Eating disorders in this country are on the fast rise, especially for young, vulnerable women and many people are rightfully giving some of the blame to the media. The media’s narrow depiction of beauty may have something to do with that. Women have been shown images of ideal beauty from the media for many years. The media teaches women that these beauty ideals are the only acceptable way to look, so women of a healthy weight might be prone to say things like “ I look fat in this outfit” or “ I hate my love handles” just because they do not resemble the stick thin models in the media. According to a study done in the Adolescent Medicine journal, “Historically, there has been an association between advertising and disordered body image and disordered eating. Interestingly, as advertisements for diet-food products increased on television between 1973 and 1991, a rise in eating disorders occurred as well. Similarly, studies have revealed that the increase in thin models and actresses from 1910 to 1930 and 1950 to 1980 was accompanied by an increase in disordered eating”(Hogan and Strasburger 2008).
Young girls are extremely influenced by their mothers and the negative things that they say about themselves will make their daughters feel like they should not like the way that they look either. According to the National Eating Disorders website, eating disorders can potentially be prevented “by spreading awareness, modeling healthy self-esteem, and demonstrating media literacy”. This prevention starts with mothers because they are often times the most influential person in a young woman’s life.
If a daughter constantly hears her mother saying “my face is so wrinkly” or “I can’t wear this dress because I need to lose weight” then she is more likely to develop this negative body talk and see herself as less beautiful. Moms need to speak more positively about themselves and their features so that daughters are more likely to inherit this positive body talk and potentially prevent future self-esteem issues or an eating disorder. Another thing that mothers can do to help prevent eating disorders or even self-esteem issues in their daughters is to be media literate and teach that to their daughters. If a mother knows that the media’s representation of beauty is very narrow and only represents a small portion of the female population then she can help her daughter to see the same thing. If moms watch a commercial, for example, with their daughter that has a very thin, tall model, she can let her daughter know that this model has genetics that make her have that body type and only a small portion of women have those genes. The less represented, average female body type is just as beautiful as those thin models that are represented constantly. Media literacy also now has to be taught with social media. Young women are now seeing Instagram models that are seemingly normal girls and wonder why they don’t look like that since the model is “normal” and only famous because of how naturally pretty she is on social media. Mothers have a responsibility to ensure that these young women know that those images are oftentimes photo-shopped and edited and 100 pictures were taken before the right one was picked. If mothers know how to protect their daughters from the narrow minded beauty ideals of society, then they might be able to help slow down the epidemic of eating disorders among young women.
For anyone who is passionate about protecting our society’s women and preventing eating disorders among them, here is the link to get involved with The National Eating Disorder Awareness Organization. They work to help people recover from eating disorders and make people feel beautiful in their own skin. National Eating Disorders Awareness