Digitally altered photos need disclaimer, warp our perception of beauty, and lower self-esteem
I am a statistic. I am one of the estimated 10 million girls who suffered from anorexia last year.
I never had an issue with my weight until I hit high school. At that point, the pressures of the media and my peers started to affect me. I battled with minor episodes of anorexia as an underclassman, but they were easy come easy go.
Then in February I passed out in my basement after going two days without eating. Leading up to that I had lost twelve pounds in four weeks, mostly by only eating 700 calories a day and exercising at least thirty minutes a day. After coming to on the basement carpet, I realized the magnitude of the damage I was inflicting on my body. I realized I needed to stop killing myself just to try to look like the girls in the magazines.
My story is similar to millions of others around the world who think the only way to be happy is to feel their rib cage jutting out of their skin. Eating disorders have been around since man has been in existence, as has the perception of beauty, though this concept has evolved with man.
Twenty years ago the average model weighed eight percent less than the average American woman while today there is a 23 percent difference between the two.
Of course thereâÄôs the old adage âÄúbeauty is in the eye of the beholder,âÄù but a 2009 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey found that 70 percent of girls define beauty by the images in magazines and advertisements. The increasing skinniness of models and increasing amount of images weâÄôre subjected to each day (400-600 images) is causing serious negative affects among AmericaâÄôs youth. Rates of anorexia and bulimia among young children (8-11 year olds) are rising.
The news always talks about childhood obesity becoming a crisis, but attention needs to start being given to the other extreme eating disorders. It seems like if your death is due to heart failure from clogged arteries rather than exhaustion and malnutrition youâÄôre more important.
It took me almost killing myself to realize the magnitude of what I was doing to myself.
Other girls arenâÄôt so lucky. The number of anorexia-related deaths is 12 times higher than any other cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old women.
You canâÄôt just pass my behavior and the behavior of other anorexia sufferers on poor parenting or education.
I have no doubt that if my parents knew what I was doing they would have intervened. But being a busy high school student itâÄôs easy to hide certain habits, like eating.
As for education, I took health sophomore year and all I got out of it was anorexia is safer than bulimia. This problem is larger than individual households and school districts.
Government action needs to be taken if there is any hope to see a decrease in national rates of eating disorders.
Bills have been proposed in France and England to mandate a disclaimer on digitally altered photographs.
In all my research I wasnâÄôt able to find if said proposals have been passed or denied, but there are other laws that have been passed to help improve self-esteem among adolescent girls.
A bill legalizing the punishment of promoting extreme thinness (on the Internet, in advertising, on the runway) was passed by FranceâÄôs lower house in 2008.
Australia has had an entire campaign on improving self- esteem. They have placed restrictions on digital alteration of photographs, television commercials and the size of runway models with positive results. These efforts have caused a significant decrease in reported incidents of anorexia and bulimia.
The U.S. Congress should pass a law which would help tame the damaging images of overly Photoshopped and unhealthily skinny models so other girls wouldnâÄôt have to go through what I did. Even if we donâÄôt see a change in the statistics, at least we can say we tried.