It is National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) week this week (Feb. 23 thru Mar. 1), which may be a good time to share an infographic that Upworthy recently posted, which boils down the complicated issue of why women are dying to be thin.
Here is some information that the graphic presents:
- In 1950 the average hip measurement of mannequins and women were both 34 inches. In 1999, mannequin’s hips measured 31 inches, while women averaged 37 inches.
- 50% of commercials aimed at girls spoke about physical attractiveness, while none of the commercials aimed at boys referred to appearance.
- The average US woman is 5’4” and 140lbs., while the US model is 5’11 and 117 lbs.
- Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index (BMI) physical criteria for anorexia.
- 69% of girls in a particular study said that magazine models influence their idea of the perfect body shape.
- 80% of women who answered a People magazine survey responded that images of women on TV and in movies make them feel insecure.
These days, you don’t even need a 5’11”, 117 lbs. model, thanks to the magic of Photoshop. Go from average to awesome instantly! What already exists as an unrealistic ideal is amplified exponentially, which further increases the disparity between reality and fantasy.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association about 20 million women suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at sometime in their life, including anorexia and bulimia. And that by the age of 6, girls start to express concerns about their weight or body. Men aren’t immune to eating disorders either: 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male and they are less likely to seek treatment because it’s a “woman’s disease”. However, based on the statistics, women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder.
If you don’t like the way you look, developing an eating disorder is not a solution, it is a serious illness and not a choice or a quick fix to improving self-esteem. In fact, anorexia nervosa is classified as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association, which also has a mortality rate 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of deaths in females 15-24 years old. Additional eating disorder statistics can be found on the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website.
While it seems like this is a major uphill battle, there have been efforts made to help change things:
- Last year Dove published their Real Beauty Sketches to help build positive self-esteem.
- In 2012, Vogue announced that they were no longer going to use models under 16 and appear to have an eating disorder.
- In the 2008 film Disfigured an unlikely friendship between two women is formed when Lydia, who struggles with her complex feelings about her body, meets Darcy, a recovering anorexic, at a Fat Acceptance support group. Desperate to solve her body image and self-esteem problems, Lydia asks Darcy for anorexia lessons. However, through the bond of friendship, both women learn to appreciate themselves for who they are.
When socially conscious companies like Dove and films like Disfigured continue to tackle the issue intelligently things will change. If you or a loved one need help, call the NEDA hotline at:
Additional References and Resources:
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
- South Carolina Dept of Mental Health
- National Eating Disorders Association
Additional Eating Disorder Stories and Films:
- Superstar: Karen Carpenter Story
- Thin (Documentary)
- Hunger Point (Narrative)
- Kate’s Secret (Narrative)
- Dying to Be Thin (Documentary)