Author: Ashley Benedict
We’ve all had those times where we look at ourselves in the mirror and don’t like what we see. We point out our own imperfections and compare ourselves to others we see as more beautiful than we are. We stare at those jeans two sizes too small and hope that one day, we will fit into them once again. We count calories and keep track of the number on the scale, celebrating whenever it falls. We stare at our stomach rolls when we sit down, thinking that maybe if we just skip one meal, perhaps they’ll disappear. We are taught to hate the body we’re in, and to aspire to meet unrealistic and idealistic images of what beauty is. I’m here to say: no. You don’t have to feel this way. Self-love is possible.
This blog post analyzes the statistics in relation to body image and eating disorders and what causes them, as well as how to combat these negative self-images.
First off, some statistics
Here are some basics to get us started:
- Approximately 80% of U.S. women don’t like how they look.
- 34% of men are dissatisfied with their body.
- Over 50% of Americans aren’t happy with their current weight.
- 70% of normal weighted women want to be thinner.
- Body image is a big problem in our society, and can lead to depression, social anxiety and eating disorders.
How early can it start?
- 89% of girls have dieted by age 17
- 15% of young women have disordered eating
- 42% of girls in grades 1-3 want to lose weight
- 45% of boys and girls in grades 3-6 want to be thinner
- 51% of 9 and 10 year old girls say they feel better about themselves when they are dieting
- 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat
- 9% of nine year olds have vomited to lose weight
What’s the frequency? How does poor body image relate to eating disorders?
- 10-15% of all Americans suffer from some type of serious eating disorder.
- An estimated 10-15% of people with bulimia nervosa are males.
- 1 in 200 American women suffer from anorexia nervosa.
- 3 in 100 American women suffer from bulimia nervosa.
- As many as 10% of college women suffer from clinical (or nearly) eating disorders.
- Roughly 25 million men and 43 million women are dieting to lose weight. There are nearly 116 million adults dieting at any given time — representing about 55% of the total adult population.
- 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.
- Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any mental illness.
- The rate of death for women with ED is 12 times higher than other women of similar ages
- About 1,000 women die each year from ED due to malnutrition, heart attack and suicide
- Only 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment.
- Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are woman’s diseases.
What are the causes?
- Major life transitions like puberty, entering high school or college or major losses or trauma
- Family problems
- Social difficulties like teasing, bullying or ridicule
- Fear of failure or a need to be perfect (often related to dieting)
- Traumatic events like sexual and physical abuse
- Other psychiatric illnesses like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit disorder (ADHD)
- Personality traits like low self-esteem, difficulty with change, fear of feeling out of control
Family & Peer Impact
One of most important influences on body dissatisfaction and appearance focus in adolescent girls is how appearance focused their peers are.
Parents and other family members also influence body esteem:
- Direct: comments about weight and shape, developing bodies, putting children on diets to lose weight, and teasing all can have a negative impact.
- Indirect: Modeling-actions speak louder than words!
Personality Traits can also make a person more or less vulnerable to things around us
- 69% of girls in 5th – 12th grades reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape, 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight
- Following the viewing of images of female fashion models, 7 out of 10 women felt more depressed and angrier than prior to viewing the images
- 80% of women who answered a People magazine survey responded that images of women on television and in the movies make them feel insecure
- An average US woman is 5’4” tall weighing 140 pounds; the average US model is 5’11” weighing 117 pounds
- The body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females
- Project EAT found that girls who read articles on dieting or weight loss were 6 times more likely to engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors. Boys were 4 times more likely.
However, there are some good campaigns that have begun to try and dismantle these negative effects:
- Be You
- Dove Campaign for Self-Esteem
- Body Image 3D
- Project Heal
- Common Sense Media
- The Body Positive Site
- Mind on the Media
So how can you learn to love your body?
It may seem hard at first, changing your perspective of yourself, but it’s important to teach ourselves the importance of self-love and positive body images. Here is a list of things you can do to learn how to love your body:
- Stop comparing yourself to others
- Enact a media ban (or at least, cut down on your media intake, including social media usage)
- Refuse to listen to negative body talk or engage in it
- Become aware and critical of media messages
- Throw out those too-small clothes + buy clothes to fit your current body. Stop waiting to be the 2010 version of yourself and be who you are right now.
- Celebrate what your body can do (and does for you daily) instead of what it can’t
- Make a list of 10 things you like about yourself that are non-appearance related
- Practice self-care. Take a nap. Take a hot shower. Find time to relax.
- Replace negative thoughts by focusing on a cause, or something you love to do
- Treat yourself the same way you would treat a friend
- Don’t let your weight or shape keep you from doing activities you enjoy
- Eat when you’re hungry and until you’re satisfied. Treat eating as something special
- Be positive, or fake it til’ you make it
- When working out, set performance-related goals, not weight-related goals
- Surround yourself with a positive support group
- Stop relying on the scale as a measure of your worth
- Learn to take a compliment – even better, compliment yourself
- Celebrate the days you feel especially good about yourself
- Get a dog. Animals love you no matter what your size.
- Remind yourself that happiness is not your body shape. Happiness is how you handle what life has given to you. Be happy with who you are and realize: you’re pretty amazing.
GVSU’s Women’s Center is holding events this entire week in celebration of Love Your Body Week. Be sure to drop by, and bring friends! If the statistics are any indication, then it’s important to realize that you are not alone in feeling this way. Chances are, you know more than one person who is suffering with poor body image as well. Reach out to them. It’s time to love your body, GVSU.