The Pressures of Being Thin

By Christopher Rogers
October 7, 2004


According to recent surveys, five to 10 million females and one million males suffer from eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating. Consequently, an estimated 50 thousand individuals will die as a result of such disorders in the course of a lifetime.

Self-starvation, or anorexia nervosa, is a syndrome in which an individual will refuse to maintain body weight for height, body type and activity level. Despite significant weight loss and body damage, individuals will commonly perceive themselves as fat. The symptoms are muscle loss, severe dehydration, fainting and more.

Similarly to anorexia, bulimia nervosa involves chronic binging and purging cycles in an effort to maintain an ideal weight. Much like anorexia, the symptoms are just as harmful though the effects are not as apparent. As a result of the purging cycles, individuals may experience a rupture of the esophagus, tooth decay and/or potential gastric rupture.

Though social pressures to be thin are to be blamed, scientists have estimated that certain personality traits are more liable to cause such illnesses. For instance, individuals with eating disorders tend to be perfectionists, eager to please others, sensitive to criticism and self-doubting; all of which are caused by biological vulnerability and social factors.

Further research has shown that social pressure for thinness is the leading cause for dieting. For instance, 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat, and 51 percent of nine to 10- year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet. Though social pressure is the main cause for dieting, only four percent of women and girls develop a full-blown eating disorder.

Consequently, scientist’s efforts to pin point the cause of the illness has led to further hypothesis involving genetics. According to the Jon Hopkins Eating Disorders Program, “Family and twin studies suggest that genes may predispose to an eating disorder and genetic studies are currently underway to attempt to isolate genes that play a role in the developing of eating disorders.”

Despite the efforts put forth to determine the cause of eating disorders, many patients go unnoticed as a result to the secretiveness and shame associated with anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating. As a result, effective treatments such as behavioral monitoring and special diets where put forth to aid such individuals.

Through the intervention of such practices, the patient’s “fear of fatness and body dissatisfaction characteristic of the disorder tend to extinguish gradually over several months if target weight is maintained, although relapse is not uncommon.”

Posted to the web by Cecelia Francisco

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Christopher Rogers

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