How does image affect the way we eat?

Namrata Sridhar, Story Ideas Manager

Magazines, TV shows and advertisements are constantly bombarding students through mediums like social media. However, many times these ideas can create a negative image on the mentality of students. The media’s promotion of perfection and an idealized version beauty has brought on mental illnesses such as eating disorders.

Anorexia is the third most prevalent chronic illness among teens, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). 43 percent of students from the ages of 16 to 20.6. have an eating disorder. Another survey from the same organization showed that approximately 86 percent of students had an eating disorder by the age of 20.

People can be misguided as the issue pertains to understanding eating disorders said social worker Thomas Edwards, The result can be placing blame on the individuals, which can be very wrong and inaccurate.

According to ANAD, only five percent of the American population has the ideal body image which is depicted in media. This constant path to the societal view of perfection has prompted 47 percent of students from 5th to 12th grade to lose weight to look like a model they see on advertisements. Also, approximately 69 percent of 5th to 12th graders were influenced by the ideal body shape image from a magazine.

“In American culture there can be an implied pressure out there to be perfect, even though that doesn’t exist.” Edwards said. “We need to help teens learn to embrace themselves as they are.”

In order to support teens coping with any problems they have, Megan Rivkin ’16, Angela Kotsonis ’17, Jordan Radis ’17 and Emily Wynn ’15 created the club Reflections. As the president, Rivkin has worked hard to make the club’s focus on self esteem and body image issues.

Reflections originally began as a club modeled after a club with the same name in Washington University in St. Louis that focuses on eating disorders. Since its creation, Rivkin and the other club members have branched out into several other issues of a similar nature as well.

Reflections centers around guest speakers, videos or movies that promote a higher self esteem in order to draw away from negative societal standards.

However, the media does not always have negative consequences on the lives of teenagers, psychotherapist Ina Beller said. Over the past 20 years, it seems as though commercials have become more about real women and real curves. As of recently, these commercials have began to promote healthier images over the unattainable perfection.

The environment teens grow up in can play a large role in what teens understand and believe, Edwards mentioned. Some ideas, like portrayals from media can act as catalysts for eating disorders, Beller said.

“People are born comfortable in their own skin but society and [ways of being] nurture[d] are changing that idea,” Wynn said.

According to Edwards and Beller, the most important thing for students who suffer from eating disorders is to get help. At Stevenson, support is always available through social workers or any member of a child’s Student Support Team, Edwards said.

“People need people, and no one should have to carry the burden of the world on their shoulders,” Edwards said. “So that is why we are here to help.”