Eating disorders: the sad truth behind the quest for body ‘perfection’

Autumn Hyatt

agreer@uccs.edu  

 “Y’all gotta start normalizing normal bodies, okay? Not everybody has a wagon behind them, okay? Guts are normal! They’re normal. Boobs sag … Instagram isn’t real.”  

     That is a beautiful statement that Chizi Duru (@chiziduru) posted in one of her latest Instagram reels. However, “normal bodies” have not yet been normalized and there are still unrealistic and unhealthy beauty standards in the world, and social media has only made this worse, as pictures and videos of our bodies are edited, filtered and made to look realistically flawless. However, these images as far from realistic. 

     According to Verywell Mind, eating disorders have been around since 323 B.C. The increase in media-editing techniques, unrealistic societal standards and mass media productions have only made these disorders more prevalent. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) states that nine percent of the U.S. population will be personally affected by an eating disorder. 

     An eating disorder is an unhealthy relationship with food that negatively affects mental and physical health. Those who suffer from eating disorders often fixate largely on their weight, body shape and food. 

     There are multiple different kinds of eating disorders, the most common ones being anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder and other specified feeding or eating disorder.  

     There is way too much information about these disorders to cover in one article, but according to Mayo Clinic, some warning signs to be aware of include: obsessive behaviors surrounding food or exercise; skipping meals or not eating; eating an excessive amount in a short amount of time; withdrawing from normal social activities; persistent worry about body weight and expressing shame or guilt about body weight or eating habits. 

     Women are three times more likely to suffer from eating disorders than men are. Over two-thirds of people with eating disorders have an anxiety disorder, and 94 percent have mood disorders such as depression, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).  

     Autism, ADHD, a family history of eating disorders and childhood traits such as perfectionism also increases the risk of developing an eating disorder.  

     NEDA provides that 62% of female and male athletes in aesthetics sports have an eating disorder, while 40-60% of girls ages six to 12 are concerned about their weight or body image. This statistic may seem shocking, but seriously, just look at the magazine covers on display the next time you are waiting in line to pay for your groceries or any of the “trending” celebrities and influencers on any social media platform.  

     As an adult, the images and videos of “flawless” people I am bombarded with daily through TV, my phone or advertisements often makes me question my worth and self-image. Now, consider children who do not understand the powers of posing, editing, photoshopping and filtering; obviously they are going to be greatly affected and influenced by these images. 

     Eating disorders and unhealthy eating habits are often stigmatized. They are played as jokes in media, such as in the film “Mean Girls” when Regina, one of the main characters, goes on a “juice cleanse” and drinks nothing but cranberry juice for 72 hours. Tropes like these glamorize disordered eating and dismiss the seriousness of these disorders.  

     According to ANAD, “Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose.” Someone dies every 52 minutes as a result of an eating disorder and 26% of people diagnosed with an eating disorder attempt to commit suicide.  

     The media has a huge influence on self-image and self-worth. I recently began unfollowing accounts on Instagram that made me feel negatively about myself and instead following accounts that made me feel worthy. A few accounts I am currently in love with include Mik Zazon (@mikzazon), Danae Mercer (@danaemercer) and Charlotte (@charlotttequeen). 

     To those suffering from an eating disorder or if you suspect you have an eating disorder, it is important to remember that you are not alone! You may feel hopeless or unsure of how to seek help, but there are many resources available for you. The best person to talk with if you have concerns is your doctor or therapist. See below for further resources if needed.  

National Eating Disorders Association helpline: (800) 931-2237 

Eating Disorder Hope: www.eatingdisorderhope.com 

A scale and measuring tape.
Stock photo courtesy of PixaBay.com