Photo courtesy of everythingchangesbooks.com

Photo courtesy of everythingchangesbooks.com

One of the big issues people start to think about in their teenage years is body image. You look at yourself in the mirror and start with your face.  You wonder whether or not you have a good nose, desirable bone structure, or if your eyes are too big or small.  Then you start to look at the rest of your body and wonder if you are too fat. You realize that you could lose a few pounds. This is where eating disorders start to come into play.

The most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.

Symptoms of anorexia are inadequate food intake leading to a weight that is clearly too low, intense fear of weight gain, obsession with weight, persistent behavior to prevent weight gain, and self-esteem loss that is overly related to body image.

Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa are frequent episodes of consuming very large amounts of food followed by behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting.  Psychological symptoms also include a feeling of being out of control during the binge-eating episodes, as well as self-esteem that is overly related to body image.

Ms. Ashley David, the counselor at The Gregory School, said,  “Body image concerns can be dangerous when an individual takes those concerns and begins restricting their eating, or engaging in binging and purging behaviors. Once an individual begins to engage in these risky behaviors the dangerous effects occur.”

People develop eating disorder for various reasons.  David said, “A person’s personality, environment, and way of thinking can all contribute to whether a person will develop an eating disorder.  An individual may have pressure from their family to be “perfect” or high achievers in several or all areas of their life. This need for perfection in school, sports, etc. can also apply to their body image.

Eating Disorders PollAnother reason some people develop and suffer from eating disorders is because, “A person may also suffer from a poor sense of self through things like bullying. This poor sense of self and negative self talk may cause a person to think very negatively of themselves, resulting in drastic measures to try to be thinner.”

I believe that the media plays a huge role in how both teenage girls and boys think about their body image.  For example if someone sees Gisele Bündchen or Tyson Beckford on the cover of a magazine, what are they supposed to think? Some people just look at the magazine cover and admire the models bodies, but others believe in order to be beautiful or attractive they have to be like those models.

According to to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) website, only one in ten men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. Of those that do receive treatment, only 35% get that treatment at a facility that specializes in eating disorders.

Eating disorders are also dangerous because the individual is harming their body.  Eating disorders usually have negative effects on the individual’s skin, hair, bowels, and heart.  Sometimes eating disorders can even be fatal.

A common misconception is that only women have eating disorders. According to ANAD, “an estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.”

David said of the gender disparity, “This may result in men having a harder time seeking help. Our society can also make men feel like they have to be strong, and acknowledging that one has an eating disorder and needs help may go against this.”

As a 17 teen year old I have never personally known of any guys that have eating disorders. But, I believe that if a guy has an eating disorder that guy should not be looked down upon or mocked. In a way I think it is harder for men to seek help because of society’s belief of how a man should be.  There are so many characteristics associated with being a male. One of the main ones is that males need to be both physically and mentally strong. But, eating disorders, like any epidemic, don’t discriminate against gender.