Eating Disorder “Culture” in Society Today

By: HOLLY HARTZELL-THOMAS

How Our Diet-Obsessed Marketing Culture Fueled My Eating Disorder - ATTN:

TRIGGER WARNING- eating disorders, death

Since we were little, we saw pretty girls on television or in a magazine and thought, “Why don’t I look like that?” or “Why am I not pretty?” From a young age we couldn’t comprehend what eating disorder culture was and how we were feeding into it. We simply thought that if we lost weight or didn’t eat that piece of cake or ran that extra lap that we were just “healthy.” We saw nothing wrong with it, most of us didn’t develop an eating disorder, but most have disordered minds. How were we supposed to know that skipping breakfast,lunch, or maybe even dinner meant something deeper? Wasn’t it normal to always feel cold or lightheaded? The truth is, it’s not normal. We live in “skinny” culture where people who are above a certain weight, even if that is a healthy weight, aren’t considered beautiful because they don’t fit into society’s standards. On TikTok this is clearly shown in videos of teen boys saying girls over 130 pounds need to “go on a diet” even though 130 lbs is actually a healthy weight for most girls at a highschool age. People that get constantly bombarded with comments on their weight are more likely to develop eating disorders, which can be deadly. So why can’t we be positive and support one another when revealing our bodies? 

In America, over 30 million people have a clinically diagnosed eating disorder which ranges from restricting to binge eating. Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that causes a persons’ mind to warp their body in the mirror to make it appear “overweight,” and that person will restrict their food intake or even starve themselves. Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents, and to make it even grimmer, long term Anorexia can cause heart failure because the sufferer develops a “starving heart” which is when the heart is so deprived of blood and oxygen it stops beating. People with Anorexia typically have a heartbeat of 40 beats per minute, a healthy heart is 60 to 100 beats per minute. A study was done on 496 adolescent girls in a U.S. city over the span of 8 years and discovered that more than 5%(24) of the girls met the “criteria” for Anorexia, Bulimia, or binge eating disorder. Then they discovered that 13%(64) of the girls had an eating disorder without showing the obvious signs. Restrictive eating disorders are prevalent in today’s media with pictures of models that are very obviously photoshopped to have a smaller waist, for example the picture at the Met Gala that Kylie Jenner photoshopped to bring in her waist. Little things like that can put an idea into someone’s head or could damage their self image. 

When looking through images of you start to believe that being skinny is normal and “beautiful” as if something less than what you need is better. In the poem, skinny girls bleed flowers, Savannah Brown described anorexia as a “..monsters-not-monsters…” trying to show how the media romanticized eating disorders to try and make them seem beautiful, but there is nothing beautiful about starving your body of its necessary needs. Brown describes anorexia as, “..everything, that is wonderful about being alive…” She doesn’t really mean that, she’s conveying that the media and celebrities make being unhealthily skinny is “wonderful” and makes you “beautiful.” But, that isn’t true, Brown slowly gets into the real lifeness of an eating disorder when she says, “Don’t you, wish you could make your mom cry, because she doesn’t get why you do this, You don’t get why you do this…” Eating disorders have been known for breaking families or relationships because no one understands why you are slowly hurting yourself. Anorexia isn’t just “.. picture of hip bones at the beach..” and size zero pants, it’s dying and hurting yourself. 

Eating disorders can develop as early as 8 years old, and most eating disorders have genetic components. So with that being said, if your parents or even your grandparents had an eating disorder it means you’re more likely to be prone to developing the disease. Anorexics in recovery have been known to turn to binge eating because they don’t want to fall back into their restrictive mindset, which isn’t any better than what they were doing. There are treatment centers for eating disorders that focus on rehabilitation for your body and include nutrient education so they can help you realize food isn’t a bad thing. There are also eating disorder therapists who help go in depth to see why the disorder developed and to help with any past trauma that may have resulted in resenting food. Other than the physical consequences of eating disorders, there are also neurological problems that can be formed. Some of these problems include difficulty thinking or switching tasks, an adverse effect on the emotional part of the brain which may result in depression or irritability, and also shrinking of the brain including gray and white matter. Eating disorders can literally destroy you from the inside out. There was a girl who died at age 19 from anorexia and bulimia because when she ate a normal but large meal for dinner with her family, her stomach had shrunk to an incredibly small size from her anorexia and bulimia,  that the food tore her stomach from the inside. As she frantically tried to purge the food that was literally killing her from the inside out, she was permanently clung to her toilet and blood began to pool and her chest became a purple/black color. Her heart showed obvious signs of a starving heart, and her stomach had a greenish tint that indicated that her organs were decaying. She died at 5’1” and 93 pounds, her eyes had clouded in the early hours of the bulimia attack. So, eating disorders aren’t just pretty girls and being skinny, it’s dying.

But anorexia isn’t the only eating disorder even though it is the most talked about, there is also bulimia and binge eating disorder. Bulimia consists of binging food in large amounts and then purging, commonly known as forcefully vomiting, the food that the bulimic intakes. Approximately 4.7 million females and 1.5 million males will be affected by the deadly disorder in the U.S. every year. The mortality rate for bulimia is 3.9% of sufferers, but just because that number seems small, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Bulimia damages your asovogus and teeth because of the stomach acids that consistently interact with them. Binge eating disorder is when the sufferer will frequently consume large amounts of food in one sitting and have the feeling that their eating behaviors are out of control. A study was done on binge eating sufferers and found that a history of sexual abuse was common in 33 women and 10 men. The treatment for binge eating consists of psychotherapy to help the underlying issue causing the disorder. Anorexia isn’t the only glorified disorder, in the Netflix show Insatiable the main character struggles from binge eating and then “magically” loses most of her weight by not eating. Then she binges when she is upset. Which just makes light of the incredibly deadly disorder instead of bringing awareness, it makes sufferers feel even worse about their body image. 

Eating disorders have always been romanticized and tricked people into thinking it was normal for them to starve themselves or constantly binge when they ate. But it isn’t normal, it’s incredibly unhealthy. Food in the right healthy amounts is good for you. Eating something that has calories or sugar doesn’t make you overweight and it doesn’t mean you should starve yourself after eating said thing. Sometimes our bodies just need a break from the constant pressure of society, because you have to remember you are a person and your body needs food to survive and give you energy. Having less than 1200 calories a day is scientifically proven to be unhealthy and damages your body because you aren’t getting the nutrients you need to function properly. Body shaming affects people no matter what their weight is, so before you comment on someone’s features you should think to yourself, “Is this something that they can change right this second? Will this improve on the way they see themselves?” Because if it doesn’t then there is no reason to comment on it. 

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