Why do young girls feel they need to be thin? The pre-teen and teenage years are already difficult enough to go through, and many girls go through these years constantly trying to make others like them. While these young girls read fashion magazines and watch television, they are exposed to what the articles, pictures and the media think how they should look. Even though mass media does not take full responsibility, advertising influences young girls to develop eating disorders because they feel pressure to stay thin and ads use thin women to promote beauty products and diet supplements.
Here are some basic facts about eating disorders. According to National Eating Disorders Organization (2005) eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, include extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors that surround weight and food issues. These disorders are dangerous enough to cause serious emotional and physical health problem. Additionally, eating disorders can lead to life-threatening consequences. Eating disorders are difficult conditions which come from a combination of factors. Eating disorders are considered a psychological factor.
In addition, they are also considered to be interpersonal, social, and biological factors. Scientists and researchers are still learning about the causes of these conditions which are emotionally and physically damaging conditions; however, most people are aware of the main issues that lead to the development of eating disorders (National Eating Disorders Organization, 2005). Young girls need to realize how dangerous eating disorders can be. According to Gustafson, Popovich, & Thomsen (2001), anorexia is considered as a bio-psychological disorder, which results in distortions of one’s self-image and self-perception.
This leads to young girls and women to develop a dangerous fear of food and weight gain. As many as forty percent to sixty percent of all high-school girls, including pre-adolescent and elementary-age girls are on a diet. In addition, recent research indicates eating disorders may affect up to twenty-two percent of all college women. Overall, eating disorders are considered as the third most common chronic illness among women. There is conflict as to what influences young girls to develop eating disorders. Some believe the eating disorders are caused by a psychological disorder in young girls and teens.
Others side with the theory that the disorders are promoted by the mass media. Many advertisements that influence young girls involve weight-loss products, diet-foods, fitness and cosmetic surgery. Young women are told if they increase their consumption of diet products, they will end up with the right body (Hesse-Biber, Leavy, Quinn, & Zoino, 2006). Mass media has been identified as one of the most influential factors that contribute to eating disorders. Advertisers use a variety of female stereotypes. These stereotypes are thought to be harmful to young girls both psychologically and physiologically (Gustafson et al. , 2001).
The portrayal of ultra-slim women as more fashionable and more successful can contribute to eating disorders. The beauty industry works to promote unrealistic standards. This industry advertises cosmetic products and fashion that are airbrushed, which leads to a creation of false perfection. When young girls view these types of advertisements, for some it can lead to body dissatisfaction (Hellmich, 2006). This can later on lead toward anorexia, bulimia and other possible dangerous weight-control behaviors. According to Morrell (2007), national brands have developed campaigns that include women who have suffered from eating disorders.
For instance, in 2007, Dove, a Unilever-owned beauty brand, started a campaign that included women who have suffered from eating disorders. The reason for this was to target young teenage girls on a psychological level. Dove’s effort to help those with low self-esteem was to establish an “emotional connection with the brand. ” One important part of the campaign is the “self-esteem” fund. The fund allows Dove to provide information packets to use in schools and help to educate young girls about healthy image. Healthy Eating v. Anorexia This chart shows the comparison between healthy eating and anorexia.
From Find Your True Beauty, by Melisa Steele. Copyright 2007-2009 by Teen-Beauty-Tips. com. There are many that disagree with the notion that the media and advertisers are to blame with the issues of young girls, namely Katie Ford, Chief Executive Officer of Ford Models. Katie Ford quoted as saying, “‘The biggest problem in America is obesity. Both obesity and anorexia stem from numerous issues, and it would be impossible to attribute either to entertainment, be it film, TV, or magazines. ’” Ford is not convinced of the idea that fashion models are creating a cult of thinness in the USA (Hellmich, 2007).
In May 2007, British columnist John Casey wrote about a report that was released in Britain siding with the argument that the media and advertisers are not to blame for young girls developing eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. Dr. Vivian Nathanson from the British Medical Association released the report Eating Disorders, Body Image and the Media, which stated that television showing women who are thinner than average are the cause of eating disorders. Dr. Nathanson is quoted in the report as saying, “‘Research has also found that most female characters on TV are thinner than average women.
The images of slim models in the media are in marked contrast to the body, size and shape of most children and young women, who are becoming increasingly heavier. ’” John Casey disputes this report and maintains his belief that the women featured in television and magazines represent a sense of beauty that has a small influence on how real women live. Health professionals and experts have come forward to inform that repeated exposure to skinny models in advertisements causes young girls to develop these dangerous eating disorders.
This year, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London called for a warning symbol to be placed on airbrushed pictures of models and also a ban on ultra-thin models. This group of doctors has referred to an excessive amount of evidence showing false images of female perfection help trigger eating disorders in young girls and makes it difficult for them to recover. Additionally, the Royal College slams fashion magazines for their “unhealthy obsession” with diets, as well as criticizing celebrities’ bodies. Also, the Royal College goes too far by “glamorizing” excessive weight loss (Carmichael, 2010).
Although many people blame the media for having a negative influence on young girls, the parents should also be responsible for helping their daughters feel more confident in themselves. According to Kalinda (2010), parents are the biggest influence, by encouraging their girls to have a healthy lifestyle rather than complaining about how they eat. When girls are complaining about being on the “chubby side”, not only does it affect their health, it can also have serious effects on relationships with family and friends. Eventually, this unhealthy lifestyle can lead to poor decisions.
Parents should help their daughters understand that beauty should be based on our character, not just on our appearance. Eating Disorders and the Media. Retrieved March 13, 2010 from http://www. eatingdisordersthemedia. com/sitemap/ Many young girls need a role model to look up to. Unfortunately, many of those role models are either fashion models or actresses. Pictures of these role models are all over the walls in the girl’s bedroom that some girls are willing to turn to life-threatening and dangerous methods of weight control in order to look like their idols.
Thompson (2009) mentioned in her article the family environment at home can also play a role in a girl developing an eating disorder. If the girl is living in a home where emotional, physical or sexual abuse occurs, then the girl may develop a disorder in order to gain control, as well as block out bad feelings or emotions. Additionally, these girls use the eating disorder as a way to punish themselves or to blame themselves for the abuse that is occurring. According to the Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health Media (2010), eating disorders can result in serious health conditions, both mental and /or behavioral.
These disorders can also lead to serious physical problems. Anorexia and bulimia are likely to cause dehydration, as well as other medical complications, such as kidney failure or problems with health. In addition, extreme cases of eating disorders can end up leading to malnutrition and even worse, death. It can be quite difficult for parents to tell the difference between their child’s concerns with their self-image and the warning signs of an eating disorder. While many teenage girls are self-conscious comparing themselves to other girls, they are also curious about diets, but neither of these necessarily means they have an eating disorder.
Those who are suffering from these disorders show many different abnormal and physical signs. Those suffering from anorexia may experience an obsession with eating and weight control. Sufferers may also repeatedly check their weight and only eat certain types of food, such as dairy, meat and wheat. In addition, those who have anorexia will exercise excessively and feel fat. They may even withdraw themselves from social activities, especially those that include food. Bulimia sufferers may develop a fear of weight gain and may be intensely unhappy with their image and weight. They may make excuses to go to the bathroom mmediately after eating a meal. Bulimia victims may only eat diet or low-fat foods (except while binging). They may also spend a lot of time exercising or keeping tracking of calories (The Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health Media, 2010). Parents can help their young daughters with eating disorders by nurturing their self-esteem. They can also help by setting examples by having a healthy attitude about nutrition and appearance. It is important to intervene and seek proper medical care if parents suspect their daughters have an eating disorder. This is also equally important if there is any family history of eating disorders.
Trying to help when someone does not think they need it can be difficult. Getting the professional assistance needed, as hard as it may be, can be the best help a parent can give (The Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health Media, 2010). Rosenthal, Kairol. (2009). Cancer and Eating Disorders. Retrieved February 21, 2009 from http://stanford. wellsphere. com/cancer-article/cancer-and-eating-disorders/650461 Every year, teachers notice symptoms that are related to eating disorders; however, there may be some teachers who may not be sure what to do to help.
Some may say that it is normal for young girls to eat a little at lunch. Since many schools face shortages of guidance counselors, it is up to many teachers to step up and to pay attention to what may be going on with their students. Teachers can monitor this to see if whether the girls are playing with their food or dump it without eating it every day. Perhaps the teacher can reach out to the parents with a phone call and ask if the girl in question is eating breakfast and dinner at home. This can help to alert parents to a possible issue. It is important to realize that no one has the right to make a diagnosis except for a doctor.
Communication is always important between home and school. But, in the case of eating disorders it can help to save a life (Pytel, 2007). Like parents, schools should consider taking an active role in educating about eating disorders. Teens, in general, need to understand that in order to be successful in like, it should not depend on their weight. Also, the schools, teachers, and school counselors need to be aware of what signs to look for. If the problem is caught early enough and the person is willing to accept the help that they need, then this can help to increase the chance of recovery (Thompson, 2009).
Advertisers need to understand they have a responsibility to young girls. Their responsibility is to appeal to their young audience by promoting their products in a more positive light. It is difficult enough for young girls to develop a positive attitude toward a healthy body image. Girls need to see more positive advertisements about the ways to feel better about their images and how to boost their confidence. In conclusion to this, it should be the parent’s responsibility to tell their young daughters they are beautiful just the way they are.