Eating disorders affect people all around us, we just might not notice it.
Take a minutes to fill out this google form in order to see how much knowledge you have on this topic:
Eating disorders can affect people in a multitude of different ways, so it is important that we learn about those differences and value the hardships of people struggling with them. My goal with this project is to bring awareness to eating disorders and hopefully educate more people on their significance. People’s efforts in recognizing when someone may be struggling with an eating disorder can start small. Showing empathy and kindness to those around you and making sure you are not using harmful language can go a long way when interacting with someone who may be struggling. This topic is close to my heart because I have seen people in my community struggle with their body image and sometimes develop eating disorders as a result. I have always felt terrible that I was unable to help them through their pain, so my goal is to educate people on the warning signs, prevention methods, and treatment methods for eating disorders so our society’s acceptance of mental health can grow.
There are many ways one can do their best to prevent a loved one from developing an eating disorder. Here are some of the most accessible and helpful methods:
- Support healthy body image representation in media
- Educate people on the dangers of dieting
- Encourage healthy and safe eating
- Advocate that achievements should not be based on weight or appearance
Educating teenagers in school as well as family members of someone with an eating disorder is a crucial step in bringing awareness to it. The reasons why people develop eating disorders can be confusing because they are different for everyone, but it is still important for people to understand the warning signs. It is especially important for children to learn about eating disorders in school because they might not have access to that resource elsewhere. Those students also may recognize their own experiences while learning and be encouraged to seek help or talk to a trusted adult.
Some of the key concepts people learning about eating disorders should know:
- Causes: Eating disorders can be caused by a range of factors such as genetics, social surrounding, and psychological factors. One’s social surroundings can influence their eating habits and behavior as well as their genetics.
- Symptoms/Warning Signs: low self-esteem, binge eating (present in bulimia), extreme dieting, dramatic weight-loss, dehydration, and starvation.
- How to Support Someone: Show empathy by listening to them, support them by reinforcing the idea that there is no “ideal body” and that one’s self worth should not be defined by that, or refer them to a medical professional.
(image description: Lindsay Dodgsen did an experiment where she had different influencers edit her pictures to show how altered social media images are)
The younger generation interacts with social media on a daily basis, and the majority of those interactions can be self-deprecating. Women often compare their bodies to other women on their feed and believe that they are seeing the “ideal body” because of what society tells them. This harmful behavior also effects men. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “Pressure from mass media to be muscular also appears to be related to body dissatisfaction among men.” Social media is an issue that effects almost every teenager, so through this project I wanted to find ways to use social media in a way that is beneficial for one’s mental health.
Some important things to remember when engaging with social media are:
- Advertisements and posts have more than likely been carefully edited to look “perfect” and do not reflect reality.
- What society defines as “beautiful” does not define your individual self-worth.
- Advertisements are created to be convincing and compel you to buy their products, so their images will often look altered to look a certain way.
- You are only seeing the final product of a post or advertisement, not the original and natural photo.
How to use social media in a positive way:
- Use media that makes you feel confident rather than discouraged.
- When you see a post that could affect your mindset negatively, ask yourself, “Is this image edited to look a certain way?” and “Is this post sending a positive message about body image?”
- Use your own account to spread body positivity by sharing new information on the topic or celebrating people who use their account to influence others on the importance of body positivity.
My current response to this question is that we can spread awareness by teaching people how they are caused and what they can do to prevent them. Social media fosters a negative space where teenagers are constantly comparing themselves to people online. So, I think it would help to make social media a space where people can appreciate their differences by increasing the number of body positivity accounts and creating more transparency with altered or edited images. My goal is for my research to reach people who do not know a lot about eating disorders. In order to raise awareness for eating disorders, people must be educated on the proper ways to help someone who is struggling with one. I hope that I can share my research with my peers and classmates in my community in order to educate them on this topic.
Feel free to respond to any of these questions in the comments:
- What is something new you learned from this presentation?
- What did you find to be the most important takeaway?
- Have you noticed any of the aspects of eating disorders in your own community?