Welcome to Mom Please Help

This blog is for all eating disorder sufferers, where they can get help and useful information. It is run by William Webster BA. For Karen Phillips.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Media and influence on women body image.

It has become obvious now that the media advertises and promotes a very unhealthy trend of extreme dieting and other bad eating habits to women. Most of media sources put on their covers images of skinny emancipated females. Doing this they influence the subconscious mind of the masses. And women continue to spend their money trying to achieve this unattainable look they constantly see in media advertising.
To try and solve this problem let’s answer the next questions. 1. What is body image? 2. What kind of trends in the media industry are we noticing now? 3. How do the media influence our perception of body image? 4. What could be the reasons behind this? 5. What are the consequences of this kind of trend? 6. What are some real suggestions on how to improve your body image?
Your body image is how you perceive, think and feel about your body. This may have no bearing at all on your actual appearance. For instance, it is common in Western nations for women to believe they are larger and fatter than they really are. Only one in five women is satisfied with their body weight. Nearly half of all normal weight women overestimate their size and shape. A distorted body image can lead to self-destructive behavior, like dieting or eating disorders. Approximately nine out of 10 young Australian women have dieted at least once in their lives.
So, the basic trend in the media industry at the moment is to promote slim, even skinny unnatural looking women’s bodies as being beautiful.
Women of all ages but especially young women look at magazines, TV, movies and other media products full of images that show skinny women’s bodies. And these are perceived by the subconscious mind of young women as being a role model to follow and aspire to be like. Achieving this skinny look does not come naturally; it inevitably leads to practicing some kind of dieting, excessive exercising or abnormal eating behaviors.
Twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8 per cent less than the average woman—but today’s models weigh 23 per cent less. Advertisers believe that thin models sell products. When the Australian magazine New Woman recently included a picture of a heavy-set model on its cover, it received a truckload of letters from grateful readers praising the move. But its advertisers complained and the magazine returned to featuring bone-thin models.
What could be the reason behind all this? Why has this fashion trend occurred now? Why are standards of beauty being imposed on women, the majority of whom are naturally larger than any of the models?
The reasons for this according to some analysts, is an economic one. By presenting an ideal look which is difficult to achieve and maintain the cosmetic and diet product industries are assured of growth and profits. It is estimated that the diet industry alone is worth $100 billion (U.S.) a year. This is a lot of money and certainly worth their while to continue to foster emancipated women as being the norm.
And the consequences of this trend are huge. On the one hand, women who are insecure about their bodies are more likely to buy beauty products, new clothes, and diet pills or other diet supplies.
On the other hand, research indicates that exposure to images of thin, young, air-brushed female bodies is linked to depression, loss of self-esteem and the development of unhealthy eating habits in women and girls.
The level of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are increasing rapidly every year. It is estimated that around 5 per cent of women and 1 percent of men have an eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia or binge eating some time in their life.
And about 15 per cent of all young women have significantly distorted eating attitudes and behavior that can lead to developing anorexia or bulimia in the near future.
So, what would be some real suggestions on how to improve your body image without resorting to unhealthy eating habits?
The First one is to change your goal from weight loss to just improving your health. Second, is to focus more the internal beauty like improving your self-esteem, self-confidence and internal strengths of your character. Get informed by reading up on body image issues and self-improvement books. And give yourself a break from women’s magazines and the mass media advertising for a while if you feel you maybe prone to this kind of false perceptions.
To sum up, the media does impact on women’s body image significantly and it can affect women’s physical and mental health in a negative way. And the only way to stop these negative effects coming from the media is to teach women not to judge themselves by the beauty industry's standards and learn not to compare themselves to the cover girls. And also it is important to promote a healthy life style with emphasis on internal beauty like improving self-esteem and self-confidence. Not on being a stick like model.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cause of Bulimia Nervosa.

Cause of Bulimia Nervosa.

Bulimia is one of the most rapidly increasing psychological problems around nowadays. But what causes bulimia? Is it an extreme response to Western society’s pressure on young girls and women to be slim?
Or are there other factors contributing to the problem?
Can we influence these factors and change their effects on people?

Genetic, environmental, biological are all common factors that have to be looked at when we talk about the causes of any diseases or disorders.

Let’s look at these things in the case of Bulimia.

Scientific research recently has shown that people are born with an inherited predisposition towards developing bulimia, particularly where susceptibility to addiction is in the genes. It reveals that bulimics inherit a gene responsible for the addiction from their ancestors. This addiction can appear in different forms: alcohol addiction, drug addiction, food addiction, nicotine and the like. That’s why many bulimics also suffer from addictions to other substances also, making recovery difficult.

So a genetic predisposition to bulimia may be there but it is not a single bulimia gene itself that is the culprit but a general addiction gene. And in many bulimic families we can trace backwards to past members of the family who suffered from other kinds of addiction in their lives.

But on the other hand not all people who get an addiction gene suffer from bulimia or other addictions. So we have to look at other things like environmental factors.

Environmental factors can contribute to triggering the onset of bulimia. These include peer pressures, family attitudes, the influence of the media creating a need for thinness, poor self-esteem and a lack of acceptance of self and body shape.

Bulimia often begins with a dissatisfaction of the person's body. The individual may actually be underweight, but when that person looks in a mirror they see a distorted image and feel heavier than they really are. At first, this distorted body image leads to dieting. As the body image in the mirror continues to be seen as larger than it actually is, the dieting escalates and leads to bulimia. The bottom line however, is that bulimia is the misuse of food to try to resolve emotional problems. When a person is unable to face their feelings, define problems, and resolves them effectively, that person is more prone to become susceptible to the onset of bulimia.

A significant correlation between the development of clinical bulimia nervosa and sexual abuse has also been proven. Other forms of abuse (physical, emotional or combination of both of them) also link to developing of dissatisfaction with the person’s body that can lead to bulimia any time in the future.

Strict and cold parental attitude and luck of showing love to children from parents can become a trigger for developing a wrong body image in children that can turn into bulimia in susceptible people. That is why you should never tease your child if they are a little bit over weight as this could just be a normal growing process for that child’s body shape. But a wrong word from a parent or family member may inadvertently send that person down the track to bulimia.

The next factor which can cause bulimia is biological or biochemical factor. This happens when one or a few biological processes in the human body have gone off track. Some research has shown that an insufficiency of a special hormone in the brain called serotonin can cause depression and bulimia at the same time. This is probably why many bulimics also suffer from depression.
Some antidepressants that work on restoring the level of serotonin in the brain can help some sufferers stop their binges while taking them. This could also mean that many sufferers, who manage to stop their bulimia for a short while, go back to binging again when they stop the antidepressants.

Anyone who has been on antidepressants and has stopped should look for other supplements where they can substitute the loss of serotonin; I believe you can get serotonin in the health food stores in capsules form. Although taking serotonin on its own will not automatically stop your bulimia, as it is a much deeper psychological problem that a single chemical imbalance: but it would not hurt either.

As you can see, many factors can contribute to the development of bulimia. For some sufferers it is the environmental factors that come into play, like desire to be thin, peer pressure to be thin or influence from the media to be thin. Some people may have a strong genetic influence that can be traced to past relatives who may have suffered from bulimia or other addictions.

Depressed sufferers will blame their low serotonin level in the brain for their bulimia. But the majority of people probably have a combination of factors that has caused their bulimia.

In conclusion, the causes of bulimia could be many: genetic, biological and environmental. So far we can’t change the genes we are born with but we can manage to control certain behaviors brought on by defective genes, with the correct methods.

To change biological factors like low serotonin levels in the brain, it is possible with certain drugs or supplementation, but it does not work for everyone. The only bulimia factor we can change easily is the environmental factor. This includes changing our attitude to body image, our perception of real beauty and our eating habits.

By promoting a healthy environment we can eradicate or significantly diminish one of the main causes of bulimia - the environmental factor. The other causes can also be controlled if we are aware of their existence.

Dr Irina Webster