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With national health care experts’ efforts to bring understanding of the ‘obesity epidemic’ to the general public, our society is becoming more aware of our unhealthy relationship with food.
Obesity rates have more than doubled in adults and children since the 1970’s. Increased attention has been focused on the growing rates of obesity in children, with most recent rates reported as high as 18.6%.
The Ugly Side of Beauty
By Patricia Pitts, Ph.D.
Whether or not we like to admit it, the images of beauty generated by the media have a profound impact on our own self-image, and go a long way toward bolstering – or depleting – our self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem.
Only a few decades ago, the standards of beauty to which millions of American women struggled to conformwere set almost exclusively by the über-thin, airbrushed models depicted in fashion magazines (incidentally, the average American model is 5'11" tall and weighs 117 pounds; the averageAmerican woman is 5'4" tall and weighs 140 pounds). Similarlyunrealistic images of beauty still exist today, but now in addition to magazines,we are inundated with them in movies, on TV, and on the Internet, which streams into our consciousness not just through our home computers but through iPads and smart phones that accompany us wherever we go.
We arenow living in an era when, according to a 2010 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the majority of 8- to 18-year olds spend upwards of ten hours a day gobbling up media-driven content, and in the process consume as many as 5,000advertisementseach day.There is no denying that our culture has reaped countless benefits from the digital age, but these advancements also havea dark side:The 24/7 deluge of advertising sends a powerful and often deeply destructive message to women in particular. There are, of course,many variations on this theme, but the message goes something like this:
Thinness equals beauty, and you must be beautiful to be loveable.
Media-driven messages affect us all to some degree, influencing the cars we drive,the clothes we wear, andthe brand of breakfast cereal we eat. But young women – whose identities are still so malleable and who succumb so easily to insecurities about their appearance – are especiallyvulnerable. The constant reinforcing of the message that thinness equals beauty, acceptance, and success compels a frightening number of young women to strive for this ideal at any cost.
As an eating disorder specialist with 30 years’ experience treating anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and related disorders – and as someone who overcame my own battle with anorexia in my early 20s – I understand well the relationship between media pressures and the onset of eating disorders.In the United States alone, an estimated 24 million people are fighting a life-threatening battle with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating, and a shocking 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia occur in girls 15 to 19 years old.These statistics may be disturbing, but they are not surprising. Merchandisers actively seek out this demographic of women, often using sales tactics that prey uponinsecurities about thesize, shape, and overall appearance of their bodies.
When actor and activist Ashley Judd came forward with her bold and articulate essay that railed against our culture’s “pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic" expectations of beauty which, according to Judd, “affect each and every one of us in multiple and nefarious ways”, I forwarded a copy to everyone I know. We may not have the power to stop the messages that permeate our airwaves, but we do have the power to stop listening. We can judge ourselves against theimage of beauty so often depicted in the media, or we can appreciate the distinctive features that make us uniquely ourselves:curly red locks, a lanky torso, a crooked smile... When we look for our brand of beauty, we find it – and the lens through which we view ourselves is cleansed.
Patricia Pitts, PhD Licensed Clinical Psychologist ~ Founder & CEO of The Bella Vita Eating Disorder Program
The Bella Vita and TAABOO are hosting a Walk at Pierce College in Woodland Hills on Sunday March 1 @ 1:00pm to help raise money for research, awareness and treatment of Eating Disorders. This is important because nearly 10 million females and 1 million males across the United States are struggling with the active, destructive eating disorders anorexia and bulimia.
Bulimia is an eating disorder that is defined by periodic binge eating followed deliberate purging. By purging, a bulimic compensates for excessive eating and to prevent gaining weight.
Friday, December 5 at 7 pm on Channel 4
This Friday, Dr. Patricia Pitts, Clinical Director at The Bella Vita, will be featured on Extra’s Life Changers segment. Dr. Pitts will be discussing and answering questions on anorexia and eating disorders.
This special segment will air this evening, Friday, December 5 at 7 pm on KNBC, channel 4. Be sure to check your local listings for the correct time, some satellite and cable systems may vary.
Do you think you might be bulimic?
Bulimics exhibit many symptoms, some of the common ones are:
- Repeated episodes of bingeing and purging
- Feeling out of control during a binge
- Purging after a binge (vomiting, excessive exercise, use of laxatives, diet pills, diuretics, or fasting)
- Frequent dieting
- Extreme concern with body weight and shape
What is Disordered Eating?
A wide variety of irregular eating patterns and behaviors define disordered eating including:
- While Disordered Eating is not an Eating Disorder, it can lead to one
- Focus on food, weight, body shape and size turns into strict eating and exercise habits compromising health, happiness and safety
A 2007 Harvard study showed 1 in 4 or 25% adult males have anorexia or bulimia and this epidemic is on the rise. There is a 50% increase in males seeking treatment in the last 5 years.
Dimensions of an Eating Disorder
There are many dimensions to an eating disorder:
- Psychological – people pleasers, difficulty confronting effectively, inability to have their own voice, perfectionist, obsessive compulsive, isolate, etc.
- Interpersonal – abusive, smothering, emotionally unavailable, controlling, blaming/placating relationships, etc.
- Cultural – what’s in: Twiggy, Muscular, Breasts, Celebrity Anorexia; Diet of the Day; and Exercise Fad; what matters is what works for you.
- Genetic – anorexia ru
Other Eating Disorder Statistics:
- Eating disorders afflict 7 million American girls & woman each year
- Eating disorders affect 1 million men (10% boys)
- 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance
- 25% men & 40% women are dieting on any given day in the U.S
- Of the 5,000 Ads shown per day, 1/3 focus on appearance
- Models are thinner than 98% of Americans
- Boys & girls alike are impacted by the media’s focus on appearance
Officer of The Bella Vita established in
1985. She is a nationally renowned
expert in the treatment of anorexia.