Bulimia and the Media Iman Mansour

The 20th century was the start to a society that idealizes slimness. Studies have compared shapes from 1950's to the 1970's, and it was clear how the weights and measurements were being lowered consistently. It has only been over the past several decades that the cultural ideal has been focused on a slim, trim body. In the nineteenth century, in countries like France and England, fat and large women were considered beautiful. But as we all know, being fat in this day and age is rarely considered in such ways. Studies have also looked at the rash of diets and dieting clinics, which proves how dissatisfied women are with their weight. In 1968, the average fashion model was 8% thinner than average women. Today, models are 23% thinner, perpetrating unrealistic ideals of beauty and attractiveness. Society's idealization of thinness has been therefore said to have resulted in the epidemic of bulimia. Societal pressure concerning thinness can be mostly blamed on the media and the unrealistic images it presents to people through its various industries. Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, and Tyra Banks, pictures of these women are plastered almost everywhere as they are upheld the world's most beautiful women. Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, Slim18, commercials of these diet industries are on television promising to help all to achieve the ultimate body; “the perfect body”. Women and young girls are surrounded by images of thin women on television and magazines, not to forget the growing number of weight loss programs and clinics. Although most women will never be as thin as the images shown to them, it is an image that they want to capture so they can feel worthy or accepted in today's society. When women cannot capture this image, sadly they feel unacceptable or "less then" because they cannot have the weight or shape that is considered ideal or accepted in our society. They, therefore, fail to love and accept themselves for whatever size and shape they are. Our self-perception is mainly based on the TV shows that we watch, and the magazines that we read. In many ways, we tend to feed off of what the media sends to us.

The diet industry is just another industry in the media that focuses on shape, size and body image as a whole. Diets can be the starting point for any eating disorder and it’s why they can be so dangerous. In the past, users of diet products have been shown by advertisers as young, pretty, slim, and carefree women. Any women seeing these advertisements may feel that being smaller will bring happiness acceptance and even success especially if she already feels badly about herself and her body image. The diet industry depends and relies on women believing what diets and diet products can do for them. In turn, many women will start to deprive themselves and use diet plans and products hoping to achieve the desired body. When and if the woman leaves the diet she may turn to a binging cycle that can lead to the onset of bulimia. Bulimia is an extreme way of which women relate to food. However, women are vulnerable and somewhat open to the ideas of diets and what they can bring. The Fashion industry plays a significant role when it comes to the topic of bulimia. Many of us have seen the extremely thin models used to sell jeans and other women products. Women down fashion runways and on the covers of magazines are often the picture of beauty and thinness. They are therefore shown what the ideal way to look is. Role models were therefore created by the fashion industry to mislead girl into following their steps. The drive to have the desirable and accepted image is so great that we tend to confuse looking good with being good or feeling good. The brand name has nothing to do with the use or function of our clothes; it’s just about image. When we wear designer clothes with fancy labels people notice and it gives us a sense of self-satisfaction and acceptance. The magazine industry is another media industry that is commonly read by girls. Teen magazines feature a third of articles on dating and physical appearance, when just twelve percent focus on school and careers. In all of these magazines, there's always an article on dieting, and exercise. Beauty, fashion, and impressing men are also addressed constantly. Frequent vomiting, especially if habitually followed by severed restriction of food intake, can be very dangerous. Purging short -circuits the body's absorption of nutrients, and can cause serious health risks. The most dangerous of these is low potassium (hypo) which can cause serious, sometimes fatal, heart problems. Other complications of bulimia include: hand and foot tingling, decay of tooth enamel (due to acidic vomit), swelling of

salivary glands, chronic indigestion, and stomach pains. Bulimics often use laxatives and diuretics in large quantities on the false premise that they reduce calorie absorption. Instead, what laxatives really do is remove the remains of digested food and body water, leading to dehydration. Our preoccupation with our bodies and beauty itself has supplanted other psychiatric conditions. Some mental health professionals even go as far as to wonder if the eating disorders are one of the late 20th century's primary mental health issues. Sometimes, some bulimics “experience episodes of dissociation of multiple personality disorder… One’s bodily self thus becomes totally abrogated and denied.” (Zerbe, 156) The constant concern of calories, diet, and figure become obsessive. For most bulimics, the worst part of the eating disorder is the anxiety and guilt feeling, which occur immediately after a binge. They feel guilt over lying to friends and family, guilt over food and money wasted, and guilt over their lack of control. They become depressed and often isolate themselves from social situations for fear of being embarrassed by their eating impulses. This creates extreme feeling of loneliness and isolation from society itself. Because bulimia does not cause someone to lose an extraordinary amount of weight, it is generally an easy disorder to hide. The person with bulimia will often only purge at night or when they take showers so that no one can hear them vomiting or see them binge. With bulimia, much of the physical damage is done on the inside. Thus, it isn’t uncommon for someone to live with this disorder for many years before being caught or finally asking for help. One of the many reasons people that suffer from bulimia don’t go for help is because they feel ashamed. They regard purging as gross and to keep people from thinking less of them, someone suffering will hide their problem. Bulimia can give a false sense of control over you for a little while, but eventually these feelings come back. It is a vicious cycle where you are at war with your own body, and you are the loser every time. But soon the desire grows out of control. What at first gave you a sense of control will now take control of you. You are obsessed and addicted. You can never be thin enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or good enough for anything. This disease robs you of all those dreams you have so carefully hoarded throughout the years. It eats away at your brain, and spirit, and identity until all that

remains is this body that keeps you enslaved. Somehow, you have become your worst enemy. The feelings of loneliness, uncertainty, unhappiness, confusion, anxiety, stresses, will remain. From the beginning, we are bombarded with images of unattainable thinness, and told that we must look like that to be pretty, happy, and successful. We are taught that these are the goals we should strive for in life. It's irrelevant. These ideals of thinness are so deeply ingrained in our way of life that we can’t even see them. They become invisible chains around women that wrap tighter and tighter each day, until finally, it has become impossible to breathe. It isn’t about losing a few kilos anymore; it’s about losing your life.