Eating Disorders

.. ut external appearances including physical ones. To accomplish these goals, family members often deny negative feelings and tend to attribute their problems to other people. In “Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body” statistically proven data suggests that among eating disorder patients there are significant differences of cohesion and expressiveness. Cohesion and expressiveness are the degree of unity among family members. Comparing with normally functioning families, those with eating disorder patients scored lower on cohesiveness and expressiveness.

(54) Fourth, and most importantly, visual media appears to have an effect on the frequency of eating disorders. After the 1920s, the number of diet articles in fashion magazines has increased. Many young women have role models in media images of very thin women. Extremely thin runway models influence young women to develop eating disorders. A study was conducted to show whether visual exposure influences the formation of an ideal body image or not.

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This study found that congenitally blind women had the lowest levels of body image satisfaction and disordered eating attitudes compared to those women blinded later in life. Sighted subjects showed significantly higher levels of both body image dissatisfaction and eating attitudes. (Bordo 35) On the other hand, there are other points of view with a biological dimension. Genetic factors are correlated with eating disorders by showing the high inheritability of anorexia. Neurobiological abnormalities also appear like increased seratonin function in the brain.

However, there are some fallacies in accepting these as factors because the inheritability estimates were based on identical twins and tend to exaggerate the effect of genetics in the population. Also the study about neurotransmitters does not show any specific neurotransmitters. There is a question as to whether the neurobiological abnormalities exist as the cause or effect of eating disorders. In some ways, they can be a result of semi-starvation or the binge-eating cycle; thus they are not causes. Few cases of anorexia nervosa were found outside the western world. For instance, six cases were identified in the Caribbean Island of Curacao.

If these cases were caused by inheritability, this can be an example of how sociocultural influence can be factored into eating disorders by the small number of incidents. Compared with people in the western culture, people in Curacao were not exposed to many sociocultural factors; therefore, despite their biological vulnerability, few people were afflicted with disorders. Throughout the research about the causes of eating disorders, there are many factors. As we have seen, sociocultural factors contribute a lot to form an ideal body image, which never seems to be achieved. However, to know more about eating disorders, an integrative approach is more useful rather than the one-sided approach because of the complexity of these disorders.

“It is clear that a very large percentage of American women are unhappy with their bodies,” says Joan Jacobs Brumberg, author of “The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls,” (1998). “That kind of unhappiness begins very, very early in life,” she says. The rise of plastic surgery, the prevalence of dieting and the high number of women in therapy are examples prove that women still suffer from self-esteem problems. Women still feel unhappy about the way the advertising industry portrays females. “Fashion magazines deliberately promote fantasy,” says Mary Peacock of, a Web site for women.

A typical fashion magazine reader cant afford the clothes or achieve the body depicted in these publications, she says. Peacock says women’s magazines have regressed in their portrayal of realistic body images since the heyday of Ms. magazine, which she helped, found with fellow feminists in the 1970s. They formed Ms. in reaction to the male-edited womens magazines that dominated the market at the time. Today’s magazines “pay lip service to issues like anorexia, but it’s embedded in the advertising,” she says.

But Peacock cautions against blaming the media outright for womens self-esteem issues. Magazines may portray women in a manner that upsets the feminist consumer, though the problem can also be traced to the readers. Readers do not seem to understand that the images conveyed throughout the pages are not the norm. “The problem is not the magazine, necessarily,” says Peacock. “The problem is also the readers. People don’t understand what physical freaks models are.” The 90s saw a new trend emerge dubbed “heroin chic” because of the ultra-thin, strung-out appearance of models like Kate Moss and Shalom Harlow, the look dominated fashion capitals such as New York, London and Paris until trends began changing in early 1998.

But with the popularity of heroin chic, came controversy over the dangers of becoming too thin. Though many have criticized the trend, young girls starved themselves trying to attain the waif-like figure. Even though heroin chic no longer dominates the market, women remain uncomfortable with the medias depiction of their bodies. Though women speak up about this dissatisfaction, they still seem to be getting less and less happy about their appearance. Society is brainwashing young people into believing that being thin is important and necessary. It’s unfortunate, but in today’s society, people have forgotten that it’s what’s inside a person that counts, not what’s on the outside.

We need to start loving and accepting each other for who we are not what we look like. Next time you decide that you are going to start another diet because you feel you are too fat, stop; sign up for a self-esteem class instead. That would be money well spent. If we learn to love and accept ourselves, we will also begin to love our bodies, no matter what size we are. We also need to teach our children to be proud of whom they are. We need to remind them that people come in all shapes and sizes, and we need to teach them to accept everyone for who they are. Parents need to also teach their children the value of healthy eating and not send the message that being thin is important.

Many children, under the age of 10, are becoming obsessed with dieting and their bodies. They are afraid of becoming fat. They don’t just learn this from the media; they also learn this from their parents. If their mothers are constantly dieting and expressing their desire to be thin, these young children will start to believe they also need to be thin. We need to encourage and support our children, especially teenagers.

They need to feel good about themselves and their accomplishments, they need your approval and they need to know that you are proud of them. If a child is raised to love and accept who they are and what they look like, they will be less likely to strive to fit into society’s unattainable standards.