The Effects on our Children

We live in a world where media dictates how we should look and act according to our gender and we learn this from a young age.

Male vs. Female [23] 

Unless Things Change [24]

Women and Men [25] 

Boys learn that they should: be strong, powerful, muscular, loud, active, like dark colors such as blue or red, work outside the home, not do any housework unless it involves tools and building or fixing. Women learn that they should: be weak, fragile, soft, skinny, obey men, like colors such as pink or purple, stay at home to raise the children and do the cooking and cleaning. People who deviate in the slightest from this norm are outcasts, deviants who must be taught to conform. This puts incredible strain on anyone of any age. We can see the effects these standards have on our children by looking at the disorders they develop.

“About 0.5 percent of girls suffer from anorexia” and “up to 5 percent have bulimia” [26]. Anorexia is when a person refuses to eat over a long period of time in order to loose massive amounts of fat. This is very dangerous as you may imagine as many teenagers engage in these activities at a critical time in their lives. Teenagers need incredible amounts of food because they are growing at an alarming rate. A person who is anorexic may not notice the harm they are doing to their bodies; in their minds, they just want to be skinny, even though they might already be so.

The results of someone suffering from anorexia do not only consist of weight loss. Other effects include thinning hair, loss of strength, bones becoming fragile and brittle, impeded memory and thought processes, extreme mood swings, dry and yellowing skin, brittle nails, constipation, bloating, tooth decay, gum damage, dizziness, fainting, headaches and the growth of fine hair all over the body and face to replace the missing layer of fat that maintains our body temperature [27]. Anorexia also causes girls’ periods to cease as well as other hormonal damages [27]. 

 

Effects of Anorexia on women [27]

Bulimia is quite different from anorexia and it is not always obvious that a person has this disease as these people are of average weight and sometimes even overweight. A person suffering from Bulimia will binge eat and then try to avoid gaining weight through any means necessary such as laxatives or vomiting. The effects of this disease differ from those of anorexia. A person suffering from bulimia may experience weight gain, abdominal pain, bloating, swollen hands, feet, cheeks and salivary glands, chronic sore throat, hoarseness, broken blood vessels in the eyes, weakness, dizziness, tooth decay, mouth sores, acid reflux, ulcers, ruptured stomach or esophagus, loss of menstrual periods, and chronic constipation from excessive laxative use [28].

Effects of Bulimia on Women [28]

All the images of skinny actresses and muscular actors we see in the media puts incredible strain to live up to those standards on all people especially children and teens because they are the most vulnerable to these kinds of images. The teenage years are very troubling for most. It is a time when fitting in is all they want to do; when they do not, they feel the pressure to do whatever they can to conform.

Research has show that the number of eating disorders in the United-States has doubled since the 1960′s [26]. These eating disorders do not only include bulimia and anorexia, other eating disorders such as excessive dieting and the extreme use of laxatives in order to loose weight are also included in this category. According to research, the age at which children are diagnosed with an eating disorder is incredibly low [26]. In 1978, according to psychologist Hilde Bruch, anorexia was so widespread that it was becoming an issue in “most” higher education facilities across America [29]. Not only is this a true problem in all colleges and universities today, it is also a major problem in high schools and is growing in elementary schools as well.

“A study based on clinical research in the 1970s showed that Anorexia Nervosa is a disease related to the culture we live in. This means that the disease is most common in the Western world [29]

We can clearly see the effects society’s focus on the media and being “thin” has on our children by looking at their behavior and their eating habits.

“Recent studies have shown that 42 percent of first-, second- and third-grade girls want to be thinner; that 40 percent of almost 500 fourth-graders surveyed said they diet “very often” or “sometimes”; and that 46 percent of 9-year-olds and 81 percent of 10-year-olds admit to dieting, binge eating or fear of getting fat, according to the Harvard Eating Disorders Center in Boston.” [26]

These behaviors are not things that children have dreamed up on their own, these are learned behaviors. Children see their parents diet or workout, sometimes excessively and learn by copying them [26]. Also, seemingly harmless things lying around the house have equally detrimental effects. For instance, magazines showing women who intend to go on diets to loose 20, 30, or 40 pounds and really do not need to.

Jessica Simpson [30]

Male Fitness  [30]

The previous two pictures are examples of what children and teens see on a daily basis. The first, a magazine with Jessica Simpson claiming she will loose 20 pounds in two months. If we assume this picture has not been altered much we can see that she clearly does not need to loose any weight as she appears to be at a healthy, average weight. The second, a highly unrealistic photograph of a body builder advertising a “fat burning plan” and showing off his muscles so young men who see this can aspire to be like him. This is highly unrealistic as this man most likely took some sort of performance enhancer to look like this and has trained for years. In addition, I do not believe it is at all possible to have such naturally bulging veins on one’s arms; these had to have either been enhanced with supplements or with photoshop.

So what is the solution to all of this?

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