What is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is a serious mental illness centered around one's relationship with their food and body weight Eating disorders affect a person’s physical and psychological health, and can be life-threatening if not treated. With the help of specialized medical treatment, recovery is possible.
Eating disorders can manifest in a variety of ways, with some of the most common types being anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an extreme preoccupation with body image and an unrealistic perception of being overweight despite being significantly underweight. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by regular binge-eating episodes followed by compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as purging. Binge-eating disorder is characterized by regular episodes of uncontrolled eating, often in secret.
The media is a powerful influence on the lives of many people and the way they perceive their bodies. Unfortunately, the media can also promote and idealize unhealthy body images and weight loss behaviors that can lead to eating disorders. It is important to be aware of the potential impact the media can have and recognize when it is promoting unhealthy behavior.
Five Examples of Eating Disorders in Media
1. Television – Popular television shows such as “Gossip Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars” have featured storylines involving eating disorders. The characters in these shows often show dangerous weight loss behaviors such as excessive dieting, exercising, and purging. Characters in these shows are also portrayed as thin and attractive, which can send an unrealistic and potentially damaging message to viewers.
2. Movies – Films such as “To the Bone”, “Thin” and “Girl, Interrupted” have featured characters struggling with eating disorders. The protagonists in these movies are often portrayed as thin and attractive and their weight loss behaviors are presented as glamorous and admirable, even though they are ultimately destructive and dangerous.
3. Magazines – Magazines often display images of thin models and celebrities that can cause feelings of insecurity in readers. They may also feature articles with tips on how to “get the best body” or “lose weight fast” that can promote dangerous behaviors and increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.
4. Social Media – Social media has become a popular tool for sharing information and images, including those promoting unhealthy weight loss behaviors. Many Instagram “influencers” promote detox teas and other weight loss products that can be damaging to one’s health. There are also forums and chat groups dedicated to discussing and encouraging dangerous eating habits.
5. Music – Music videos and lyrics often contain images and messages that can promote unhealthy body images and eating disorder behaviors. Music videos featuring thin female artists often show a focus on their physical appearance, which can be damaging for viewers. Lyricists may focus on the pressures of maintaining a thin physique and often contain messages that encourage extreme dieting, exercising, purging, and other unhealthy behaviors.
It is clear that the media can have a huge impact on the way people perceive their bodies and often promotes unrealistic and potentially damaging ideas. By being aware of these messages, people can make an effort to reduce their exposure to them, and hopefully reduce the risk of developing an eating disorder.