imaginary. Whatever the imagined defect – and often there are several – living with BDD is a pretty dismal existence, especially for teens.
Some drop out of school. One-third are unable to leave the house for a week or more. One-quarter attempt suicideit causes a tremendous amount of suffering (80). The desire for a woman to change her body still exists even if she doesn’t develop a mental condition or obsession. Cosmetic surgery has become known as a quick fix for weight problems but the combination of side effects during surgery and the treatments after surgery can be very unpleasant, painful, and even life-threatening. The fastest growing form of cosmetic surgery is liposuction. In 1986, 100,000 operations were performed.
By 1989, 200,000 pounds of body tissue was sucked out of 130,000 women. Even though liposuction is dangerous and can cause death, women continue to enjoy it (Davis 26-27). All surgery from a heart transplant to cosmetic surgery is dangerous and has the same risks because any time someone is put under anesthesia it can be life threatening. Negative reactions to anesthesia are so common that they are called routine complications, although in some cases they can be fatalmost operations have side effects, many of which are serious and even permanent. Although statistics are not kept, the list of complications accompanying cosmetic operations is long (27). Doctors are required to let women know of all the possible side effects that can happen during and after surgery, but that doesn’t hold them back at all. Their desire for the perfect figure is so strong they will willingl …