Societal standards about how we gauge healthy body weight have swung widely from generation to generation. What was once considered admirable, may in modern times be viewed as an unhealthy behavior. There is ample medical evidence that some beauty trends result in negative body image that lead to eating disorders.
Possibly the most pervasive eating disorder is anorexia, sometimes called anorexia nervosa, which is a psychiatric condition in which the patient is obsessively concerned with losing or keeping off weight. While this disease is primarily associated with young female patients, there is plenty of medical evidence to support that these girls do not have a monopoly on the disease. More and more, older female patients as well as boys and men, are diagnosed with eating disorders.
Statistically, 1% of adolescent girls and 0.5% of males in general in the United States are affected by this disorder. The vast majority of anorexic patients are middle-to-upper class Caucasian young women, although there are cases of anorexia that can be found in all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Treatment and Recovery IS Possible
Extreme physical repercussions are almost always the result of anorexic behaviors. The toll that malnutrition has on the human body has been widely studied and documented, but psychiatric treatment of anorexia nervosa and bulimia is still in a learning curve phase. In recent years, the focus on how families can help patients recover has taken center stage over simply regaining healthy weight.
The generally accepted practice of combining mental health services in conjunction with dietary rehabilitation has proven to be an effective combination in the treatment of anorexic disorders. Individual and family therapy sessions help patients understand what underlying issues not only triggered the disorder, but how personal habits and body perceptions are influenced by outside sources.
When patients begin to understand the “why” of their disorder, they are better equipped to face the “how” of overcoming it. As previously mentioned, the physical ramifications of malnutrition are devastating, and this can lead to further body dysphoria.
Learning to Love Our Own Bodies is Hard, But Worth It
Very few people can view themselves in the mirror with unbiased perceptions. How we are influenced by societal expectations is largely biased by those we learn our body image standards from. Recent trends toward positive body identity have shown to be effective in the fight against anorexia, but as a whole, our society leans toward thinness as a marker for beauty and acceptability.
Like Alcoholism, Anorexia is a Lifelong Battle
Building a healthy relationship with food is an essential tool in battling anorexia. Children who are raised with healthy eating habits are less likely to develop eating disorders, according to experts, and body positivity is more likely in children who get regular sleep and exercise and are taught to view a balanced diet as a necessary (and delicious) way to fuel the body.
With proper treatment and support programs, anorexics can recover and live full, happy, healthy lives.