Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Dangerous Lure of Hunger's Beauty

Image Source
Animals are seen everyday and when bones show through their skin empathy and compassion is shown. When it is seen on a woman, the suffering represents beauty. Read that sentence one more time slowly, reflect upon it, and ask yourself “why?” Media informs us on how to live, what to enjoy, and how to look. It influences our perspective of beauty, worth, and success. The underlying message and effects of advertisements and marketing, magazines, products that target young women, and especially the prevalence of pro-eating disorder websites destroy the confidence and body appreciation for our “natural” bodies. We have been hypnotized through repetitive advertisement on what beauty looks like, and it is often not healthy.

Consider the dolls little girls play with. Between the ages three to ten 99% of children own Barbie dolls which can lead to body dissatisfaction from the early stages of life. Since we were young, Barbie has shown us what beauty looks like and the marriage, wealth, and happiness that would follow with that appearance. However, if you actually looked like Barbie you would meet anorexia weight and would not have a menstrual cycle leading to no offspring. Barbie is certainly not a healthy role model for young girls.

It is not only dolls that affect us. The more television girls watch, the more they believe that girl’s looks are the most important thing. Just 10 minutes of music video exposure with sexy, thin models leads to an extreme increase in body dissatisfaction. Magazines are constantly urging consumers to lose 20 lbs. When that is achieved you will apparently have the perfect marriage, loving children, rewarding career, and hot sex. Obviously this is not true but it has had a dramatic increase in eating disorders. Eating disorders have risen by 75% from 2001 to 2011.

This disturbing rise in eating disorder diagnoses is a serious problem. Eating disorders have the #1
"Eating Disorder Parity" WeAreTheRealDeal
mortality rate of any mental illness. In the United States 24 million people have eating disorders, 42% of 1st graders want to be thinner. Eighty One percent of ten year old girls are afraid of being fat. The definition of anorexia is the fear of gaining weight. The similarity of the thinking process of these girls prove how near anorexia is to effecting their future. Anorexia has 12 times higher death rates associated with all causes in death of females. Imagine the 10 year old girls again, the happiness of finally being in the double digits, crushing on boys, and having sleepovers. Now imagine their self conscious feelings, their hatred upon their bodies, and their soon to be developed disease with a 12 times higher death rate than any other cause in females. This must change, for the sake of our loved ones and our future generations.

In those people with eating disorders, only 1 in 10 people will receive treatment. The other 9 people will suffer their whole lives trying to reach perfection that is impossible to reach. Fifty percent of people with an eating disorder will develop depression. Fifty percent of people with anorexia will develop bulimia. It is a never ending cycle unless we destroy the root of the problem, the destructive influences in our culture. Until then, 20% of people who had or have Anorexia will prematurely die from suicide or heart problems.

Jeremy Gillitzer: male model
Material items are not the only influence from our society. There are thousands of blogs created by people that are promoting eating disorders. Pro Anorexia and Pro Bulimia websites are the most popular. These websites, which have existed since 1996, are legal but kill people because of the effects of the mental illness. The media exposed all of them in 2001 in newspapers, articles, online, and clips of the news dramatically increased the popularity caused by the increase in exposure. On these websites, information is shared on the best food to eat for the least painful purging, eat on a dark plate because dark colors make you more full, chew ice for lunch, chew sugar free gum (5 calories a stick but 11 calories are burned in one hour of chewing), stay moving, drink hot water to fill you up, drink cold water to burn more calories, etc. Also, these sites promote “Ana-buddies, Mia-buddies” who are other people with eating disorders that can help you achieve your goals. They will send you texts saying mean things about you so you don’t eat; they will send you inspiring quotes to lose weight; they will tell you that you are fat and you are not worth anything but the number on the scale. It is sick, this idea of bullying is actually promoted in these sites! More tricks and tips are shared about how to trick doctors, excuses for not eating, reasons to stay strong and not let others take you away from Ana (anorexia). They discourage treatment, show reverse triggers (this is what you will look like if you eat that apple-show overweight girl) and seem to offer ways to slowly kill themselves.

“Thinspo” is a short word for Thinspiration, which is a name for a group of quotes. These quotes help people suffering with eating disorders keep up their unhealthy behavior, inspiring them to eat less, vomit more, binge more, and accomplish more. Some quote examples include, “Every time you say no to food, you say yes to thin.” “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” “When your tummy grumbles, it is an applaud for good work.” Thinspiration also lists rules for people to follow in order to be successful in your eating disorder. For example,

Anorexic model
“10 Thin Commandments”:
  1. If you aren’t thin, then you aren’t attractive.
  2. Being thin is more important than being healthy.
  3. You must buy clothes, cut your hair, take laxatives, starve yourself, do anything to make yourself look thinner.
  4. Thou shalt not eat without feeling guilty.
  5. Thou shalt not eat fattening food without punishing oneself afterward.
  6. Thou shalt count calories and restrict intake accordingly.
  7. What the scale says is the most important thing.
  8. Losing weight is good; gaining weight is bad.
  9. You can never be too thin.
  10. Being thin and not eating are signs of true will power and success.
We must put aside those with eating disorders, “striving” because of these sites, they are sick, brainwashed, and being controlled by a disease. We must save them and children's futures, to do so we must replace these sites with positive body-image websites to cancel out with our negative self-talk and make loving yourself a good thing not a selfish thing.

Anorexic Model
Let’s talk about shopping. Models are the heart of the industry, because without beautiful models, who would buy the clothes? The issue is, why should the pool of models only be made up of a certain body type which less than 2% of all people on Earth have? Victoria Secret models tend to be our society's definition of beauty, but are they real humans? No, they are Photoshopped pieces of humans. Heads are added to different bodies, breasts are enlarged, and rib cages, hips, and collar bones are digitally removed so the models can appear even thinner!
Meanwhile, consumers are seeing these images, feeling terrible about what they look like because they can not even compare, and guys have this high standard on what the “perfect” woman looks like so natural beauty is not appreciated. Not only can the resulting low self-esteem lead to an unhealthy pursuit of weight loss, people who compare themselves to these unnatural and unattainable ‘ideals’ exist in a depressed, self-conscious world.

You can make a change in our world. Encourage stores to join the many petitions involving true beauty. Seventeen Magazine has recently joined “The Body Peace Treaty” this month. This treaty will limit them to only Photoshopping pimples and fly away hair on the models, not their figures. This is the start of better body image in our society! We can do it and we can change the world for the generations to come. I once read “A good Anorexic is one who does not die.” I suppose I was a good one then. But, no more! I plan to lend my voice and experience to helping others. I will advocate for change in the media and advertising. Stop the misery, self harm, and forlorn people.  Lives are at stake, I am constantly at stake. Won’t you help us?


Conclusion: November 14, 2014

When bones show through a woman's skin, it represents beauty. This idea relates to digital citizenship because the images and models we see are displayed by the media. Which, leads to body dissatisfaction in young girls and boys. Unfortunately, these representatives of beauty are malnourished and make bad role-models for girls who already have body dissatisfaction. When commenting to interested readers I enjoyed sharing my personal experience and other statistics that I did not mention in my blog. My mind was not altered due to the comments. Instead, I got to explain my further knowledge to the readers. I was happy that I could use knowledge that would not be respected in other classes but was in this class. None of the readers comments altered my opinion or clarification on the topic. I have been studying this issue for the past six months and plan on continuing my education regarding this topic. While writing comments in order to reply, I researched other websites that the reader might be interested in. For example, if I thought they liked sports due to their username or interests I would link them to a website with information of eating disorders in athletes. I wanted to create links for them that would be of interest so this topic relates to them personally. The process of blogging was exciting and the minute I pressed the "post" button this weird feeling ran through me. Something was released that made me feel calm and complete. I enjoyed expressing my fears and our reality of our society. Blogging was an interesting process and opportunity. I am excited to add this successful experience to my college resumé.


  1. Hi Katie! Great job on your blog! You had so many facts and statistics that it really convinced me that media can be a bad influence, especially in the topic of weight. I had no idea how bad of an issue it was! Once or twice when I was little I remember my friends telling me that they thought that they weighed too much, and it didn't occur to me that it could have been the media affecting their views of how they should look. Do you know if there are any organizations or people that are trying to get pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia websites and blogs taken down? It's horrible to think that there are people out who encourage this.

    Thank you! ~Jessica

  2. Hi Katie: This is a very moving and unsettling post. The extent of the problem with male anorexics is something I don't think many of us think about. I read the sad story of Jeremy Gillitzer and then found this GQ article on other victims of this disease. The percentage of anorexics who are male--20% and growing really surprised me. You have done a very impressive job of bringing this issue to the forefront of our discussion of ideal body images. Thank you for sharing this story.--Ms. Riches

    1. Hello Jane, I agree male anorexic's don't usually "pop" into a persons mind when they think of anorexia victims but they definitely are a problem. Yes, that is an interesting statistic. When I was deciding on the facts to include in my blog I was debating on adding that fact! I think the picture of the Jeremy Gillitzer was worth 1,000 words and it makes a picture "pop" into my mind when I think of male anorexics. I hope the picture is also affecting you and that it will spread the awareness of male anorexics. If you are especially interested in males with these eating disorders I really recommend checking out these statistics for further information.
      Thank you so much!

  3. Hi Katie. This is a very well written and thoughtful post, and it deals with an issue that needs to be given more attention. It is hard to believe that this kind of self- destructive behavior is actually being encouraged. I'm glad, however, to see that this story is being shared and discussed.

    1. Hi Seahawks357, I am glad you share a common concern about this behavior. Thank you for commenting and expressing your interest! If you have any questions to ask, feel free. I would love to help clarify anything you might have not understood too. Judging from your username, I suspect you are a sports fan! If you would like to, take a look at this webpage. It explains eating disorders in athletes and how they need more recognition too.

  4. Hello Katie. This is a wonderfully written blog. You chose a very important and attention grabbing topic, that so many people can realate to. The facts about how only 1 in 10 people with a weight disorder is given treatment. I found it very interesting by how so many young girls have barbies and how that influences their mentality about their weight. What is going on through the minds of the people with anorexia? How can a bystander help those people? You did a wonderful job of making me feel for the victims of anorexia, and informing me that media is a major cause of women and men developing anorexia. Being afraid of ones weight and size is not something every young adult should worry about. Great job Katie this really made me realize how people with eating disorders have a odd idea of a so called "ideal body image."
    Thank you for sharing your opinion and facts about a topic I can tell you really care about.

    1. Dear Saffari, I am so glad you enjoyed my blog and thank you for the nice complements! The mind sets of anorexics are very different than a healthy person. Everything revolves around food. You constantly day dream about having a bite of something but you never do eat it. Instead, you look at the food and imagine the savory. You also make lots of food and are always insisting on others to eat it. Yet, you never take a bite yourself! I think I great way to help people with these disorders is support. They will hurt very badly both physically, and emotionally. An eating disorder is a lot like a drug. When I would step on the scale and see and very low number I would get this "high" and this feeling of worth. Sadly, with the highs also were the "lows," and when you are "low" all you want to do is die. This sounds harsh but I am speaking truthfully. If you would like to learn about more uncommon eating disorders I really recommend you to take a look at this website.
      Thank you!

  5. Wow, Katie! What a powerful and moving blog post. Reading it, I was especially surprised by how much of an effect the media has on all of us, but especially on those with anorexia or bulimia. It also made me wonder when a person "crosses the line" from dieting to having a serious eating disorder -- when is weight loss too much weight loss and when does it become unhealthy and a mental illness? I had no idea that websites exist just to encourage girls to lose more weight. WHY would anyone encourage others to be anorexic? I just don't understand that. What do you think about beauty pageants? Do you think they encourage eating disorders, too? I personally think they do because the require girls and young women to show off Barbie-doll-like bodies and to look a certain way, and are then they are judged by how they look. Thanks for this amazing blog post. I loved reading it and I learned a lot.

    1. Hi gvp2000! Thank you so much for commenting and showing an interest in my blog! To answer your questions, a person "crosses the line" with weight loss when they are losing more than 2lbs a week. Anything over 2lbs a week is unhealthy and puts your body in a starvation mode. A starvation mode is your metabolism shutting down because you are eating less than 1,000 calories. When you only eat that amount of energy your body can not function your brain and organs without eating muscle to stay conscious. It becomes a mental illness when you never feel good enough. A normal dieter says "I want to lose 16 lbs and then I will be more in shape and have more respect for my body." A anorexic says "I am going to drop 20lbs and then I will be perfect" the mental issue appears later, after the anorexic has lost those 20lbs they immediately have a new weight loss goal which never ends because you are never "good enough to stop." Honestly, the people that encourage others to have an eating disorder are either oblivious to the pain of the disorders or they want to put pity on someone else. I am concerned about beauty pageants. They seem to portray only one "ideal" image for the girls and if you don't win you are "not good enough." Personally, I have more of a concern about runway models though because they usually generate more eating disorder patients. I would really love for you to check out this quiz so you can be aware of an eating disorder before it takes over your life.

  6. Katie, this blog was really interesting to read! I knew about the simple definitions, but this blog really went in depth with more specifics, so nice job with all the facts! I was really surprised with many of the statistics in your video and it really caught my attention when it talked about how many younger girls were not comfortable with their body image/weight. I was also really surprised with the "10 Thin Commandments" and Ana-buddies, Mia-buddies. I was surprised that these organizations wanted to applaud people almost to a point of death, rather than trying to help the people out of their eating disorder. You also talked a little bit on shopping and this article talks about a girls personal experience while shopping.

  7. Katie, you have tackled such a complex and huge issue in a way that is compelling, engaging, and makes us really stop and think about the messages we are getting all around us. I wanted to share with you an article that was just posted yesterday from The Society Pages (sociologists and other social scientists are the authors) about body image. Troubling Bodies shares a lot of information that you have so thoroughly researched and laid out for us here. The second half of the piece takes a deeper look at pro-ana sites and what clinicians (and society at large) can learn from them. Our gut reaction is to see the images and gasp in horror at how "unhealthy" everything looks, an absolutely natural response. But the researchers urge us to look beyond that, and really dig into what you have pointed out as a larger societal problem of body shaming vs. health vs. acceptance. It's a good read! And it might help answer some of your reader's questions about why these sites exist.

    The average person does not have to be afflicted with an eating disorder to see the influence of our culture all around us. At times I feel like it's hard, actually impossible, to escape the influence of media messaging and really process how I feel about it, or how I may act on the subliminal messages I am receiving about what I should look like or what is attractive/healthy. Our relationship to our own bodies is a complex one, influenced by a great many things. And in this case, the researchers observed that even on pro-ana sites, the messages were not as obvious as people like to think.

    "We actually see that the participants on these sites have a variety of dispositions about their disorders. Some participants are very open saying that this is a disorder and they want to recover from it; others are very assertive in saying they see this as a lifestyle choice, that there’s nothing to recover from, that it’s not a disease. We see the same participant, the same person, posting along both of these lines, really teasing out the ambivalence…

    ...It’s actually some fairly complex feelings and thoughts and analysis being shared out there about eating disorders. If some of the goals our research is to really think about how we can address eating disorders as a social problem, then understanding that we aren’t dealing with a very cut-and-dried [issue]… is very important."

    You have opened a very important conversation for a lot of people. Thank you.


Our comments will be moderated, meaning someone will approve them before they appear. Please remember the authors are 9th graders, and have chosen a topic of interest to them to explore in more depth as it pertains to digital citizenship and media literacy.

Good comments
--are always related to the content of the post;
--consider the author and the purpose of the post;
--ask or answer a question;
--add meaningful information to the content topic;
--are constructively critical, and never hurtful;
--include personal connections to what the author wrote;
--follow the writing process.

We welcome your thoughtful contributions, especially those that might help us improve our work or expand our thinking on these topics.

If you choose the Anonymous option, please sign your name if comfortable. It is easier to respond to someone with a name. Thanks!