By Jillian Buckley
According to Mirasol Eating Disorder Recovery Centers, 10% of college students have some sort of eating disorder. Additionally, 55% of the adult population, about 116 million, is on a diet in order to lose or maintain weight. These high numbers are representative of the health epidemic that is sweeping the country: body image. These numbers are about primary women.
Of the 116 million dieting adults, 69 million are women. However, the truly concerning part of this epidemic is the effect on children. Teen Futures Media Network, University of Washington finds that “78% of girls age seventeen are unhappy with their bodies”. Studies have shown that the root cause of the high levels of body insecurities is the media.
The media portrays women in a way that teaches adolescents that thin is the only way to be beautiful. Whether it is in the content of a program or the commercials that make up 30% of airtime, television is dangerously instructing the youth how to look. Mirror Eating Disorder Help, a website dedicated to helping people struggling with eating disorders and body image, finds that the average child watches 20,000 advertisements a year.
With this much developmental time being devoted to the viewing of thin women living fabulous lives, it is clear that children are learning that anything but thin does not have a place in the mainstream. This, however, is false. The average U.S. woman is a size 12 to 14 while the average fashion model is a size 2 to 4. This size difference along with the touch-ups of Photoshop lead to the perception that this is the way to society and any other sizes are not acceptable.
According to Psychology Today, this constant exposure to unrealistic standards of beauty is leading to high rates of depression and eating disorders. Not only are girls shown what their bodies should look like, they are often told to work on their bodies like they are ongoing projects. The National Institute on Media and the Family found that “58% of female characters in
movies had comments made about their looks” while male characters discuss their appearance only in 24% of movies. The film is not the only media platform that is training women to fixate on their appearance. “One in every three articles in leading teen girl magazines included a focus on appearance”, states The National Institute on Media and the Family.
The media is dictating what young girls should be thinking about and what they should be looking like and the effects are mental and physical health disorders. “Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents” and a study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports that “eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.” With an epidemic that not only kills but leaves life scaring trauma to the body and mind, actions must be taken.
To learn more on the serious issue of eating disorder and body image, please come to The Body Image Presentation, sponsored by the Communications department on Monday, November 6th at 4:30 in the Bello Grand Hall. During the presentation, the subject of media representation and body image will be discussed as well as ways to demand change in the media. For more information on the event, please contact Professor Susan Baran at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If anyone is suffering from an eating disorder or from depression or anxiety over body image, please contact Bryant Counseling Services at (401) 232-6045 or on the 2nd level of the Unistructure, Student Affairs wing.