Transforming Self-Hate into Self-Understanding
I GET IT…
When teens juggle between their phones, social media accounts, and Netflix, it is easy to get caught up in the superficial, online world and become socially absent to real-life events. We live in a world where communicating online is much more normal and accessible than the old-fashioned human interaction. But, with this almost compulsive obsession of using technology comes a much bigger problem: the judgement we cast on one another. Growing up in Silicon Valley has only heightened my awareness for things like a “thigh gap” or expensive clothing or even heavily edited pictures. Too often I hear conversations of people jumping to conclusions once someone starts to lose some weight. The concerns those people have are shallow and are quick to assume that they are suffering from an eating disorder. As diseases such as anorexia and bulimia are becoming more and more prevalent in my community, I wanted stop the assumptions in their tracks and get to the deeper rooted problem. This is a difficult task because I would have to challenge teenagers in my community to wipe their entire slate clean and re-educate them on what anorexia is all about. I challenge you to do the same.
POLL: COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS
I pulled from nine different sources, old and young, male and female, to answer some questions. Little did they know, every answer is false.
IMAGES: BODY ALTERING
It is no surprise why men and women alike feel the pressure to change their own appearance when being toned and slim seems like the norm.
It makes perfect sense that most people think anorexia is the “obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat” because in most cases, that is true and considering that is the definition which firsts pops up on your browser. But, anorexia is complex and has changed over centuries. The first account of anorexia began as early as the 14th centuries when Christians would starve themselves to prove their religious devotion by comparing a strict diet to a strict faith. Actually, the concept of controlling your body image from excessive fasting did not emerge until the mid-1960’s. Fast-forward to today and the first definition of anorexia stated in the DSM-5, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, says nothing about body image or self-starvation but instead states that anorexia is the “persistent restriction of energy intake leading to significantly low body weight.” Naturally, the definition also describes the “persistent behaviour that interferes with weight gain” and the “undue influence of body shape and weight on self-evaluation” but not until afterwards. The disturbance of body image piece to the DSM-5 definition was not added until much later in 1980. Although science and psychological discoveries persist with time, it is important to know the history of anorexia and its progression with stereotypes. In most recent findings, anorexia is more closely connected as a biologically-based mental disorder rather than self-inflicting pain; this turns all of the stereotypes and the misconceptions on its head.
“AWARENESS IS THE FIRST STEP IN HEALING.” ~DEAN ORNISH
What is anorexia all about?
How can I identify it?
How do I help?
How is anorexia different world-wide?
Let’s get some perspective…
The westernized view of anorexia has a strong correlation with the increase of obesity and the consumption of industrialized, processed food. For instance, fast food restaurants have spread to all corners of North America making it even more tempting to buy the cheap, addictive food causing obesity. Another factor involves the emergence of social media and the rise of looking “ideal” as deemed by social norms. Any cartoon from the 1900’s to the present-day tabloids make it clear that the desirable body type for women is to being thin yet curvy and for men to strong yet big.
Researchers from Scotland studied over 600 female adolescents at a middle school in Ghana and a small percentage of those girls were underweight. As an explanation, the group of girls stated they were dieting for religious purposes, to compensate for stress, and to feel in control. In most communities, families are impoverished and turn to anorexia for survival and for the sake of their family’s health.
Particularly in classical Japan, women were idealize by looking petite, pale, and coy so becoming anorexic was a natural progression from an early stage especially since practices like foot binding were already in place. Urbanization of Japan blew up these once small, pre-existing issues and the smaller cases of anorexia became much more widespread. In one case, a woman named Dr. Lee found several cases of women who did not have a fear of becoming overweight, did not have body image issues, and did not starve themselves to look thin. By definition, it seems fitting that these women were diagnosed with anorexia nervosa when, in reality, it appeared that Dr. Lee had found a rare form of mental illness which might be unique to Asia. This misdiagnosis proves that anorexia is much more complex.
Even the entertainment industry understands the complexity of this eating disorder; the film “To the Bone” illustrates the internal and external struggle of Ellen, a twenty-year old anorexic, who has tried and failed mostly ever recovery program.
Anorexia is too often categorized as a body-hating mental illness that is only catered to those that want to change their appearance; I want to destigmatize this over-simplified disease and explain what truly goes on. This is worthwhile because before I thought what everyone thinks: anorexia is a disease for those who don’t like the way they look. But, anorexia is universal and culturally different everywhere although it easy to blame Westernized society for their influence on body image. It is not fair to judge a disease so superficially; people can brush off the importance of anorexia because it doesn’t hold the same weight as cancer or another disease, although each are deadly.
My generation lives in a society where it feels like world is constantly criticizing the way you look; whether it is looking at tabloids of tiny models or not selling popular clothes above a size 10, it clear that society makes women think that they have to look a certain way. Naturally, most people associate anorexia with this same need of appearing “ideal.” In some cases, this is true; anorexia gives people access to achieve their physical desires but in most cases, this is superficial.
I call on you, to educate yourself and your peers around you that anorexia is a much deeper rooted issue that differs all across the world.
“EVERY HUMAN HAS FOUR ENDOWMENTS – SELF AWARENESS, CONSCIENCE, INDEPENDENT WILL AND CREATIVE IMAGINATION. THESE GIVE US THE ULTIMATE HUMAN FREEDOM… THE POWER TO CHOOSE, TO RESPOND, TO CHANGE.”
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Disorder Hope, 14 Feb. 2018, www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/anorexia.
Ekern, Jacquelyn. “Eating Disorders on the Rise All Around the World: An Overview.” Eating
Disorder Hope, 15 Feb. 2017, www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/eating-disorders-world-overview.
Ekern, Jacquelyn. “The Rise of Eating Disorders in Developing Countries.” Eating Disorder Hope, 27
June 2017, www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/eating-disorders-developing-countries.
Makino, Maria, et al. “Prevalence of Eating Disorders: A Comparison of Western and Non-Western
Countries.” Https://Www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Pmc/Articles/PMC1435625/, 27 Sept. 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1435625/.
NEDA. “Anorexia Nervosa.” NEDA Feeding Hope,