Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Western Culture, Body Image and...

Eating Disorders

Todays Post Is lovingly Brought To You By Natalie Dubovitsky.

If you love art as much as I do, you remember the great works by the classical
artists, depicting what they thought was quintessential female beauty. Like The
'Three Graces' by 'Hans Von Aachen'.

Look at the picture above and realize that this is
how people in the 17th century thought a beautiful woman should look like.

How does that compare to the present, what we see on TV and in popular

Notice the difference and think about what happened between now and then.

And no, I’m not saying that we should go back to the 17th century standards
because it is likely that we won’t be able to.

One thing that is undeniable is that we are affected by what is told and shown to us, and if popular culture tells us we are supposed to look a certain way, chances are we are going to believe this way is the right one.

Women in western culture are socialized in such a manner that they become aware of their sexuality at a very early age. Girls are taught to behave in accordance with our standards of femininity, and learn traits that are considered stereotypically feminine, including the fact that female bodies can – and should! – be used as tools for popularity.

Add to it the fact that they are constantly bombarded with images of really skinny women that are presented as “beautiful”, and how celebrities’ bodies are constantly scrutinized in tabloids, and you got yourself a perfect recipe for developing an eating disorder.

Don’t get me wrong – seeing a thin model in a magazine will not cause an eating disorder by itself. There are many other factors that play into a person’s predisposition to eating disorders, including genetics, childhood trauma, environment, self-esteem, and many others. However, we cannot ignore the effects of the “cult of thinness” that exists in our culture. We are constantly made to think that thinner is better, completely dismissing the natural variety of female bodies.

The famous study of Fiji islanders, who had no history of eating disorders prior to the introduction of television in the mid 1990’s, showed that within 3 years of watching thin actresses on TV, the number of girls who considered themselves fat and induced vomiting to control weight, increased 5 times.

I think this is the best direct evidence of how powerful mass
media can be.

It’s not all doom and gloom.

There are some positive trends emerging in our society, including Health At Every Size, but we still have a long way to go. I am not saying we should completely stop caring about what our bodies look like, eat as much as we want and not exercise – this is absolutely not the case.

What we should do is set realistic goals and expectations for ourselves, know our own bodies and make the best out of what we have, without trying to fit some artificially imposed unrealistic standards.

Don’t be a victim.

It’s hard to not pay attention to the information that is being thrown at you every day, but you need to learn to think for yourself and love yourself for who you are.

I do support and encourage healthy ways of losing weight and reducing body fat. It is possible to learn to eat normally, even after years of living with an ED. It is possible to maintain a normal weight not worry about what you are eating every minute.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading about Fiji and being fascinated.
    Whilst media etc cannot cause an eating disorder alone, as it is a mix of so many things.
    But then again, for some people, it is that and I think that we can never judge what causes one person to get eating disordered.
    Society pressures are certainly something that cannot be ignored <3


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