Beauty is defined as anything that is aesthetically appealing to the eye. It is a subjective term which holds various meanings, depending on who is defining it. Inhabitants of one area could have a different threshold of beauty than those of some other area. However, when it comes to physical appearances and body types, often than not, beauty is synonymous to thinness in today’s world. Be it a high-end fashion show or a local clothing line, on the ramp or on mannequins, they always exhibit their clothes on slim figured models. This depicts the thinking process of the entire society as these fashion gurus also spring from there only. In an attempt to conform to these levels many people fall prey to eating disorders which includes Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa and Binge eating. While there are numerous factors that lead to these disorders, social pressure remains the most impactful and worrisome of all. The desire to be super skinny usually arises because of the value society places on being thin.
Deterioration in the mental well-being of people suffering from eating disorders has been highly researched. Along with numerous other harmful actions taken because of it, peer pressure leaves its imprints on people’s eating habits too. The pressure to fit in and be liked by everybody usually prompts people to take actions that negatively affect their bodies, and failing to do so, leads to psychological issues like depression. Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression, while only 1 in 10 men and women receive treatment. In the U.S. alone, up to 24 million people suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) (Anad.org).
The unrealistic image of beauty portrayed in fashion magazines and shows, profoundly influences people, mostly girls from a very young age. They aspire to be like the emaciated models on Television and starve themselves in the process. While they should be consuming healthy and nutritious food, they start avoiding it, which indeed is an alarming situation. In a survey, the number one wish of girls aged 11–17 who were given three magic wishes for anything they wanted was “to lose weight and keep it off” (Pettigue and Henderson).
This is not a problem which grows in isolation; it escalates into several other health issues including Dehydration, Malnutrition, Edema, Paralysis and many more. It sometimes gets ignored as being just a phase of a youngster’s life; however, it leaves imprints on his entire well-being. According to The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, hospitalizations of children under 12 with eating disorders more than doubled (an increase of 119 percent) between 1999 and 2006, the population also expanded rapidly during those years but it could never have doubled in 7 years, therefore it is safe to say that the children with eating disorders are increasing in numbers day by day (Futuresofpalmbeach.com).
It cannot be denied that not only societal but many other factors including genetics, biochemistry and psychology contribute towards maintaining the health standards of any society. The aspects of Biology in a related problem like this cannot be ignored and extensive studies have taken place in this area of research but many of these disorders are found to be related to psychological problems. Researches also argue that eating disorders also exist in societies that do not have vast media exposure. “Much of my eating disorder, I learned, was driven by my own history of anxiety and depression” (Arnold). However, the fact remains that the reasons leading to these disorders are not just restricted to any one factor; they are an accumulation of many problems with society playing an integral role in the process. These issues take root from a very young age and with time, reveal their existence in various ways. Research suggests that 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et. Al,). We can only imagine how depressed an 8 year old would get if he or she does not achieve that “ideal” body. This shows that eating disorders and other issues like obsessive-compulsive disorder, low self-esteem, and clinical depression usually co-exist. These problems combine to become formidable and extremely harmful. Hence, it is suffice to say that if not direct, the indirect impact of society is usually present in harnessing this stereotypical belief.
When a child starts to worry about his body image, it definitely is a red flag for those responsible for his well being. From a young age, children should be educated about the importance of a healthy lifestyle which is active and balanced. Any attempt leading towards starvation should be nipped in the bud. People should be taught to be comfortable in their own skins and not get intimated by false beauty standards. “She wins who calls herself beautiful and challenges the world to change to truly see her” (Wolf).
Anad.org, “Eating Disorders Statistics – National Association of Anorexia Nervosa And Associated Disorders”. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.
Spettigue Wendy and Henderson A. Katherine. “Eating Disorders and the Role of the Media”. The Canadian child and Adolescent Review. 2004.
Futuresofpalmbeach,com, “The Role Society Plays in the Existence of Eating Disorders”. n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.
Arnold, Carrie. “Is Anorexia a Cultural Disease”. 2012.
Mellin, L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G.B., Crawford, P., & Obarzanek, E. “ A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study”. Journal of Adolescent Health. 1991.
Wolf, Naomi. “The Beauty Myth”. William Morrow and Company. 1990. Print.