Events like the recent Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim 2014 bring together models, designers, and others in the fashion industry to meet and socialize. These events also have the potential to put too much emphasis on physical beauty and cause young women to idolize the stick-thin models. Many people in recent years have become concerned about the connection between the focus on fashion in our country and eating disorders among young women.
For decades it has been evident that clothing models are more successful if they are thin. Slender models are featured in most magazines, ads, and commercials. While our society may prefer to look at models who are thin, this body type is nowhere near the normal American female’s body. The average woman in America is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 117 pounds, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Many young women (and men) see the thin models in publications and observe the pictures of the rich and famous models at Fashion Week, and they want to look like that. The result is a struggle with body image as the person tries to look like those they emulate. When a young woman focuses too much on physical beauty and the way she and others look, she can quickly become dissatisfied with her weight and try desperately to control it, which can quickly lead to an eating disorder.
Causes of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are caused by a variety of factors. Some individuals who suffer with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses are more prone to having an eating disorder. Individuals that are hard working, perfectionists, motivated, and willing to push themselves to achieve a goal are at greater risk to develop an eating disorder. Still other people who have been abused or who suffered trauma in their past will turn to an eating disorder to establish some control in their lives.
A final, underlying factor that causes eating disorders is the cultural influence to be thin that is present in today’s society. There is a great amount of pressure from a variety of sources on young women to be slender. When a young person who is already insecure about her body sees the emphasis that is placed on fit bodies, she wrongly assumes she will be happier if she is thinner. In reality, a woman’s personality, her feelings, and her self-confidence are much more important than her dress size.
Treatment for Eating Disorders
The prevalence of eating disorders is increasing as more and more young people are feeling pressured to be thin. Fortunately, there is treatment for eating disorders, and
with the right kind of help, individuals can recover. Much like an addiction to drugs or alcohol, an eating disorder must be healed through therapy and counseling. Those in recovery work through and heal the underlying issues causing the disorder, and develop tools that enable them to live without the disorder after treatment.
The best treatment is prevention, and it will be necessary for organizations to begin working together to end our country’s obsession over fashion and physical attractiveness. Parents of young teens need to help their child develop a positive self-image and encourage them to place value in things other than outward beauty.
Bethany Winkle is a freelance writer who specializes in drug and alcohol addiction and behavioral health disorders.