Recently I gave a presentation about a media article I found online about Eating Disorders. The presentation was supposed to be short and sweet, so I didn't go into too much detail. One of my slides talked about recommendations for social workers, and I put "refocus society" as my top bullet point. In my speech I explained this as having the media focus less on the slimming down of bodies.
Boy was I reamed out for that. I'm sure I wasn't actually reamed out, it just felt that way because I was on the spot. But my classmates launched into this whole discussion about how eating disorders are not caused by the media, and I went back to my seat embarrassed.
Personally, I do not think the media cause eating disorders (majority of the time). I also don't think parents cause eating disorders (majority of the time). However, I do think that the media influences eating disorders.
For example, there was a study done in a remote country that had no access to television. When TV was introduced, girls started wanting to become thinner.
Clearly, television's portrayal of what is sexy influences girls to have a "get thinner" mindset. This can feed into low self esteem which in turn feeds into eating disorder behaviors.
I also think a lot of times EDs start out as diets. Girls see people in magazines and television and look at people around them, and they want to lose weight so they eat less. And then somewhere soon along the way the eating disorder rears its head and takes over.
One of my classmates talked about how most people with eating disorders he knows have them as a way to keep control of their lives. Yeah, of course. Eating disorders aren't about food or weight issues at the core, but those things surround them. If everyone on TV was obese and that was portrayed as sexy I bet we'd have a lot more cases of binge eating disorder. Because eating disorders are a lot of times about keeping control, but you want to control your body to perfection, and skinny is what perfection is right now.
Even if the eating disorder isn't about perfection the media has a hand in its development. For example, a lot of times I binge because I'm emotional. Anxious, nervous, angry. If I didn't believe that skinny was good and fat was bad, I would probably be less likely to purge. I would also be less likely to get emotional over the fact that I'm becoming fat, leading to less bingeing.
Why is skinny good and fat bad? Because everything tells me so.
An example of how media can shape our beliefs about body types:
When I was younger, before I talked to any boys, I believed that the skinnier you were the more attractive you were. No matter what. I don't know why exactly, but I didn't have models of guys liking girls except for movies and TV shows I watched.
When started dating and found out that guys actually don't like super-skinny girls more than normal-sized girls, it was a revelation to me.
I feel like I'm still talking out of my ass, but at least I got a better chance to defend myself against my own stupidity.
What do you think?