Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Disordered Eating – A Case Study

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Two images of an anorexic female patient publi...

Two images of an anorexic female patient published in 1900 in “Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière”, (a french medical journal) vol 13. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eating disorders are not going away.  In fact, up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder) in the U.S.

The causes are complex, but how much influence does the media contribute especially with the younger population?

  • 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meal, fasting, smoking, vomiting and taking laxatives.
  • The body type portrayed in advertising is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females.
  • 47% of girls in the 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
  • 81% of 10-year olds are afraid of being fat.

One thing I found appalling a few years ago is that are websites on the Internet that actually help to promote eating disorders.  Some promote a concept of “thinspiration” by using photos of gaunt celebrities for motivation to others on the “appeal” on losing weight.  They offer tips on how to hide the disease from parents and  family as well as how to lose weight.

A study published in June, 2010 in the American Journal of Public Health analyzed 180 of these sites.  The researchers found that most of the sites used sophisticated interactive features more frequently than earlier sites.  Often  people with eating disorders feel very isolated and have a low sense of self-esteem; therefore these sites play on these feelings by giving them a sense of community – i.e. having interaction  and support from others with the same disorders.  Now people are using social media such as Twitter to promote disease, the authors concluded.

The following article with accompanying video shows us the dangers out there that may be promoting eating disorders in more subtle ways.


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