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Body image, eating disorders and the imperfect quest for ‘perfect’

Nearly+20+million+women+in+the+United+States+will+develop+an+eating+disorder+in+their+lifetime.+And+quite+often%2C+in+an+impossible+quest+for+the+perfect+body%2C+even+seemingly+simple+decisions+like+choosing+a+bagel+%28with+or+without+cream+cheese%29+can+cause+stress+and+anxiety.
Ava Jordan
Nearly 20 million women in the United States will develop an eating disorder in their lifetime. And quite often, in an impossible quest for the perfect body, even seemingly simple decisions like choosing a bagel (with or without cream cheese) can cause stress and anxiety.

The more the sun shines and the temperature rises, the closer it gets to beach trips with friends and a volleyball in hand, busy boat days on the lake and crowding in a neighborhood pool with little kids running around everywhere.

And with summer right around the corner, TikTok pages fill with videos of “Where are we buying our bikinis this year?” or “What’s our summer bod workouts this year?”

To girls, answers to these questions, and the pictures that go with them, is what summer is all about, especially in high school. Like it or not, summer is about the perfect tanning bikinis, the cutest clothes and a perfect body.

“When I see all these girls on my TikTok and Instagram, it makes me feel like they’re what I should look like,” said Isabel Sands (‘27).

While body dysmorphia is a common issue, and many girls struggle with it year-round, it’s noticeably worse during the summer.

In the winter, it’s easy to bundle up with layers upon layers of clothes hiding what you’re most insecure about showing. But you can’t wear sweatpants and a sweatshirt to the summer lake day your friends planned.

Clothing may be able to cover up insecurities, but it cannot hide the underlying, more serious issue of eating disorders.

There are many different types of eating disorders. When people hear “eating disorders” the first thing that comes to mind is typically starving yourself or forcing yourself to throw up.

But eating disorders can be much more than just that. It is important to know the differences.

Most people know the two main types, Anorexia, which is brought on by the determination to be thin, and Bulimia, which is typically purging or fasting.

But there are many more, such as binge eating, compulsive eating, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, etc.

Eating disorders can affect all age groups and all genders.

While guys can and have suffered from eating disorders, according to Why Women Are Twice as Likely Than Men to Develop an Eating Disorder, “Nearly 20 million women in the United States will develop an eating disorder in their lifetime. And women are twice as likely than men to be affected.”

Over the years, the increase in eating disorders has been undeniable. The Medical Minute talks about how “the causes of eating disorders are ‘like pieces of a puzzle,’ [occupational therapist Amy] Ethridge said.”

Among the pieces is the constant drumbeat of ads and TV shows idealizing unattainable body types. Get fit. Lose weight. Sequester everyone with their TVs and cell phones, let anxiety and depression rise and mingle with other factors like heredity ― it’s little wonder eating disorders started to spread like wildfire.

According to Why Are Eating Disorders on The Rise?, “Between 2000 and 2018, prevalence more than doubled (3.4% to 7.8% of all people)… ‘We live in an environment that makes people not feel confident in their bodies,’ says [Dietitian Christine] Naze.”

Many things within our environment can worsen or cause eating disorders. Social media is one of them.

Social media alone affects people in many different ways, but it can enlighten many young kids on what an eating disorder is and glorify what they do.

For example, TikTok and Instagram give young girls the idea that they have to look a certain way to get famous or have a certain amount of likes. Social media also provides easy access to information about weather (correct and true, or fabricated) and about making yourself skinnier and having eating disorders.

School and friends can have a big impact on body image and self-esteem as well. Many girls who may be considered “perfect” or “skinny” in the eyes of classmates’ eyes aren’t satisfied with themselves which can also be effective behavior modifiers for the girls around them who see them as perfect.

Along with that comes comparison. Clothing and food are often the vehicles of comparison between friends and classmates. Comparing what size shorts or sweatshirt a student wears, comparing what is on a lunch plate, or comparing yourself to the girls on Instagram or TikTok, etc., can lead to major problems.

Many people don’t realize that eating disorders are not only a physical disorder but also a mental one, too. Eating disorders can be linked to depression and/or anxiety.

Since there are so many factors that lead to an eating disorder, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what causes them.

According to the Mayo Clinic, If they aren’t treated correctly, eating disorders “can become long-term problems and, in some cases, can cause death.”

But there are also many ways to prevent them and to get help.

While that summer body, those images on TikTok and the days on the lake or by the pool may seem stressful, there are many things to do to become confident in yourself during summer days.

Note:

This article addresses the important, sensitive topics of body image and eating disorders. If you or a friend are struggling or have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

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About the Contributor
Ava Jordan
Ava Jordan, Deputy Editor-in-Chief. Opinions Editor

Ava Jordan is a senior who has been at CSD ever since kindergarten. This is Ava’s second year in journalism and she is very excited to continue to grow her writing and learn more about what it means to be a journalist. 

While at school, Ava enjoys her AP Psychology, as she wants to major in psychology in college. She loves AP Statistics, too, because of the satisfaction that comes with discovering how numbers interconnect and overlap. She is also a varsity tennis player who is competing for the first time for the school.

Out of school, Ava loves to go out with her friends! She looks forward to football games and going to work on the weekends. 

“I think the perfection of love is that it’s not perfect”

 - Taylor Swift

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