As mentioned in my last blog post, Is Emphasis on Body Image in the Media Harmful to Females only?, I am in graduate school at the University of South Florida in the Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling Program and am taking a course that hits pretty close to home this summer. It is called: Obesity and Eating Disorders.
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:
Genes or Jeans?
A variety of professional disciplines, including medicine, pharmacology, biochemistry, psychology, psychiatry and sociology have investigated both obesity and eating disorders, focusing on that component of the disordered behavior most unique to that discipline’s professional contribution. This promotes a unidimensional model and fragmentary view of what leads to, constitutes, and maintains the disorder. In a mechanical and reductionist paradigm scientist search for identifiable predisposing or causal evidence which contribute to the etiology of specific mental or physical diseases. A medical model of etiology may focus on the biological contributions and/or genetic factors whereas a psychodynamic model will target emotional or psychological variables. Sociology studies the sociocultural factors which are contributing factors. Which factor/factors do you believe contribute most to the etiology of ED and OB.
Wow, I could go on about this for days… here is my response:
I have to begin with a neutral answer as I believe it is ignorant not to consider both “jeans” and genes and then some in the development of any psychological disorder. Psychological contributing factors to obesity and eating disorders include but are not limited to compulsivity/impulsivity, depression, perfectionism, narcissism, anxiety, etc. Other biological factors that may contribute could include metabolism, body type, etc. Psychosocial and other factors that may contribute to the development include parental eating habits, education on proper nutrition (or lack there of), the fashion industry and, my personal favorite (not) MEDIA.
OK. Now that I stated there are multiple possible causal factors to consider for the development of OB and ED, I will get into my humble opinion…
“JEANS” = Media. Advertisements. Billboards. Magazine covers. The “diet” business. Commercials. Movies. TV Shows. Music Videos. Pornography.
…shall I go on?
What do all of these “jeans” have in common??
-Ans: Digital enhancements.
What does that mean to some people who, perhaps, have more genes that make them more susceptible to internalizing digitally enhanced media? It means OBESITY and it means EATING DISORDERS along with possible body dysmorphia, probable slim-to-no self-esteem, etc.
You see, digital enhancements mean that the images were “photoshopped” and changed and “perfected”… that means they aren’t even real. So, in the world of “jeans”, if you are someone who internalizes these images and makes a firm self-worth-dependent decision that, unless you look like what you see (fake images), you aren’t good enough. What do you think happens when people strive to become what they see in the world of “jeans”? They fail. They fail because its impossible. You know what failing to achieve what one sees in the world of “jeans” does to someone who has decided they MUST look like the fake and the impossible? It creates a vicious, ugly cycle called OBESITY and EATING DISORDERS.
I’ll give you just one detrimental example of what the world of “jeans” and media did for me in my former eating disordered perspective:
Picture a popular gossip magazine cover. Picture the “best and worst beach bodies” edition cover. You see sand and beach chairs, designer bikinis and wedge sandals, 6-pack abs and perfectly flowing hair…. and then you see a zoomed in shot of cellulite. You know what I have? Cellulite. And, lots of it.
But, wait…What is cellulite anyway?!?
You know what my biggest trigger to developing and maintaining bulimia? …feeling worth LESS and scared to DEATH of my body because of magazine covers just like this one…