Dangers of Disordered Eating

Healthy conversations with children about disordered eating is crucial

With countless articles about social media’s negative impact on self-image issues, society has begun to see how it has contributed to a decline in general mental health and positive self-image. This is especially prevalent in teenagers. Yet why are we singling out this age group? Why don’t we look at adults or children? 

Yes, teens are most affected by social media since they’ve grown up with it, but young children have too. I’ve seen boys who barely look 10 years old go to the gym frequently and flex their “muscles,” but what’s concerning is their reaction to their reflection. They follow it with a sigh, showing their unhappiness with their image. 

Children being worried with their appearance over the newest toy that has been released is concerning. They shouldn’t be attempting to conform to toxic standards set by and for fully developed adults. 

Beauty standards have been around forever, and in the U.S., they typically revolve around women being deathly skinny and men being overly masculine. Dating back to post-World War II, the standard for women was that hourglass shape that has reemerged in the past years. 

The Kardashians promoted this hard-to-obtain body through various products such as shapewear and weight loss pills, which are harmful and ineffective. On average, a child watches five hours of TV per day and spends about six to seven hours viewing various media. People like the Kardashians are prominent on social media and their content is easily accessible for children. To a young person, this body type might be viewed as normal, but due to social media’s superficiality, they don’t see the grueling process behind it. 

While it’s impossible to regulate how people portray themselves online, it’s important to expose the facades people put up regarding their personalities and appearances so children aren’t as affected. On top of this, many “influencers” are paid by companies to promote their products, including dieting programs and other health items. 

These people possibly push themselves to conform to these parameters set by their employer. While children don’t have the time and income to put toward their appearances, they sacrifice their own health to achieve quick results since they can’t see the time and effort that goes into healthily obtaining a certain look. 

Parents also fuel this desire to obtain the unattainable, usually seen through seemingly small remarks which aren’t necessarily so tiny. Comments such as, “There they go for seconds,” or “Wow, you’re really eating all that alone?” are harmful to a person who is growing up. They take that to heart and might subconsciously start eating less and less, to the point where an eating disorder forms. 

Not eating isn’t the only sign of a possible eating disorder, multiple epidemiological studies have estimated that 1% to 5% of adolescent girls meet the criteria for bulimia. The percentages may seem small at first glance, but when looked at relative to population, it’s concerning. This, coupled with excessive exercise, is extremely dangerous for one’s body, but especially in children these signs may be thrown to the side due to their age. People see these disorders forming and equate it to depression or just a “bad day,” but by discrediting their experience, they won’t be as inclined to have healthy conversation surrounding the topic. 

By acknowledging the self-image issues within a younger age range, we can open up a conversation about it and aid those who are struggling. They shouldn’t feel as though their problems are nonexistent because of the generation they’re associated with. 

Unfortunately, beauty standards aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Through sharing struggles we can gradually move toward a society where no one feels like they need to become another person but instead who they want to be.