Imagine a thirteen-year-old girl who weighs 60 pounds because she is starving herself. Every time she looks in the mirror, she sees herself as fat. Picture her parents watching their daughter literally disintegrating into thin air. This is the life of a family dealing with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a major problem with the young people of today’s society. While anorexia and bulimia are sociological problems plaguing the world’s youth, there are also other eating disorders.
This “fat phobia”, or fear of being over-weight, disturbs people to the point where they are in a way, committing suicide. Eating disorders have been termed the disease of the 1980’s. An eating disorder is defined as “a dangerous and intense striving to become thin (Macionis 350). Even though it has been found that “95% of people who suffer anorexia or bulimia are woman, mostly from white, relatively affluent families” (Macionis 350), “the pre-occupation and obsession with food are not limited to women” (Meadow 24). Although some men also deal with eating disorders, most research has been done on women.
In 1985, 95% of women felt they were overweight, while only 25% were actually considered medically overweight (Marshall 124). By the age of thirteen pproximately 53% of females are unhappy with their bodies, and by the age of eighteen approximately 78% are unhappy (Marshall 124). Are culture could be seen as a narcissist society. Narcissism is a preoccupation with one’s self, a concern with how one appears to others, and with living up to an image (Meadow 127). It seems that appearance is an important factor in our everyday life.
According to Michael Levine, who in 1987 said, “Our culture transmits powerful messages that, just as men can not be too rich, women can not be too thin” (Macionis 350). While all women want to look as perfect as “Barbie”, for some it ust isn’t possible. For women, being slender is almost synonymous with being successful (Macionis 350). It is also thought that 40% of the adult US population is significantly overweight (Meadow 24). Some experts feel that eating disorders are reaching epidemic proportions and estimate the national rate to be as high as 12% of women (Meadow 24).
In fact, according to the Phoenix Gazette on November 7, 1985, “Almost one out of three women diet once a month, and one in six considers herself a perpetual dieter” (Meadow 24). It is considered that 54-86% of college women binge eats (Eating and Sexuality 24). They do this and still research shows that most college aged women: 1) widely accept the idea that “guys like thin girls”, 2) think being thin is crucial to physical attractiveness, and 3) believe that they are not as thin as men would like them to be (Macionis 350).
While in fact most college women want to be thinner then most college men say women should be (Macionis 350). In the United States alone, our society spends $33 billion on the diet industry, $20 billion on cosmetics, and $300 billion on plastic surgery (Marshall 124). This just proves the fetish Americans have with their looks. Unfortunately being thin does play a role in our society. According to Dr. John R. Marshall, it is a fact that attractive defendants seem to receive more positive courtroom judgements and a company is more likely to hire a tall thin man then a short pudgy man (Marshall 125).
These factors are just increasing the chance of eating disorders throughout society. The most common eating disorder being experienced in today’s youth is anorexia nervosa. Anorexia is usually defined as “willful starvation-deliberate and obsessive starvation in the pursuit of thinness (teenhope. com 1). This “willful starvation” is seen as the only way to lose eight. Anorexics who are close to their deaths will show you the spots on their body where they feel they need to lose weight (Thompson 1).
An estimated 10- 20% of anorexics will eventually die from complications related to the disorder (Thompson 1). Some signs and symptoms of anorexia are: noticeable weight loss, becoming withdrawn, excessive exercise, fatigue, always being cold, muscle weakness, excuses for not eating, guilt or shame about eating, mood swings, irregular menstruation, evidence of vomiting, laxative abuse, or diet pills, and the frequent checking of body weight on a scale (Thompson 2). Some theorists believe that these disorders may be caused by the mass media’s presentation of the ideal body.
But according to the ABNFV or the Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa Foundation of Victoria, “it is over simplification to blame the mass media’s presentation of the ‘ideal’ shape; though western society’s increased emphasis on the slim, fit body places pressure on many people” (vicnet. net. au 2). So there is no conclusive evidence on exactly what causes anorexia. Another common eating disorder seen in society is bulimia. Bulimia involves binge eating accompanied by induced vomiting to inhibit weight ain (Macionis 350).
The average women in the United States between the ages of 19 and 39 periodically go on food binges where they eat extremely high quantities of high calorie foods in a short space of time (Eating and Sexuality 24). Bingeing varies for all people, for one person a binge may range from 1000 to 10000 calories, for another, one cookie could be considered a binge (Thompson 1). Bulimics are usually people that do not feel secure about their own self worth, and usually strive for the approval of others (Thompson 1).
Food becomes the only source of comfort for a bulimic, and usually serves as a unction for either blocking in or letting out feelings (Thompson1). Unlike anorexics, bulimics do realize they have a problem and are more likely to seek help (Thompson 1). The likely hood of a bulimic seeking help decreases the percentage of people who die from this disorder. A third eating disorder experienced in our society is body dysmorphic disorder. This is defined as “imagined ugliness”, or where the person sees herself/himself as ugly no matter what (Marshall 124).
This disorder is much harder to recognize then anorexia or bulimia. “Clues to this disorder are slight and often subtle”, says Dr. John R. Marshall, “but they indicate an estrangement from the body and a distorted self-image that reflects an underlying mental illness” (Marshall 127). Some people feel this is a new disorder because they haven’t heard about it as much, but the truth is that in 1891 an Italian physician named Morselli discovered it, the root word dysmorfia literally means ugliness, so this disorder is actually the fear of one’s own ugliness (Marshall 127).
This pre-occupation with ones looks tends to be persistent and eventually leads to marked social dysfunctional and, occasionally, behavioral extremes” (Marshall 127). This disorder can iterally drive people crazy. The number of eating disorders in athletes is on the rise, especially in sports like gymnastics, figure skating, dancing, and swimming. According to a 1992 American College of Sports Medicine study, eating disorders affected 62% of females in sports like figure skating and gymnastics (Thompson 1).
Famous gymnasts such as Kathy Johnson, Nadia Comaneci, and Kathy Rigby, a 1972 Olympian who fought eating disorders for 12 years, have come forward and admitted to fighting eating disorders (Thompson 1). It got so bad for Rigby that she went into cardiac arrest twice because of t (Thompson 1). Many female athletes fall victim to eating disorders in a desperate attempt to be thin in order to please coaches and judges. Many coaches are guilty of pressuring these athletes to be thin by criticizing them or making reference to their weight.
Those comments could cause an athlete to resort to dangerous methods of weight control and can do serious emotional damage to the athlete. (Thompson 1) In 1988, at a meet in Budapest, a US judge told Christy Henrich, one of the world’s top gymnasts that she had to lose weight if she hoped to make the Olympic Squad. Christy resorted to anorexia nd bulimia as a way to control her weight and her eating disorders eventually took her life. On July 26, 1994, at the age of 22, Christy Henrich died of multiple organ failure (Thompson1).
It had gotten so bad for her that at one point she weighed as little as 47 pounds (Thompson 1). Athletes with eating disorders can be at a higher risk for medical complications such as electrolyte imbalances and cardiac arrhythmias (Thompson 1). Coaches need to educate themselves on the dangers and the signs that an athlete may be suffering from an eating disorder, and not only coaches, but athletes, need to remember no gold edal is worth dying for. There are many ways of helping someone with an eating disorder.
If you suspect that your child or anyone you know has an eating disorder you should never: tell them their crazy, blame them, gossip about them, follow them around to check their eating or purging behavior. You should also never ignore them, reject them, tell them to quit the ridiculous behavior, or feel you need to solve their problems (teenhope. com 3). Some things you should do are to listen with understanding, appreciate their openness and the risk they took to tell you, support them and be available.
Two of he most important things you should do are to always give her hope, and continuously, but gently suggest counseling. Roughly two million young women suffer from the symptoms of anorexia nervosa or bulimia (Meadow 127). Eating disorders are caused by a striving to “look good”. This need to “look good” is so bad that in the mid 1980’s 477,000 esthetic surgeries were done, that was up 61% from 1981 (Marshall 127). Although not all is known about eating disorders, we must keep studying them, and the effect society has on causing these problems, so we can someday be able to control and prevent these diseases.