A few weeks ago a study revealed that more women over 50 are being diagnosed with eating disorders. These disorders usually first present at adolescence, when girls are struggling with their self-concept. How sad that older women are also turning to unhealthy eating behaviors!
Learning to accept ourselves and develop a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong challenge. Typically the adolescent years are the time when doubts about body image become most prominent, and eating disorders are most likely to begin during that period. There are many theories about what causes eating disorders, but most theorists agree that the media’s unrealistic emphasis on thinness is part of the problem. In the last several decades, there has been a marked rise in eating disorders that parallels the shift from full-figured ideals such as Marilyn Monroe toward the very thin models that are common on TV and in fashion magazines.
Recently an eighth-grader stepped forward to challenge the fashion industry. She started an online petition to Seventeen magazine and recruited 28,000 teenagers asking that photographs of models in their magazine no longer be artificially altered. They recognized the destructive impact of such false ideals. They succeeded in their effort, and Seventeen responded with a pledge not to digitally alter body sizes or face shapes. The entire Seventeen staff signed a “Body Peace Treaty” promising not to alter shapes and to include only images of “real girls and models who are healthy.”
I have been asked many times what we can do to prevent eating disorders from developing. What those young women did with Seventeen is a great example of preventative behavior. The ideals of beauty that are presented to us by the media are often unrealistic, and we do not have to accept them. We can choose to strive for health, not distorted images that promote excessive thinness or perfection. We can tell ourselves and teach our daughters to see through the unhealthy ideals promoted by the media. Do you know of other examples of similar efforts to challenge our media?
Congratulations to these young women and to Seventeen magazine for their healthy response!