Disordered Eating and a Solution
A Plea for an Open Mind and Heart in Finding a Resolution
Imagine you’re sitting in front of a mirror with a laptop in hand and a tempting bowl of your favorite snack in the other. In one hand your laptop is telling you why you should not eat that snack and on the other hand you’re starving and crave the snack so badly. This is what many girls and boys face in their daily lives, contemplating whether or not they should eat for the sake of a thin body, or perhaps even control. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, with suicide being the second leading cause of death. In addition to frank suicide attempts (some of which are premeditated and some of which are impulsive), many individuals with eating disorders engage in other intentional forms of self-injury, especially those individuals with purging symptomatology. (2) The censorship of pro anorexia and pro bulimia websites and chat rooms could provide a safer environment for those in recovery and those susceptible to eating disorders.
Eating disorders are caused either by the environment or the need to control one’s life. Individuals with anorexia nervosa perceive both external (family environment) and personal factors (dieting and stress) as contributory to their disorders. The results underscore the importance of interpersonal factors in recovery from anorexia nervosa and suggest that attention to this area in treatment may be beneficial. (2) Those with eating disorders sometimes feel they are pressured by loved ones to fit into their mold of beauty, but this obsession with beauty turns into something more vicious. While the pressure of family is a large contributing factor, it is not the main one. Control over ones’ life is a definite way that someone susceptible to eating disorders will gain one. In a world where everything is fast and constantly moving, someone may feel left behind and like their life is spiraling out of control. The only way to regain some control and confidence within themselves is to either control their eating habits or cause bodily harm to themselves.
To get you to understand exactly how mind consuming these disorders are, let’s imagine what someone who deals with an eating disorders’ day is like. They wake up and remove all of their clothing after using the restroom in order to ensure they are their lowest weight possible. They then get on the scale, and depending on the number, go about their day meticulously. Food and their meals are a constant thought in mind as they go throughout their day. They count out their day’s calories and other intakes such as salt, sugar, and carbs. Typically, they would also exercise for at least an hour a day with cardio. Some people with eating disorders may even take weight loss pills and laxatives. Those with bulimia may or may not binge and purge depending on the outcome of their scale number. If people with eating disorders do not see what they want on a scale or in measurements, they will retaliate in one way or another. Ultimately leading up to some form of self-harm, be it purging, cutting, burning, hitting, and/or starving. For people with eating disorders, their entire lives revolve around food and counting numbers.
So, what can we do to stop this or put preventable measures in place? First of all, the internet should be censored from pro anorexia and pro bulimia websites. These websites are a feeding ground for disease to develop and weave itself into a person’s psyche. Four themes were identified: (1) tips and techniques; (2) ‘ana’ v. anorexia nervosa; (3) social support; and (4) need for anorexia. Findings suggest participation was multi-purpose, providing a coping function in relation to weight loss, and the contribution of sites to increased levels of eating disorders is not inevitable. (1) Getting help in itself is a difficult task. When you add temptations into the mix, you get relapse in return and a miserable person. There are some other solutions to this problem, like censoring media, removing scales from those struggling with eating disorders, therapy, and even mental institutions. But, most of these solutions take place when someone is already struggling with their eating disorder. Why attack the problem in the midst of it when you can prevent it all together?
The reason censoring pro anorexia and pro bulimia websites could help the issue is that people will not have a place to turn to to aggravate and feed into their eating disorders. If these websites were not around then young people won’t have access to learning about what an eating disorder is in order to help them with their unrealistic goals. Pro anorexia and pro bulimia websites also show graphic images of people with unhealthily thin bodies. These websites are a huge enabler and therefore need to be censored. This study focuses on the narratives of women who participate in “pro-ana” sites using Lyng’s (Am J Sociol 95:851–886, 1990) concept of edge work. Results indicate that women struggle with feelings of loss of control and through various skills are able to resume control. These data point to the intense emotive reactions fasting elicits, reactions which both reinforce and provide motivation to remain in the subculture.(4)
The reason why censoring pro anorexia and pro bulimia websites is more feasible than putting those with eating disorders into a mental hospital or therapy is because putting a large amount of people diagnosed with these eating disorders into them would be extremely difficult and just not plausible. It’d be a lot less troublesome attacking the problem before an eating disorder forms. So, in censoring these websites, you could potentially save a young person’s fragile and impressionable mind.
The downfalls of some other possible solutions would be drastic. If you took away an anorexic’s scale or food scale, they would compensate for not knowing how much they weigh by eating even less or not at all. Forcing someone with a mental disorder or illness into a hospital or therapy could cause a drastic backlash. Those who do not wish to get better, will not get better even if forced or given an ultimatum. Really, how effective would these “solutions” be when put into place? Quite frankly, it’d probably cause more ill effects than not. So, censoring pro anorexia and pro bulimia websites, forums, and chat rooms is the best way to go about this.
If people do not act in attempting to censor these websites, more and more people will become ill with these eating disorders and the fatality rate will continue to skyrocket. Disordered eating can be prevented and should be, no matter the case. Imagine you’re an alcoholic or smoker who is attempting to quit but are constantly faced with your temptations. Will you have the strength and determination to turn away these temptations, day in and day out? No human is perfect and so expecting someone with a mental disorder or eating disorder to resist their temptation while in recovery is inhumane.
While we can still prevent these disorders from interweaving itself into someones’ psyche; action needs to take place. All it takes to help someone in recovery or to prevent someone from forming an eating disorder is to block all imagery and text glorifying these horrible and life-consuming illnesses. It’s astounding what one plausible action could do to help many who are in need.
- Hepworth, Julie, and Ruaidhri Mulveen. "An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Participation in a Pro-anorexia Internet Site and Its Relationship with Disordered Eating." Journal of Health Psychology. N.p., 1 Mar. 2006. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
- Lisa Rachelle Riso Lilenfeld (3). "Suicidal Behavior in Eating Disorders." Springer. Springer International Publishing, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
- Tozzi, Federica, Patrick F. Sullivan, Jennifer L. Fear, Jan McKenzie, and Cynthia M. Bulik. "Causes and recovery in anorexia nervosa: The patient's perspective." International Journal of Eating Disorders. Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company, 25 Feb. 2003. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
- Gailey, Jeannine A. "“Starving Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have”: The Pro-Ana Subculture as Edgework." SpringerLink. Springer Netherlands, 25 Mar. 2009. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.