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Preventing Negative Body Image and Eating Disorders

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1 Preventing Negative Body Image and Eating Disorders
We live in a society that is extremely pre-occupied by body image where we are bombarded everyday about how we should look, how we should dress, how we should act. We hope that if we understand more about how to resist some of these pressures, we can feel better about our bodies and can all work together to promote a healthier social environment that can decrease at least some of the risk factors that can lead to problems like eating disorders.

2 Facts and Figures 75% of American women are dissatisfied with their weight. So are 41% of American men. Amongst American high school students, 44% of the females and 15% of the males were attempting to lose weight, and 28% of the males were attempting to gain weight by building muscles 50% of American women are on a diet at any one time Between 90% and 99% of fat reducing diets fail to produce permanent weight loss 2/3 of dieters will regain the weight within a year. Virtually all will regain it within five years

3 What are Eating Disorders?
There are three main types of eating disorders: Bulimia Anorexia Binge Eating

4 Major Characteristics of Bulimia Nervosa
Frequent episodes of “BINGE-EATING A rapid and sometimes automatic consumption of food in a discrete period of time A feeling of LACK OF CONTROL Powerlessness felt during the binge, often followed by an anxiety about anticipated weight gain and mood swings Recurrent “PURGING Attempts to undo the effect of the binge by dangerous methods like self-induced vomiting, diet pills, excessive exercise, and/or laxatives or diuretics Frequent, intense, and DISTORTED CONCERNS ABOUT SHAPE AND WEIGHT Including: a conviction that body shape and weight are crucial factors determining self-esteem, and a strong drive for thinness and a fear of fat.

5 Warning Signs of Bulimia Nervosa
The chances of recovery increase the earlier Bulimia is detected. Therefore it is important to be aware of some of the warning signs--you could be in the position to really help someone! Possible evidence of BINGE-EATING: Appears to eat large amounts of food (esp. high calorie food) without gaining weight Large amounts of food purchased or shop-lifted Evidence of SELF-INDUCED VOMITING: Catching the person in the act Leaves the table immediately after eating and goes to the bathroom. Glands under the jaw are swollen. Evidence of PURGING: Enthusiastic discussion of ways to eat a lot without gaining any weight. Possession of large amounts of laxatives or diuretics Unexplainable paleness and complaints of dizziness Unexplainable muscle cramps, or heart and kidney problems that are unusual for teenagers

6 Unhealthy body image can start at an early age.

7 ANOREXIA NERVOSA Major characteristics might include:
Extreme and irrational fear of becoming fat Strong determination to become increasingly thinner Significant weight loss Distorted perception of body shape Difficulty in accurately interpreting and managing hunger and other internal impulses like anger Abnormal hormonal functioning In females: absence of 3 or more menstrual cycles In males: significant lowering of sexual function and desire (due to lowered levels of testosterone)

8 BINGE EATING DISORDER Several primary symptoms:
Frequent episodes of of eating large quanitties of food in short periods of time often secretly, without regard to feelings of “hunger” or “fullness” Feeling of being “out of control” during binges Eating food rapidly without really tasting it Eating alone Feelings of shame, disgust, or guilt after a binge

9 Causes of Binge Eating:
Research is still being done on binge-eating disorder, but doctors estimate that about 25% of obese individuals suffer from frequent episodes of binge eating. More and more research shows that a chemical imbalance in the eating centers of the brain may be responsible. Contrary to popular belief, this is NOT an issue of will power. People suffering from binge-eating disorder can be either average or above average weight. Binge-eaters often express distress, shame, and guilt over their eating disorder. Many have a history of depression.

10 What Causes Eating Disorders?

11 Some factors might include:
Social Factors Cultural pressures that glorify “thinness” and place value on obtaining the “perfect body” Narrow definitions of beauty that include only women and men of specific body types and weights Cultural norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strengths Psychological Factors Low self-esteem Feelings of inadequacy or lack of control in life Depression, anxiety, anger, or loneliness Interpersonal Factors Troubled family or personal relationships Difficulty expressing emotions or feelings History of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight History of physical or self-abuse Biological Factors Scientists are still researching possible biochemical and biological causes of eating disorders. In some individuals with eating disorders, certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite, and digestion have been found to be imbalanced. The exact meaning and implications of these imbalances remains under investigation.

12 Male Body Image Eating Disorders are not just problems for women

13 Impossible Ideals Men must be: lean muscular broad shouldered
narrow through waist and hips Men are under growing pressure to conform to impossible body standards. The body proportions set out by the artificial ideal are as impossible to meet as the “Barbie standards” set for women. Because of this societal pressure, we are seeing a growing number of men who are unhappy with their bodies. 41% of all males in the US report being dissatisfied with their weight. Many of these men would like to lose weight but a significant portion of them would like to gain muscle.

14 Prevention: Working Together
Males need to be part of the prevention effort They can help to change societal ideals and minimize the pressures to conform to impossible weight ideals, not only for themselves but also for women.

15 Societal Weight Prejudice (“Weightism”)
Thin is good, beautiful, moral, powerful Fat is ugly, lazy, sloppy, morally weak, undesirable Style, impression, and image > substance and character Your appearance (weight, shape) is the most important thing about you There is a strong social message that somehow thin is good and fat is bad. We are taught to judge a person’s character by how they look physically. In Western cultures, slenderness is a criterion for attractiveness, success, control, and “being good.” This is particularly true for women. Muscular bodies are criteria for strong, mature, and capable men. Fat and overweight people are judged as ugly, a failure, out of control, lazy, and responsible for their own badness. These irrational judgments are a form of prejudice and discrimination, just as racism and bigotry are. The prejudice against fat and toward thinness is called weightism and is an unfair and sad aspect of our culture.

16 An important part of an individual’s self-concept is “body image.”
Visual Component: How you “see” yourself when you look in the mirror With poor body image, you might have a distorted, unrealistic perception of your shape. You might perceive parts of your body as larger or smaller than they actually are Mental Component: What you believe and think about your appearance. With poor body image, you might believe yourself to be ugly or unattractive because you are convinced that only certain types of features are attractive. Or you believe that what you like is irrelevant, and all that matters are the characteristics of which others approve. Emotional Component: How you feel about your body, including your height, weight, and shape. With poor body image, the combination of your distorted perceptions and your self-rejecting ideals leads you to feel ashamed, self-conscious, and anxious about your body. Kinesthetic Component: How you feel in your body, not just about your body. With poor body image, you might not feel comfortable in your body. You do not express yourself with and through your body, for example in sports or dance.

17 ROLE OF THE MEDIA One thing we can learn to do is fight the messages sent to us by the media industry… …Media messages like advertising and celebrity spotlights more and more are defining what is beautiful and what is “good.” If we buy into their unrealistic ideals, we give the media great power over our self-esteem and body image. A study of 4,294 network television commercials revealed that 1 out of every 3.8 commercials send some sort of “attractiveness” message, telling viewers what is or is not attractive. These researchers estimate that the average adolescent sees over 5,260 “attractiveness” messages per year. Often the goal of these messages is to make you viewers feel inadequate so that they will buy products to “fix” their “problems.”

Don’t look at body magazines, look at REAL women. Athletics: Focus on what your body can do rather than how it looks. Fight weightism. It’s a form of bigotry, intolerance, prejudice and is socially unjust. Develop perspective. What really matters? It’s not just about looks. TIPS FOR BECOMING CRITICAL VIEWERS OF THE MEDIA Advertisers create their message based on what they think you will want to see and what they think will affect you and compel you to buy this product. Just because they think their approach will work with people like you doesn’t mean it has to work with you as an individual.


A job for everyone… Every student can play a role in prevention. We all can help promote an environment which is respectful and resists social pressures to be thin. Prevention and treatment are not “just a female issue” or a “youth issue”—they are a community issue that involves boys and men, as well as girls and women, in many ways.

21 What To Say to a Friend Set a time to talk privately where you won’t be interrupted Avoid placing shame, blame or guilt Avoid giving simple solutions. Express your continued support and let them know you care about them. This is the most important thing you can do. Then be patient. It takes time, it isn’t easy. You are not trying to “cure them”. You are helping them through difficult times, being a true friend in a time of need.

22 What to Do: Step-by-Step

23 1. Be sensitive to shame...It can look like defensiveness and denial.
WHAT TO DO: STEP BY STEP 1. Be sensitive to shame...It can look like defensiveness and denial. 2. Focus on emotions, stress, isolation…not on appearance and weight. They already worry too much about both. 3. Focus on what is going on for your friend emotionally. Express your concerns using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. “I am worried about you.” “Is there anything I can do to help you?” “I don’t like it when we act as if nothing is wrong, because my sense is that something is very wrong.” 4. Avoid lecturing about the medical dangers of eating disorders. It will likely backfire. 5. One conversation is rarely enough. Repeated connection and nonjudgmental listening is usually needed for a person to feel safe enough to actually talk about what is going on and then do something about it. Encourage your friends to get help, but don’t force them.

24 Loving Supportive Friends Always Help

25 Some “DO’s” in Reaching Out
Speak to the person in private Tell them what specifically has made you concerned Tell them how you feel Let them have time to respond Listen carefully and nonjudgementally

26 Some “DON’Ts” in Reaching Out
Don’t speak to an adult with out speaking to the person whom you’re concerned about Don’t give advice about appearance Don’t confront the person with a group of people Don’t diagnose Don’t get into an argument Don’t be judgmental

27 Resources Private Practitioners Web Sites
Free Community Eating Disorders Support Group Books Handout and in your handbook for private clinicians Teachers, Counselors, School Nurse Overeater’s Anonymous

28 Conclusions Margaret Mead
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

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