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To Eat or Not To Eat
“One seventeen a.m., should be going to sleep, but cannot stop thinking about what had been devoured throughout today. Regretting taking a few bites of mom’s triple chocolate brownies, the only food eaten in the past three days. Considered vomiting, but decided to work out until school starts instead, hoping to lose a few pounds during the process, or at least the bite taken of mom’s brownies.” For many teenagers, this baffling regimen occurs every day and evening. Millions of adolescents turn to purging and binging food to lose weight, hoping the ending appearance will resemble the model on the cover of their favorite magazine. Due to recent society revolving around looks and the pressure to be a desired size, many teenagers turn to eating disorders without realizing the dangerous consequences.
One of the many causes that trigger eating disorders are the images the media portray. The photographs of models and actresses that are often used in advertisements influence body image and eating disorders (George). If teenagers are constantly surrounded by images of unrealistically thin women, they will most likely have desires to resemble them. This can lower self esteem and ones body image, which makes the risk for a distorted eating habit even greater. In fact, only a small percentage of women are actually as thin as models (Kowalski). Also, the use of sex appeal can influence a teenagers crave to be slender. Many billboards are specifically designed to capture bystanders’ attention, and the way they do this is using fairly attractive people to model the different products. When a young person starts to regularly view these images, their confidence may drop due to the fact that they do not resemble the models.
In addition, low self esteem and peer pressure can cause juvenile eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and obesity. Kathiann Kowalski, author of the article, “Body Image: How Do You See Yourself?” states that if friends often discuss their weight, the individuals self esteem will decrease. It is especially difficult to be surrounded by others who consistently talk about their wishes to be a certain size or how thin they want to become. The athletic setting is also a common area where eating disorders can originate. Sarah McGuire states that, “any sport where low weight and appearance are emphasized” are the most at risk for developing an eating disorder. Cheerleading and many forms of dancing, including gymnastics and ice skating, are all sports where size matters. Girls will risk anything to be at the top of the pyramid, even if that means destroying their health. Olympic athletes are seen as role models also, and many of them have the idealistic figure that adolescents long for.
Although the majority of those who suffer from anorexia and bulimia are female, men can also be victimized from the horrendous disorder. Author of the article “â€˜Scrawny’ Look is In With Teens,” Misty Harris states, “the ratio between women and men are about two to one for anorexia and three to one for bulimia.” Men make up about half of those who endure eating disorders, but the bulk of them suffer from “manorexia.” This unofficial term is used to describe the pattern of reverse anorexia. This occurs when the individual feels that they are too small. These people often will over exercise in the hopes of growing larger. Males, especially in high school, undergo the most. About eleven percent of high school students have an eating disorder that is officially diagnosed and about a quarter of that percentage is made of boys (Harris). Also,in high school, social status is a large concept. For the more muscular, it seems easier to fit in. It is also a competition, for sports, girls, and so on. For males, being slender is considered “wimpy” and having muscles is what the female students look for. As Misty Harris says, “the muscular guy gets the girl.”
The physical effects of any eating disorder can be both painful and upsetting to witness. Karen Fanning, an author from Scholastic Choices states, “hair loss is just one side effect of anorexia.” Because the body is being deprived of vital nutrients, it is difficult for it to maintain a healthy composition. Hair starts thinning and if the disorder progresses enough, the victim may grow bald. Also, Catherine Patch states that the skin turns a very pale tone. Since organs are at loss for nourishment, the skin cannot sustain a natural, healthy glow. For bulimics,, tooth decay is also a major effect. According to the article â€˜Driven to be Thin,” when the sufferers choose to vomit, the stomach acids eat away at teeth causing tooth decay (Fanning). Also, the most obvious side effect of anorexia and bulimia is weight loss. During the peaks of eating disorders, victims
can lose a stunning percentage of their beginning body weight. This can cause multiple complications that can lead to heart failure, and in severe cases, death.
Internal effects of anorexia and bulimia outnumber the physical consequences. In women one of the main effects is amenorrhea, or failure to menstruate. According to Karen Fanning, author of the article “Driven to be Thin,” states, “Female anorexics also stop menstruating, which later leads to problems bearing children.” Also, seeing that the body is being starved of any nutritional groceries, bones can start to deteriorate. This disease is also known as osteoporosis. As Catherine Patch states, osteoporosis can originate from anorexia and bulimia,
since the individuals are not eating the types of food that are needed for the body to function properly.
Even though anorexics and bulimics need to admit they have a problem before any treatment can begin, finding the right cure for an individual can be very difficult. There are many different plans to choose from including behavior therapy, nutritional counselling, group classes, and individual classes (Brotman). When patients first begin the long process of treating an eating disorder, the first goal is to gain back some of the weight that was lost. In women, one of the primary goals is to gain back a menstrual cycle, although in some cases that may never happen. It is also essential to restore the patients self esteem and make sure they will be able to thrive and not return to their habits. In some cases, individuals may need to be prescribed antidepressants, but that is only if they show symptoms of clinical depression. According to the article “What Works in The Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa,” written by Andrew Brotman, “hospitalization may be necessary if the patient is suicidally depressed, keeps losing weight despite outpatient treatment, weighs 30% less than the minimum compatible with health.” Many patients need to take oral medications that help add weight gradually to the body. In harsh cases, feeding tubes may need to be inserted if the individual is showing difficulty gaining weight on their own.
The pandemic known as eating disorders is sadly common in recent life. Many teenagers take inspiration from the thin models on billboard ads and actresses seen in movies. It is both a dangerous and life threatening disorder that effects both females and males. The side effects of anorexia and bulimia can scar victims for the rest of their lives. Many of those who suffer can never go back to how they used to be; they will always be self conscious and worry about their
weight. So, what can someone do to ensure that they will be healthy? Workout day and night, constantly feel terrible about themselves, or enjoy mom’s triple chocolate brownies?
Brotman, Andrew W. “What Works in the Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa?” Harvard Mental Health Letter January 2004:8. EBSCO. Helix High School Library, La Mesa. 26 Nov. 2007
Fanning, Karen. “Driven to be Thin.” Scholastic Choices Sept. 2003:14.
George, Lynell. “Nurturing an Anorexia Obsession.” Los Angeles Times 12 Feb. 2002:E1 . SIRS Knowledge Source. Helix High School Library, La Mesa. 04 April 2006
Harris, Misty. “Scrawny Look is In With Teens.” Regina Leader Post 03 Feb. 2005. eLibrary. Helix High School Library, La Mesa. 04 April 2006 < http://elibrary.bigchalk.com>.
Kowalski, Kathiann. “Body Image: How Do You See Yourself?” Current Health 2 March 2003:6.
McGuire, Sarah. “Over-exercising May Be Sign of Eating Disorder.” University Wire 24 Feb. 2004. eLibrary. Helix High School Library, La Mesa. 05 April 2006
Patch, Catherine. “Many Teens Struggling to be Thin, Thinner.” Toronto Star 20 Jan. 2000:H4. SIRS Knowledge Source. Helix High School Library, La Mesa. 04 April 2006