May 17, 2023 Addiction

Untwist the Threads: Society and Eating Disorders

Society is the people, thoughts, and culture which surround us. It impacts every aspect of our lives, including the prevalence of eating disorders.

Society’s expectations can manifest through unrealistic beauty standards, constant exposure to filtered images, and an emphasis on thinness as a measure of success.

These factors can create an environment that fosters a negative self-image, leading to eating disorders.

Join us as we examine the connection between society and eating disorders, and find ways to support those in need.
Society and eating disorders are closely linked even in storytelling; we associate thinness with morality and fat with laziness.

Key Takeaways

Eating disorders are serious health problems that affect how a person eats, thinks, and feels about food and their body. We hope to empower individuals, families, and communities to seek help by shedding light on these issues:

  • Society and culture impact eating disorders by setting expectations for the ideal person.
  • Perfectionism can be a trigger for disordered eating practices.
  • Eating disorders manifest differently in men and women due to opposing societal expectations of the ideal body.

Indiana Center for Recovery is an advocate for early mental health interventions. Call us at (844) 650-0064 to start your mental health journey.

What Counts as an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are serious health problems that affect how a person eats, thinks, and feels about food and their body. They can produce both physical and emotional harm.

There are three significant types of eating disorders. First is anorexia nervosa. People with anorexia may not eat enough food, which can cause them to become very thin. They may also have a severe fear of gaining body weight.

Second is bulimia nervosa. Those with bulimia may eat a lot of food quickly and then try to get rid of it by vomiting or using other methods. This practice is commonly known as “binging and purging.”

Third is binge eating disorder. People with this disorder often eat large amounts of food in one sitting but, unlike bulimia, do not attempt to purge.

All of these practices are forms of disordered eating, but not all disordered eating is an eating disorder. Disordered eating involves unhealthy eating habits that may come and go but do not meet the full criteria for an eating disorder.

Disordered eating can still harm a person’s health, though, and it may lead to an eating disorder if left unchecked.

Social Causes of Eating Disorders

Mass media, like TV shows and fashion magazines, often show very thin people as having the ideal body shape. It can make others feel bad about their bodies.

Social media can also play a role, as people may compare themselves to others online. Peer pressure from friends or family may push someone to obsess over their looks.

Cultural beliefs and norms can add to these pressures. Understanding these social causes can help us support those with eating disorders and work to create a healthier environment for all.

Family and Peer Pressure

Sometimes, family members may unknowingly push a person to be stylish, thin, or look a certain way. They might make comments about weight, diet, or appearance that can be hurtful.

Friends, too, can play a role in eating disorders. They may tease or judge each other based on looks or weight. It can lead to shameful feelings and low self-esteem, which might trigger unhealthy eating habits.

Another way families and friends reinforce standards of thinness is by praising it when they see it. For example, when someone loses weight, they may be praised for how much better they look. By contrast, a mother may call her own body ugly for having fat while her child watches. These actions reinforce that thin is pretty and fat is ugly.

Families and friends need to promote information about self-love and support each other in healthy ways to help prevent eating disorders.

High Achievement Pressures

Another cause of eating disorders is the need to be perfect. Many people feel pressure to excel in school, work, sports, or other areas of life.

They may believe that being thin or having the “ideal” body will help them achieve success. It can lead to extreme dieting or exercise routines, which may cause an eating disorder.

High achievers often set high standards for themselves and may feel their worth depends on meeting those goals. This mindset can create stress and anxiety, making it easier for an eating disorder to take hold.

Additionally, people with a high-achieving personality or perfectionism are often competitive, creating an environment for eating disorders to thrive. Many anorexia patients talk about the competition to have the lowest weight. In contrast, many bulimia patients lament not having the dedication of people with anorexia. It is a dangerous game to compete in.

We must discourage this comparison and competition to reduce the chances of developing an eating disorder. Instead, we should encourage open and honest conversations about body image, self-worth, and mental health.

Cultural Aspects of Eating Disorders

In our society, thinness is often linked to both morality and health. It can lead to problems for those who feel pressure to fit these ideals.

Thinness and Perceived Morality

People may believe that being thin is a sign of self-control and strength. They might think that a not thin person lacks discipline or is lazy. This belief can cause people to judge others based on their weight. It can also lead to eating disorders, as people try to be thin to gain respect and approval from others.

Thinness and Perceived Health

Many people also think that thinness is the key to good health. This idea can make people feel they must be thin to be healthy.

However, proper health involves much more than just weight. Focusing only on thinness can cause people to ignore other important aspects of well-being. It can lead to unhealthy habits and even eating disorders.

Our culture’s focus on thinness can contribute to eating disorders. Challenging these beliefs and promoting a more balanced view of health and self-worth is essential.

Eating Disorders and Gender

Eating disorders can affect anyone, but they are often seen as a problem for girls and women. While it is true that females are more likely to have eating disorders, males can also suffer from them.

The pressure to have a particular body type or to look in a certain way can affect all genders. Eating disorders do not discriminate based on gender.

Eating Disorders in Women and Girls

Eating disorders are common in women and girls. One of the most common disorders is anorexia nervosa. Women with anorexia may eat very little and become very thin.

They often have an intense fear of gaining weight. Another common disorder is bulimia nervosa. Women with bulimia may eat a lot of food and then try to get rid of it by vomiting or other methods. It is called “binge and purge.”

Eating disorders in women typically revolve around thinness and frailty, as is expected of women in Western society.

Eating Disorders in Men and Boys

Eating disorders can also affect men and boys. They may experience the same disorders as women, such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

Men with anorexia may feel pressure to be thin or have a specific body shape. They may eat very little and exercise a lot to lose weight.

Bulimia nervosa in men can look similar to bulimia in women. Men may binge on food and then purge to get rid of it.

Eating disorders in men often focus on muscle gain and fat loss. There may be a focus on fitness, with overexercising a leading factor in male anorexia. They may eat more food than females with anorexia, but not enough food considering the amount of exercise being performed. Eating disorders can affect both women and men but may manifest differently.

Eating Disorder Prevention and Early Intervention

Preventing eating disorders is crucial. Statistics show that in the United States, around 30 million people suffer from eating disorders. Early intervention can help people recover and lead healthier lives.

We must promote positive body image, teach healthy eating habits, and support mental health to prevent eating disorders. Schools, families, and other communities should work together to create safe atmospheres where everyone feels valued.

It’s also vital to recognize early warning signs of eating disorders, like extreme dieting or changes in behavior. If you’re worried about someone, talk to them and offer help. Remember, early support can make a big difference.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What role does society play in the development of eating disorders?

Society influences how people think about their bodies and food. Social media, fashion, and peer pressure can make children feel they need to be thin or have a specific body shape.
These ideas can lead to unhealthy eating habits and even eating disorders. Understanding society’s impact can help prevent these disorders and support those who struggle.

What societal pressures lead to eating disorders?

Societal pressures that lead to eating disorders include the need to fit beauty standards, peer and family stress, and the desire for perfection.
Social media and the fashion industry often show thin bodies as ideal, causing people to feel bad about themselves. It can lead to unhealthy behaviors like extreme dieting or over-exercising. Pressure from friends or family can also lead to eating disorders if they judge others based on weight or appearance.

What is the sociological basis of eating disorders?

The sociological basis of eating disorders comes from how society shapes people’s thoughts and feelings about their bodies. Cultural norms, beauty standards, and social expectations can make people feel they must look a specific way to be accepted or valued.
It can lead to building a negative self-image and unhealthy eating habits. By recognizing these sociological factors, we can work to create a more positive and caring atmosphere for everyone.