By age 6, the majority of girls start to express concerns about their weight or shape. Between forty and sixty percent of elementary girls are concerned about their weight or becoming too fat. This anxiety carries into their adult lives, and can manifest into an eating disorder (NEDA).
What We Know About Eating Disorders
The potential cause of eating disorders is complex, and occur for a variety of reasons and conditions. Once started, they can create a self-perpetuating cycle of physical and emotional destruction. Common perceptions of eating disorders rely heavily on the fixation of food and weight. However individuals who suffer from eating disorders often try to use food and the control of food to cope with feelings and emotions. Often, dieting, bingeing, and purging begin as a way to cope with painful emotions and to have a sense of control in their own life. Ultimately, these behaviors are damaging not only physically but to their emotional health, self-esteem, and sense of ability and control.
Factors of Eating Disorders
In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder. A variety of factors can contribute to eating disorder; anything from psychological to biological factors can be the cause. For example, cultural pressures that glorify “skinny” and place value on obtaining the “perfect body” are social factors that contribute to eating disorders. There are interpersonal factors as well, such as history of being teased about size or weight, history of physical or sexual abuse, or difficulty expressing emotions and feelings can influence eating disorders. Although there are many attributing factors, the most well-known is body dissatisfaction.
What We Can Do
One of the best ways to help change the prevalence of eating disorders is to reduce the negative risk factors that lead to eating disorders. The best-known contributor for eating disorders is body dissatisfaction. A way we can help improve our body dissatisfaction is through positive self-talk and positive body image. Instead of reinforcing negative media messages through the ways we talk about ourselves (and to the mirror) we must focus on the “positives,” whether that is what we like about our bodies or the powerful things our bodies do for us (walk, run, write, dance, laugh!). Once we change how we talk about ourselves, we can encourage others around us to do the same. It is important for us to quit the cycle of “body-shamming” not only for our own well-being but for the next generation to come. The young people around us absorb our actions – if we are consistently and constantly talking negatively about our bodies, they too will start to analyze and participate in “body-shamming.”
Eating disorders can become chronic and even cause life-threatening conditions, which is why it is important for people with eating disorders to seek professional help immediately (early diagnosis and intervention may enhance recovery). Here is an excellent resource to help find the best treatment for you or someone you care for.
In light of Eating Disorders Awareness week (February 23rd– 28th) we want to encourage our readers to engage in positive self-talk and spread body positivity to the people around us. We want you to refuse to talk negatively about your body (or others) and to encourage you to highlight all of the wonderful and amazing things your body does for you (running, dancing, laughing, and so much more!)! If you need some help check out this great article, “10 Steps to Positive Body Image.”
Martin, J. B. (2010). The Development of Ideal Body Image Perceptions in the United States.Nutrition Today,45(3), 98-100. Retrieved from nursingcenter.com/pdf.asp?AID=1023485