Begin The Healing Process
Beginning the healing process is essential for individuals struggling with an eating disorder. The only way to defeat the online trolls is to take charge of your online account and not allow people to make you or someone you love feel inferior or unworthy. To help establish mindfulness and self-confidence, seeking treatment for an eating disorder that specializes in whole person care will help you gain the strength needed to battle the body shamers and defeat your disorder.
Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists are highly trained professionals who are equipped to help individuals establish self-soothing techniques, meal plans, and personalized coping mechanisms learned through methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Dialectical Behavior Therapy to best treat any eating disorder. Specialists empathize with each patient and create a personalized recovery plan that fits the needs of every individual. With an emphasis on cultivating self-compassion and feeding the mind, body, and spirit with healthful nutrients, individuals will build the resiliency needed to fully recover from their eating disorder.
Greta Gleissner is the Founder of Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists, a nationwide network of eating disorder treatment specialists that provide meal coaching and recovery skills such as CBT, DBT, ACT, MI, etc. EDRS works alongside treatment programs, teams and families to provide transitional aftercare support for post-residential treatment clients.
How Do Researchers Explain The Link
Its long been known that exposure to old forms of media, like television or fashion magazines, is linked to the development of teen eating disorders, disordered eating, and body image concerns they explain that this is most likely due to the favoring of thin and perfect models or celebrities.
Now social media is different. Social media combines visuals with the chance to use social media to interact and propagate stereotypessuch as posting photos and editing them to look thinner. This can most definitely lead to disordered eating or teen eating disorders.
Media And Eating And Weight Control Behaviours
Dissatisfaction with body image and unhealthy eating behaviours are important issues for adolescent girls. Many young women believe that they are overweight and want to weigh less. In one study, 44% of adolescent girls believed they were overweight and 60% were actively trying to lose weight even though the majority of these young girls were within normal weight ranges .
Several cross-sectional studies have reported a positive association between exposure to beauty and fashion magazines and an increased level of weight concerns or eating disorder symptoms in girls. Field et al found that the importance of thinness and trying to look like women on television, in movies or in magazines were predictive of young girls beginning to purge at least monthly. In another prospective study , this same group found that both boys and girls who were making an effort to look like the figures in the media, were more likely than their peers to develop weight concerns and become constant dieters.
One study measured indicators of disordered eating in a media naïve population of Fijian schoolgirls after the introduction of Western television. The key indicators of disordered eating were found to be significantly more prevalent following prolonged television exposure, suggesting a negative impact of this media. Among the narrative data was the frequent theme of subjects reporting an interest in weight loss as a means of modelling themselves after television characters .
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Spot The Warning Signs Of An Eating Disorder
As part of Priory’s campaign to raise awareness during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Dr Sekar – who treats private and NHS patients at both Priory Hospital Chelmsford and Priory’s Fenchurch Street Wellbeing Centre in London – explained how to spot the warning signs that someone may have an eating disorder, and provided guidance on how to understand the condition and receive appropriate treatment.
Dr Sekar said: “Eating disorders can strike anyone at any time. A majority have their onset around the time of puberty since this is when the body goes through significant amount of change both in shape and weight, but symptoms can start at any age.”
There are a number of warning signs, he says:
“They could range from excessive preoccupation with body image, weight or shape, and discrepancy between self-perception about your weight compared to others. Usually this would be the person thinking he/she is too big whereas others are shocked by how thin they are.
“For example, some eating disorder patients misunderstand the Government’s anti-obesity information. They take this information and reduce their intake further when they are already too thin.
“In bulimia, the sign could be a constant urge to eat which usually becomes uncontrollable once the eating started. This might be sporadic to start with, and then becomes a regular happening. A constant urge to exercise could also be the warning sign.”
Early treatment was vital, he said.
People Online Do Not Define Your Worth
When everything you do is online, it can be hard to avoid the triggers that cause you to look down on yourself. Actively unfollow accounts that do not promote body positivity or inclusivity and take much-needed breaks from social media when youre feeling overwhelmed.
Amory advises those who are feeling down about their appearance to remember that the social media influencer youre idolizing doesnt even look like the person in the photos. She also stresses the importance of remembering what true self-worth is: Even those who we idealize have flaws and things they may not like about their body you are not alone in those feelings. But, it is important to remember that your self-worth is not tied to your body size or body image you should surround yourself by content online that remind you that you are valuable and you are worthy, regardless of how you look.
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Media And Eating Disorders
As models and actresses have gotten thinner over time, eating disorders and body image dissatisfaction have become more common. A study on the relationship between media and eating disorders among undergraduate college students found that media exposure predicted:
- Disordered eating symptoms
- Drive to be thinner
- Endorsement of personal thinness
Another study suggests a relationship between the desire to look like celebrities and be model thin with the predictive of young girls, 9 to 14 years old, to initiate purging at least monthly . It is clear that the media can trigger body image disturbances for girls and women that will potentially lead to an eating disorder.
Using Social Media Positively
Social media can be detrimental, but it also gives us a place to be a voice of change and to advocate. We can transform social media from a triggering, toxic space to that of encouragement, learning, and support. Online campaigns and backlashes against sexism and body shaming are becoming more common. Social media can promote a sense of community to those suffering from an eating disorder by simply posting an inspirational message related to body image, a recovery-oriented blog, or an article related to eating disorder education.
Things are changing and we are beginning to see people take the step to help change the conversations on social media. One hashtag that is making the rounds is #NEDAselfie. Individuals are posting unfiltered selfies with a caption about what makes them feel confident in their own skin. Another hashtag that is redefining how women see themselves and their bodies is #WomenEatingFood. This brainchild of a registered dietitian and a body coach came about to help start the conversation around women eating real food without it being labeled as good food or bad food. Women can eat all sorts of food without criticism or remarks about their bodies.
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Social Medias Potential Influence On Eating Disorders
Just when youd grown weary of hearing about everyones thigh gap obsession, theres a new body trend causing anxiety for young women. Its cleverly labeled the bikini bridge. The term describes the look created when a woman lies down and her bikini bottoms hang suspended between her hip bones, showing off her enviably flat and usually concave stomach. Since early January, images of women with flaunting their bikini bridges have exploded across social media sites, causing concern that the trend will lead to severely disordered eating for some teen girls and young adult women. While a few social media users have glorified this body ideal for the last couple of years, the bikini bridge has only recently become popular. Its explosion earlier this year was actually fueled by an Internet prank designed to promote an outrageous idea. The hoax quickly took hold, and soon the social media-using public was inundated with what was being described as a new trend. The problem is that some adolescent girls and young women may be taking the bikini bridge ideal to heart, putting them at risk for developing a dangerous eating disorder.
The Role Of The Media In The Treatment And Prevention Of Eating Disorders
Much of the literature on the role of the media in the treatment and prevention of eating disorders has focused on media literacy, activism, and advocacy . Media literacy training involves teaching people to think critically about different forms of the media, increasing awareness of media use, and analyzing the content and intentions of the media producers. Through media literacy, adolescent girls learn how to decode and discuss the visual images and the messages in the media they learn that all media images are constructed, that what they see is not necessarily reality, and that all media creations represent a point of view . Media literacy usually emphasizes that all forms of media are created through very deliberate, well-researched processes that are primarily profit-driven .
Researchers have also focused on ways to combat the risk factors that make certain individuals more vulnerable to the medias negative effects. It has been suggested that treatment programs for eating disorders will be most effective when they incorporate media literacy with strategies to help address the patients deficits in self-esteem and social skills .
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What Are Teen Eating Disorders
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, nearly 3 percent of all teens, ages 13 to 18, struggle with an eating disorder at some pointand only a few get the help they need. Teen eating disorders include bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and other mental health issues associated with a distorted view of their body and disordered eating.
Photo by jeshoots
Its been shown that eating disorders affect adolescents and young adults much more often than others.
Social Comparison Theory And Media
Social Comparison processing is the process by which individuals compare themselves either upwards or downwards to others. An upward comparison occurs when an individual compares himself or herself to someone who fares better by societal standards than they do in a particular facet. A downward comparison is naturally the opposite, where an individual compares himself or herself to someone who is not as well off in a certain dimension.
The extent to which women engage in this type of processing could indicate the level in which they are impacted by exposure to unrealistic media images. The pervasiveness of the media makes it very challenging for almost all women to avoid evaluating themselves against the sociocultural standard of beauty in some way or another .
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Psychological Factors Of Disordered Eating In Males
As seen in the previous sections, biological and social factorsare linked to negative affectivity, body image internalization, and bodydissatisfaction. Body image is how one perceives andevaluates their appearance and physical capability . Research hasshown that different associations of body image are different in men thanwomen. Males are more likely to associate attractiveness with increased, lean,muscle definition, leading them to a drive for muscularity . On the other hand, females with body dissatisfaction typically associateattractiveness with being thin. .
Media trends may be linked to internalization which, in turn,can lead to the development of eating disorders . Individualsinternalize the ideal body image that the media portrays due to stigmatizedgender-roles. This concept, body image internalization, refers to the degree towhich an individual really believes societys definition of attractiveness andengages in behaviors, such as disordered eating, to try to reach these somewhatunattainable ideas. Therefore, it is the dissatisfaction of the body thattheoretically promotes dieting and negative affect, which can increase the riskfor onset of eating disordered-symptoms. .
Placing Less Importance On In
Young women living with eating disorders, in particular bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorders, often engage in their disordered eating behaviors in private. This is partly because they are ashamed of their behaviors, and partly because there is an overwhelming feeling of being all alone in the world that is closely associated with eating disorders.
The ease and consistency with which we can connect with someone on social media provide a false sense of togetherness, and this can be especially worrisome in teens who are in recovery for an eating disorder. Instead of going out and making real-world connections, they are prioritizing the more-comfortable shallow interactions found on social media. The Common Sense Media study found that 42% of teens admitted that social media distracts them from time they could be spending with family or friends in person, up from 34% in 2012.
Parents should help combat this growing problem by limiting screen time and encouraging more face-to-face interactions, such as extracurricular activities.
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Impact Of Social Media
Recent years have seen a proliferation of online images known as “thinspiration” or “thinspo.” These are primarily found on pro-eating disorder websites, although they have been popping up on more mainstream sites as well. Research has shown that viewing these images results in a lowered caloric intake and lower self-esteem.
There have also been studies that indicate that using social media sites, such as Instagram and Facebook, puts adolescent girls and women at greater risk for disordered eating. It also places everyone at risk of feeling poorly about themselves and dissatisfied with their bodies.
More research is needed in this area, but it is reasonable to believe that frequent use of social media does affect how a person views themselves.
What Are The Negatives
One of the biggest cons of social media for someone with an ED is comparison. Connecting with people is wonderful, but when you start comparing yourself with how others look, it can become a dangerous and harmful experience.
Comparison is natural in everyday life. But social media takes it to a new level by allowing people to show the highlight reels of their lives. You might know that a picture or video has been edited or filtered. Its still hard to stop comparing. You can break free from the comparison cycle by:
- Limiting your time on social media apps
- Unfollowing accounts that make you feel bad
- Taking a break
- Being real on your accounts
When youre trying to overcome an eating disorder, social media can be a positive resource or a way to make your recovery harder. Ultimately, its about balancing your time on social media with other positive things in your life, including surrounding yourself with in-person support. While you dont need to stay off these platforms completely, if you start to notice that theyre doing more harm than good for your health and wellbeing, consider taking a step back. You might be surprised at how much better you feel when you do.
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Media And Poor Body Image In Adolescents
One of the first eating disorder symptoms is to manifest a poor body image. From a young age, we are bombarded with media images and messages suggesting that we must be thin if we are to be happy and successful in life.
According to data from 25 studies involving females, it was proven that body image was significantly more negative after viewing media images of a slender body than after viewing images of average and plus sized models. This negative effect was stronger in females younger than 19 years old .
In an attempt to emulate media images, girls will often take drastic measures. These images tend to cause low self-esteem in young girls consequently, they will proactively attempt to change their bodies into what they perceive to be desirable jeopardizing their natural, healthy state. This skewed reality of what a healthy body size and shape is for their specific body type can result in the development of harmful weight loss behaviors.
Starting The Mental Health Recovery Process
Caring for your mental health is imperative if youre dealing with an eating-related disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests seeking mental health treatment early, even if you havent yet been diagnosed with a mental health condition or an eating disorder. A mental health professional can create a treatment plan to address your specific individual needs.
The most effective treatment plans for eating disorders will include a combination of psychotherapy, medical care and monitoring, nutritional counseling, and medications. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy are some of the most promising psychotherapy approaches clinicians can use to improve the mental health of patients with eating-related disorders. CBT helps a person identify harmful or inaccurate thoughts and beliefs that lead to their unhelpful behavior. With a patient struggling with an eating or mental disorder stemming from cultural pressures on popular social media sites, for example, a therapist would use CBT to help them understand that the images that are influencing these feelings arent real. They may show real people, but they often arent authentic and shouldnt be held up as an ideal for everyone else. DBT aids people to develop strengths as they cope with emotional ups and downs that do not involve disordered food or eating behaviors.
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