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Eating Disorders Essay, Research Paper

In America today, we often here of people who suffer daily from illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. What we don’t often here about is the illness that takes away millions and millions of Americans each year, that being eating disorders(Understanding…). But, what does that term eating disorders mean. Think about it…. Did your answer center around, food, weight or dieting? If so, then you understand something about the symptoms of an eating disorder. But if that’s all you’re thinking about, you may be unaware of the underlying causes of this disease.

One of the biggest causes of this sometimes-fatal disease has to do with body image. The impact of a disturbance in body image on a person’s life may be frustrating or debilitating depending on how severe the disturbance is. A large percentage of men and women in our culture struggle with dissatisfaction with some aspect of their appearance. Kim Chernin supports this point by stating, “One women disliked her thighs, another her stomach, a third the loose flesh under her arms. Many would grab their skin and squeeze it as we talked, with the grimace of distaste language cannot translate into itself.”(58). In 1996, a survey found that fifty-six percent of women and forty-three percent of men disliked their overall appearance with an even larger percentage dissatisfied with individual attributes such as weight and mid torso(Understanding…). A person with an eating disorder typically suffers from a body image disturbance that can impact many areas of his or her life.

Most 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 all fashion magazines. Thousands of teenage girls are starving themselves this very minute trying to attain what the fashion industry considers to be the “ideal” figure. 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(The Mind…). Teenagers need to realize that society’s ideal body image is not achievable. The photos we see in magazines are not real either. Many people don’t realize that those photos have gone through many touch ups and have been airbrushed to make the models look perfect. Teenagers striving to attain societies unattainable ideal image will just end up increasing their feelings of inadequacy.

Teenagers are under a lot of pressure to be thin. They are lead to believe that the only way they can be accepted and fit in, is if they are thin. They resort to starving, vomiting and eating only diet foods to try and be thin. Television is a big influence on them. They watch shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place and feel they need to look as thin as the actresses on these shows. Many actresses we see on TV have endured hours of exercise and have deprived themselves of the proper nutrition in order to maintain a thin figure. Some even resort to plastic surgery, such as liposuction and breast implants. You just have to watch an episode of Baywatch to know that statement is true. Society is brainwashing young people into believing that being thin is important and necessary.

Another problem is, diet commercials are constantly appearing on our television screens telling us that once we lose the weight, we will be happy. While your standing in the check out line at the grocery store you are 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 the United States. We spend billions of dollars each year trying to look the way society tells us we need to look. If diets really worked, then why are there so many of them? The reason a new diet pops up each month, is because last’s month’s diets did not work. You know, the ones that claimed to really work. The truth of the matter is that diets don’t work. As soon as you start to diet, you automatically set yourself up for failure. Many of the diets on the market right now are also unhealthy. They deprive you of the proper nutrition your body needs to survive and these diets can lead to health problems.

But, 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 idea that we can attain 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.

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, and not what we look like. Instead of people starting another diet because they feel they are too fat, they should 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.

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