Eating disorders have always been a topic of convergence in my life. I have written papers about eating disorders, done presentations on eating disorders, and read many, many books about eating disorders. Right now we are studying them again in my class, prompting me to write about them and share my passion for spreading awareness and teaching HEALTHY self image.
I think the reason I have studied eating disorders so much is that I have so much compassion for those who suffer from them. My heart aches at this vicious cycle that is not really the "fault" of anyone in particular, for we all endorse it in some way. We live in a world where thin is best, thin conquers all. Appearance is everything.
I cannot even tell how many comments I have received regarding weight and appearance. In fact, when I started working on this post Saturday, I had just had such a comment. A friend of my mom's, who I'm sure was quite well meaning, was talking to me about my major and what I wanted to be. She said, "Look at you! You're so thin. You have beautiful hair and good skin, you can be anything!" Actually, what I look like doesn't have anything to do with who I am. But we believe it does; we believe that somehow that defines us. That makes me so incredibly sad.
We have to do something! Start by stopping your subscription to the appearance myth. Eating disorders are serious; they are deadly. Here are a few facts I pulled from the National Eating Disorders Association that make me want to dissolve into tears:
- 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).
- 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).
- 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992).
- Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).
- 35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives. Overweight girls are more likely than normal weight girls to engage in such extreme dieting (Boutelle, Neumark-Sztainer, Story, &Resnick, 2002; Neumark-Sztainer&Hannan, 2001; Wertheim et al., 2009).
- The average BMI of Miss America winners has decreased from around 22 in the 1920s to 16.9 in the 2000s. The World Health Organization classifies a normal BMI as falling between 18.5 and 24.9 (Martin, 2010).
- 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders (Shisslak, Crago, & Estes, 1995).
- Of American, elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight (Martin, 2010).
First graders? Nine year olds dieting?? Heartbreaking.
Last but not least, here is a series called Dying to Be Thin that I think is excellent for raising awareness. I know it is long, but please do watch it.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:13-15