Body dissatisfaction is a growing issue in society that manifests itself in the form of eating disorders. With the majority of advertisements portrayed in the media being Photoshopped, the ideal body type is often difficult, if not impossible, to attain. This can lead to body dissatisfaction, and ultimately to an eating disorder in hopes of achieving this ‘perfect’ body type. Often, eating disorders do not exist on their own. Many times, eating disorders also coincide with other disorders such as anxiety or depression, and the disorders can feed off one another. For example, anxiety and body dissatisfaction can result in an eating disorder, and this eating disorder can also cause anxiety about the inability to achieve the ‘perfect’ body type.
On the flip side of eating disorders diagnosed by under-eating or purging, overeating can also be the product of depression. In class we are reading the book America Anonymous by Benoit Denizet-Lewis, which follows eight addicts in search of recovery. In this book, one of the addicts, Ellen, suffers from compulsive overeating. She blames the trigger for her overeating on depression and the need to ‘stuff her feelings.’ In her case, she eats to alleviate the sadness she feels; her overeating is an addiction.
Obsession over eating food, or refraining from eating, can be just as addicting as drugs because both work through what is called the reward system. When certain behavior occurs, the reward system ‘treats’ the body with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. This pleasurable feeling makes us want to repeat the same behavior to repeat the same good feeling. This is what can lead to addiction: people begin to crave the good feeling instead of the actual behavior, such as eating or taking the drug itself. Let’s take sugar and fat for example. Both of these things that, when eaten, taste pretty good! This makes us want to continue to eat sugary and fatty things to keep feeling good. This can lead to overeating, which can result in disordered eating.
Fitzsimmons-Craft, E. E., Harney, M. B., Koehler, L. G., Danzi, L. E., Riddell, M. K., & Bardone-Cone, A. M. (2012). Explaining the Relation Between Thin Ideal Internalization and Body Dissatisfaction Among College Women: The roles of social comparison and body surveillance. Body Image, 9(1), 43-49.
Lewis, B. (2009). America Anonymous: eight addicts in search of a life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Wilson, E. (2009, May 27). Smile and Say ‘No Photoshop’. Fashion & Style. Retrieved December 13, 2013, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/fashion/28RETOUCH.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
2 thoughts on “One Size Does Not Fit All”
I think this article is interesting in that it points to a chemical system underlying disordered eating patterns. While the explanation for overeating seems to make sense to me, however, I don’t gain much understanding about how the dopamine reward system influences individuals who eat too little, rather than too much. I think an interesting follow up to this article could be on the underlying chemical brain processes that predispose individuals to eating disorders.
I find it odd that eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are much more prominent in the news and health classes, whereas, as this article points out, there exists the flip side of eating-obsession disorders. My high school required students to take health class during freshmen year; I don’t ever recall the teacher discussing overeating disorders, but she constantly drilled into our brains the negative effects of undereating. This is disturbing to me because obesity is obviously a problem in the U.S., as well as the growing levels of stress (the two seem to be paired); so raising awareness of binge eating disorders seems like a next possible step in creating a psychologically and physically healthier nation. I’m curious to know what solutions there might be to treat this type of eating disorder. Would treatment be similar to that of anorexia?