Why Healthy Body Image Is So Difficult

Lauren Cole - Author

Dec. 7 2014, Updated 10:23 a.m. ET

Hospital admissions are on the rise for eating disorders that stem from body image problems. Disturbingly, boys and girls younger than 12-years-old, some as young as 5, are being treated for anorexia, bulimia, and other disorders such as body dysmorphia — a body image problem that gives victims a distorted perception of their body size. These terrible conditions can lead to drug and alcohol problems, suicide, and malnutrition linked to major health implications that can can cause death.

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A study done by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found a 119 percent increase in hospitalizations for eating disorders in children under 12. The next steepest jump was in the 45 to 64 age group. Their rate rose almost 50 percent. The causes are varied, but body image plays a huge role. Some problems are tied to psychological disorders, others to a poor relationship with food, but many are traced back to personal body image problems. Poor self-esteem, bullying, fat shaming, dieting, advertising, media, and social media can all detract from a child’s healthy body image and self acceptance. Mothers especially that are obsessed with their own body’s shortcomings and diet frequently are teaching their children by a poor example.

Eating disorders and poor body image go beyond childhood. Many adults, male and female, are constantly on one diet or another, seek out plastic surgery, take diet pills, and constantly lament the condition of their bodies. Adults are constantly inundated with photos and videos of nearly inhuman perfection on the pages of magazines and T.V. screens. Photoshop, airbrushing, and the near cult worship of stick thin women and fat-less, perfectly muscled men give people a very distorted view of normality. Celebrity reporters who decry insanely fit stars gaining a very few pounds, maybe moving from a size zero to a size one, reinforce this impossible image. Calling tiny women fat seriously distorts average women’s perception of reality. The average American woman is a size 14. If they are goaded to jump on bandwagons calling women much smaller than themselves overweight, it changes the way they perceive themselves and that negative attitude about their body image can be very detrimental for their health and the mental images of body wellness of their children.


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