Someone close to me used to have issues every time we went out to have lunch. It all started with the phrase “I’m full, do you want the rest of this?” and developed further enough for her to start hiding food in a napkin so that her parents could think she actually ate. The result was pretty obvious, as she was slowly getting thinner. Her actions helped gave me a push to a lifestyle I regret.
By the end of 2013, I was exercising at home, for one hour, three times a day, seven days a week, faking stomach aches so that eating only crackers seemed reasonable and used the help of my toothbrush to throw up when my mom made me eat a full meal. I realized that I was getting sick when my hair started thinning and migraines started occurring often. I am not saying that was the moment I started eating and everything went well after it, but indeed was the moment I told my mom that I was sorry but I needed to come clean. When 2015 began, I had deleted all my Instagram pictures and made another Facebook account so that I could go past that dark era. Only a few people are aware of what now I know was an eating disorder. Even though today I do not look like a person who had an E.D., my hair still remained thin and sometimes I skip meals. My friend and I had a problem. As we were getting older, I believe that one of the things that influenced us to make that decision was that we wanted to look like Hannah Montana. No, I am not kidding.
From early-on, kids are taught by society that their looks matter; think of the three and four-year-olds who are continuously praised for being "so cute." With statistics increasing of children who spend a majority of their time in front of the television, there are more children coming up with a superficial sense of who they are. Images on T.V. or magazines subconsciously tell us to lose weight, be thin, and be beautiful. Shows and movies rarely depict men and women with "average" body types. Overweight characters have usually been portrayed as the ones with no friends, lazy, or "the villains" while women with a flat stomach and pumped-up men are the successful, sexy and powerful people. How can we tell children that what is inside is what counts when the media continuously contradicts this message?
Models that usually appear in popular magazines covers have continued to get thinner and thinner. Modeling agencies have been reported to pursue anorexic models actively. Some go through plastic surgery, others are "taped-up" to mold their bodies into more photogenic representations of themselves, and photos are being photoshopped before going to print. By far, these body types and images are not the norm and unobtainable to the average individual, and far and wide, the constant force of these images on society makes us believe they should be. We need to remind ourselves and each other constantly (especially children) that these images are fake. On television, in magazines and newspapers, society is continually exposed to the notion that losing weight will make us happier than ever. Pop-culture's imposed definition of "the ideal body" combined with the diet industry's drive to make more money, creates a never-ending cycle of ad upon an ad that tries to convince us that if we lose weight, our life will be good. The flip side is that as long as we continue to buy into their false claims by purchasing these (often dangerous) products, the more the diet industry will keep pushing their slogans at us. People in societal "pop culture," whether consciously or subconsciously, perpetuate the ideal of thinness through their conversations, judgments, and teasing of their peers and other family members. There is an association of shame with weight, as women tend not to want to disclose what they weight, or do not want to be seen in a bathing suit or a pair of shorts. It contributes to the sense that they should be ashamed of their body size. Again, it is because that is all they see.
It is not a surprise that viral Internet body challenges are kryptonite for people who suffer from eating disorders. Not so long ago, there was this thing called “thigh gap,” in which women post “inspirational” photos showcasing the gaps between their thighs and encourage other women to make their legs skinnier in a similar fashion. We are obsessed with this idea of putting out our best selves on social media, selecting specific filters and having the perfectly practiced pose.
While all of these advertisements, images and messages may be counterproductive to a healthy self-image, and people's overall acceptance of each other's different size and shape, they are are not necessarily the reason so many men and women develop an eating disorder. But I am pretty sure those images may not help, and for those already open to the possibility of negative coping mechanisms and mental illness, the media may play a small contributing role. What makes media look bad on the subject of eating disorders is the amount of influence social media like Instagram, the average weight or physique of females and males people see on tv and movies on a regular basis have in society nowadays. The downside, specifically related to our teenagers—with Facebook and Instagram, in particular—is it floods us with images that are very often unrealistic. I let this crazy world of friends, actors, magazines, and judgment turn me into something I'm not. Don't let it influence you for the worst.