Is emphasis on body image in the media harmful to females only?  

I have mentioned to my fans at Eating to Live, Not the Alternative on Facebook that I am currently enrolled in an exceptionally interesting and personally meaningful course this summer. If you don’t know, I am in graduate school at the University of South Florida in the Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling Program. I am taking a course that hits pretty close to home. It is called: Obesity and Eating Disorders.


Well, weekly assignments include discussion posts to a particular, possibly controversial topic in the world of body image, obesity and eating disorders. This weeks discussion topic: 


Is emphasis on body image in the media harmful to females only?

There is a significant body of knowledge out there that addresses the impact of the media on body image on adolescent girls. Social comparison significantly influences girl’s attitude about themselves. However in the last few decades males are exposed to imagers of their idealized body type and these images have an impact on the male psych as well. Adolescent boys as well as girls are pressured to engage in potentially unhealthy behaviors to achieve these idealized body sizes and shapes. Is this just another “catastrophizing “ of a situation that affects just a very small minority or is it an alarming trend in our culture that has ongoing and exacerbating psychological implications for boys. Discuss.


Hmm… Here is my two cents worth of a response:


I have done tons of research on the effects of media on body image. It is absolutely true that there is a significantly larger amount of research dedicated to the effects of media on female body image rather than male. However, the amount of research studies does not take away from the data that IS available. That data shows that the emphasis on body image has an impact on both genders. 

Although data shows that a larger percentage of females develop eating disorders, males are not immune to the effects of images in media. Media is a multi-billion dollar business for a reason. It works. And, its not going anywhere. Photoshop and digital enhancements will only become more digitally enhanced. Fashion will only continue to evolve and create trends “to die for”…or, to diet for… or, to bulk muscle up for… or, to slim down for… or, in the case of ED’s, to starve or purge for. What happens when a male or female “fails” at achieving the body type or image they see in digitally enhanced mass media? They either become obsessed with it or, they lose hope. Hence, the cycle of eating disorders and obesity for BOTH males and females.
So, “is this just another “catastrophizing “ of a situation that affects just a very small minority or is it an alarming trend in our culture?”
 
First of all, disordered eaters and obese Americans are NOT a small minority. MILLIONS of people suffer from ED’s.
From the National Eating Disorder Association:
“Did you know…

Nearly 10 million females and 1 million males in the U.S. are battling an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, while millions more suffer from binge eating disorder?”

 
How can you consciously label 1 million males seriously suffering from an eating disorder as a “small minority”? And, allow me to point out that these statistics are based on the DIAGNOSED eating disordered population. Trust me, there is surely a sadly large amount of people who suffer from ED’s that never get diagnosed. I know this to be true because I was one of them and I know more that fall into that same undiagnosed category.
–Secondly, how could the internalization of mostly-impossible-to-achieve and wildly unrealistic digitally enhanced FAKE images in media which have empirically been shown time and time again to be a huge causal factor in eating disorder development not be considered something with an alarming trend? Did you know eating disorders are the #1 psychiatric KILLER? Is that NOT alarming?

I am alarmed…

Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Everybody knows somebody…  

Did you know? Everyone of you coming across this blog knows somebody…

Are you wondering what kinda somebody I’m talking about?

Someone like me. Someone like a couple Facebook friends of mine and a couple old Kappa Delta sorority sisters of mine. Someone like Victoria Beckham or Paula Abdul, Kate Beckinsale or Diana the Princess of Wales, Calista Flockhart, Elton John or Janet Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Portia de Rossi, Mary-Kate Olsen or Tara Reid.

All of these somebody’s have one thing in common: having suffered from a potentially deadly EATING DISORDER.

Everybody knows somebody.

Did you know?

-Eating Disorders are the deadliest of all psychiatric illnesses.
-Approximately 8 million people report suffering from an eating disorder; this includes about 1 million boys and men and 7 million girls and women.
-81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being or becoming “fat”
-Half of girls 11-13 years old consider themselves “overweight”
-22% of college women admit to “always” being on a “diet”
-Only 1 in 10 people suffering from an Eating Disorder will ever receive treatment
-3 in 100 women in America suffer from bulimia; 1 in 100 suffer from Anorexia.

Everybody knows somebody who has fallen into the statistical categories above.

Eating disorders do not discriminate by weight, color or gender. Everybody knows somebody who is suffering or who is vulnerable to suffering.

“Everybody Knows Somebody” -NEDA, 2012, Eating Disorder Awareness Week

[I realized this blog was never posted — it is from February 2012 during Eating Disorder Awareness week. Rather than not posting it, I am posting it now, just  tad bit late 🙂 ]

How bad do you really want it…?  

I’ve had many a sufferers come to me and say: “I want recovery.”
Well, the first question that comes to present mind is: “how bad do you really want it?”
When the sufferers know I have recovered, they say they want to be in recovery just like I am.

Well….. I realize this may seem harsh but:

Is it really because you can’t?? Is it really that you won’t?? Are you really ready for life outside of ED and poor body image??

If you are REALLY ready, how bad do you really want it?!?

I think to ask this question because I know what it takes to recover. I know what it takes, and I know that that question is key.
It’s so key because you have got to really, seriously want it. You have to want it bad. In fact, you have to want recovery more than anything. You have to want recovery more than you want to eat, more than you want to restrict, more than you want to binge and more than you want to purge.
You have got to want recovery so bad that you no longer listen to ED. In fact, you don’t just stop listening to ED, you shun ED, you curse ED, you get angry at ED. You don’t just turn your back on ED, you kick ED the hell out. You have to want it so bad that you are no longer willing to allow ED and its voice to control you.
You have to want recovery more than you want to be “perfect”, “skinnier”, “prettier” – whatever those mean… You have to go minutes, days, hours without allowing ED and it’s irrational thoughts to control you. You have to want it so bad that you start taking control of your own life and your own recovery. You have to want recovery so bad that you take a stand; you take a strong, firm powerful stand. You have to want it so bad that you make that choice and you NEVER look back; you NEVER give in to ED; you NEVER allow that voice to be louder than your own EVER again. Never, ever again will ED control you. You have to want it that bad.
If you really want recovery, you don’t care about anything else as much as you care about recovering. When you get to the point that all you want to do is recover from ED, then you might start a real road to recovery. When you want recovery as much as you want to breath, then you might be successful.
Do you want recovery?
Do you REALLY want recovery?
Well… How bad do you REALLY want it?