‘’I keep telling myself that I’m a human being, an imperfect human being who’s not made to looklike a doll, and that who I am as a person is more important than whether at that moment I have a nice figure’’- Emma Watson
Am I ugly? Am I too fat? Am I too skinny? These are some of the questions that most of us have thought about in our lifetime probably because body positivity was something that was never talked about and encouraged neither in our family nor institution. In an attempt to deal with these questions, people especially women engage or become more vulnerable to eating disorders- described as persistent disturbance in eating behaviour. According to the national eating disorder association around 30 million people in the US have some form of eating disorder and around 20 million of these are women. But what is the reason behind this?
Current research indicates that eating disorders are likely the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While environmental factors cannot be the sole reason for eating disorders, many people have pointed out the pressure – the societal pressure to look good. Thousands of girls are starving themselves to death in order to fit into the fashion industry. More than 4 out of 10 boys in middle and high school regularly exercise with the goal of increasing muscle mass.
Popular notion held that women and men are concerned about body image issues and women more than man are likely to have body dissatisfaction. Kate Mose, British supermodel actor had once said that one of her mottos is ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’. One of the main reasons she felt this way was mainly because our society expects us to be skinny and beautiful and to be all perfect. A pressure to be perfect ranges from fashion industry emphasising on thinness to western media glorifying attractiveness, thin ideal, and muscle bound men. Social media has become a platform for self-comparison. Australian Instagram star Essene O’Neil quit the website, with the message that social media is full of ‘’contrived perfection to get attention’’. Social media plays a major role in creating a digital self. We often behave in a way which is considered to be more appropriate digitally. We often mask our real self to get acknowledged – losing our self-identity. Diet commercials are constantly appearing in our magazines, TV’S, telling us that the way to a happy life is to look beautiful. Magazines flashing with newest and best diets. These might eventually lead to adopting unhealthy and inappropriate behaviour ranging from extreme fasting to uncontrollable binge eating.
Social pressure created by families tends to be one of the major reasons for abnormal eating behaviour. Families have long standing preoccupation regarding the desirability of thinness, dieting and good physical appearance. I have come across one of my friends who was suffering from anorexia nervosa – a type of eating disorder in which individuals may adopt unusual behaviour to be thin. She said that constant parental expectations, critical comments from closed ones about shape, weight made her anorexic.
What can you do as a bit to help yourself and others to deal with this pressure? It’s very simple, all you can do is help yourself and others approach the world with confidence, self-knowledge and a dose of healthy scepticism about who you should be. Eat healthy- have a 3 course meal. Be mindful and aware of the composed nature of social media; use it in an affirmative way. Try to view those perfect edited instagram selfies as what they are and limit your usage of certain websites when they feel all consuming. Stop buying image focused magazines, diet products and focus on learning to care for and accept yourself. Seeing a lower number on a scale and fitting into a smaller dress size will not bring you a meaningful life. If anyone needs any special support on this reach out to a licensed therapist. It’s okay to ask and seek help.