Eating Disorders and Mass Media Term Paper

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Eating Disorders and Mass Media

The media by way of advertisements and through models and film stars in these advertisements and shows on television and magazines present the picture of 'ideal body', which have a negative effect on the youth of today. In comparison to men, advertisements have a great effect on women. Nowadays even though men also give importance to their personal appearances like that of women, the advertisements greatly are targeted on women. This is because women are always trying to improve their appearance by losing weight, and looking out for new makeup, hair products and other cosmetics. The media both creates and perpetuates an ideal body, which is thin which 99 per cent of women will and can never attain. The media has the image of an ideal woman as being having a thin figure and this image has a great influence on the youth. The media portrays ideal woman as being excessively thin with having virtually no signs of feminity, except with regard to full-blown breasts, which are achieved by means of surgery.

The media other than portraying images of ideal women also through way of advertisements also suggest means of achieving this image through ways of diet control methods and products. Media through magazines and television connects thinness, which is the accepted form of beauty, leading to the success and happiness for women. Such an increasing media influence lead to increasing of eating disorders, which in turn lead to several emotional physical effects. An eating disorder is not only an obsession with thinness or a lack of eating problems, but it the result of an affected problem with self-esteem. Eating disorders have effect on women of all ages and of all socio-economic groups and are not, which are restricted to the young women of middle and upper class western society. (Posavac, 1998) But in comparison it is the teenagers who are the most affected as a result of the media influences. The influence of the media greatly influences teenage girls in their sense of dressing, their images of an ideal body and on how to look. It is the fashion magazines and the models and stars on Television, which greatly influence the teenagers to have their desire of an ideal body of thinness. Advertisers are very shrewd to attract the teens since they are the people who are the sections who can be easily influenced. Repetition of advertisements in several magazines and several times on television make the teens attracted to these products.

When repeated exposure of these images of thin bodies on women and in particular on teens are being made it automatically influences them to have the image of models as ideal images of the body. This is because that they fail to understand that these models had to undergo several hours of preparations to achieve this which includes professional make up, rigid dieting and exercise. Some models even undergo the painful surgeries to achieve this ideal image. At other times, some people believe that these are realistic presentations of these models. But usually it is not so. These ideal images are presented through means of lighting and camera angles, airbrushing photographs, in order to create artificial beauty. Because of the developments in technology there are photograph editor programs that alter and edit the photographs. What is normally done is that waistlines are made smaller, hips are made wider, heads are placed on different bodies, pimples and other skin imperfections are airbrushed, faces are made narrow, legs are made longer, female breasts are edited to look rounder and larger, and overall models are made to look which could not be attained by anybody. Even in television this technology is used to edit the looks and overall appearance of stars and celebrities. Shorter stars by use of the technology are edited to look taller. Such an image of women being portrayed by the media projects that only those who are tall and are thin are beautiful and others who are shorter and plump are not at all attractive. But in reality these body figures are unattainable to a majority of women. (Chang, 1998)

Since women who follow these advertisements will consider themselves as not good-looking. As a result they would be tempted to buy the products, which are advertised which promise to provide a good face and a good body. As a result the producers of these commodities, which advertise as being contributing to women's beauty, would be able to sell more of their products. These advertisements, which contribute the image of a thin woman as the mark of beauty, would promote towards eating disorders in women. This is because women in their desire to become like their models seen in advertisements would appeal to the idea of restricting their diet which would contribute to eating disorders. An important misunderstanding about eating disorders is that the body can achieve the ideal image of thinness overnight. These beliefs and misconceptions make women to restrict and reduce their diet.

Women who consider and accept the media's image of thin body as an ideal body resort to strict behaviors in order to achieve their ideal body and try to maintain a thin figure. Women in their desire to attain the goal of a perfect body resort to rigorous practice of exercises, pills taking, plastic surgery and the most dangerous of all of reducing food in great quantities and remaining hungry in the fear of increasing body weight. Because of the fear of putting on weight women fear about consuming food and want to avoid it as much as possible. If they cannot avoid food they try very hard to reduce the quantity of the intake of the food. Women's magazines have lot of advertisements projecting women's ideal body with the help of models. These women's magazines often have articles about weight loss and have advertisements of weight loss and ideal body in several places of the magazine. Advertisers and women's magazines and fashion magazines portray the image that women who eat food are those who give into temptation and are bad, and dieting or starving is good and should be encouraged at all cost. (Kilbourne, 1994)

Thus food is considered as the enemy of today's women and it is considered as increasing fat in not only women who suffer severe eating disorders but almost all women face this fear. Women after seeing models and their ideal body tend to have dissatisfactions with their own body. (Wilcox, 1994) They consider their bodies as being over-sized and they feel discomfort with their own body. Thus women with eating disorders come to judge their self-worth according to the terms of their shape and weight. When eating becomes a problem vomiting, purging, binging, fasting, and compulsive exercise tend to become common cycles in the process of eating disorder. The media plays a role by way of their models in advertisements to reduce the self-worth of women and for promoting reduced self-satisfaction and thereby promoting indirectly to eating disorders. These advertisements in media tend to make women feel that are over-weight and therefore are less attractive. Considerable reduction in weight loss as a result of eating disorder can produce negative effects in women. Eating disorders could become a self-perpetuating addiction, which produces both physical and emotional harm to women. Due to eating disorder what happens is that there would be loss of body fat under the skin, reduced muscle mass, dental erosion, loss of fat around heart, reduced body temperature, amenorrhea, which denotes loss of three or more consecutive menstrual cycles, and mild anemia which are some of the less serious effects. Other effects of body disorder would include heart troubles namely death due to heart failure as a result of bradycardia or slow heart rate, and from kidney failure, caused by severe dehydration and low blood pressure. (Aguinaldo, 1993)

Recently scientists have now found out that people with bulimia which denotes binge eating followed by vomiting or over exercising, and anorexia, which follow a s a result of eating disorders seem to have serotonin, a brain chemical which is associated with changes in moods and emotions, circulating in their brains in reduced quantities than is required. The absence of serotonin in required quantities is also found in people suffering from depression. Women with eating disorders after trying various forms of diets and methods for reducing fats in the body and for achieving that ideal body as being seen in advertisements. Women also suffer from the side effects of diet pills, which are believed to reduce weights. When results of hard work of reducing weight is not forth coming women feel depressed. Along with depression, anxiety, and other mental problems could also follow. Not only that as a result of depression many women end their lives. Studies have shown that roughly 10% of anorexics die as a result of complications from lack of food, or as a result of suicide and about one in 100 adolescent girls suffers from anorexia. (Chang, 1998)…[continue]

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