Be comfortable in your skin
Eating Disorders and Body Image - (A project of BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information)
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Eating disorders and body image dissatisfaction were once the domain of an obscure branch of psychiatry. But in recent decades, our culture has bombarded people with images of an ideal physique that is increasingly out of reach for the average person. According to eating disorders expert David Garner, body image dissatisfaction is increasing at a faster rate than ever as more and more people compare themselves unfavourably to this ideal. The question today is no longer "Who has a poor body image?" but "Who doesn't?"
A poll conducted by People magazine found that only 9% of women were completely happy with their bodies and 93% had tried to lose weight. In Canada, the situation is roughly the same, with almost half of women saying they consider themselves overweight.
Fear of being fat is so overwhelming that losing weight is the number one wish of girls between 11 and 17. More than half of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies, and this jumps to three-quarters by age 18. Nearly 40% of students between the third and sixth grade have tried dieting and just as many girls between the first and third grade say they want to be thinner. And, alarmingly, almost one tenth of nine-year-olds have engaged in self-induced vomiting in an effort to lose weight.
Body image is the picture an individual has of his or her body and what she or he thinks it looks like to others. Researchers believe that concern over body image is really a mask for how a person feels about themselves: their self-esteem. In North America, body image has come to mean even more. For example, thinness not only represents attractiveness, it has also come to symbolize personal success, power, self-control and higher socioeconomic status, according to Dr. Liz Dittrich, who researches body image issues. Estimates from body image studies find that around 70% of women feel their bodies are too large. Interestingly, the average female body shape that men rate as ideal is consistently heavier than the body shape considered ideal by women. According to Jessie's Hope Society, this information demonstrates that the difference between poor body image, unhealthy dieting, and an eating disorder is usually a matter of degree.