The Obsessive Pursuit of "Thinness":
The Role of American Culture in Eating Disorders
During the last decade, the devastating impact of eating disorders has captured the attention of the public. Manifested primarily in the forms of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, eating disorders affect considerably more women then men. The susceptibility of women to eating disorders stems from media images and social expectations that women focus on their physical appearance. Bombarded unremittingly by thin glamorous women in the media, women who conform to society's values go on a punishing treadmill to push themselves to achieve these unreasonable standards of beauty. Therefore, apart from addressing individuals who suffer from eating disorders, it is essential for American society to recognize its role in contributing to the prevalence of eating disorders. Professionals, educators and parents need to turn the focus away from the pursuit of beauty to the emphasis on a healthy lifestyle. The aim of this paper is to provide a comprehensive overview of eating disorders in American society. The paper will also include a discussion of various causes and solutions of eating disorders.
Eating disorders manifest themselves in different ways, depending on the specific types. However, individuals suffering from eating disorders do share common characteristics. They are unable to keep up a normal weight that corresponds with their age and height. Regardless of their actual weight, these individuals are trapped in an obsessive fear about gaining weight. Their identity and self-image are determined by their perception of their body size and shape. They engage in disordered eating habits such as binge eating or purging food. They may also use laxatives, diuretics or enemas. Women may also suffer from amenorrhea--an inability to have periods without being given doses of estrogen (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed...