Eating disorders, such as anorexia (eating too little), bulimia (forced vomiting of what is eaten) and compulsive over-eating, are occurring at an ever-increasing rate. Today there are about 11 million Americans with eating disorders – 10 million women and 1 million men – with 95% falling between the ages of 12 and 25.
Eating disorders are considered mental health issues, and are directly related to self-image, which in many cases is distorted. Girls and young women develop eating and self-image problems before they develop drug and alcohol problems, but unlike drugs and alcohol, little is being done to address eating disorders in an organized way.
Social pressures to be thin are rising, yet research into eating disorders is under-funded and insurance coverage for treatment is limited, adding to our overall healthcare burden. Consequently, many young people with eating disorders are not receiving adequate treatment. This is unfortunate because eating disorders cause 12 times more deaths among girls aged 15-24 than any other illness. People of any age with eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Alarmingly, 35% of normal dieters will progress to pathological dieting, and 25% will progress to partial or full-blown eating disorders. 5 – 20% will die from these disorders.
Is it that women and girls are dying to be thin? OR are they really dying to be happy and healthy? Yes, weight loss is often a part of becoming healthier and happier, but maybe the focus needs to be on “healthy and happy”, with less fixation on weight loss – despite being bombarded from all sides with “be thin at all costs” messages that help distort self-image:
- In 1970 the average age when girls began to diet was 14. By 2009, 3-6 year-old girls were beginning to worry about being fat.
So, how can women become happier? Fit After Fifty believes that by focusing on exercise instead of weight. Moving our bodies is one of the best ways to foster a chemical reaction that leads to happiness. Women who exercise also tend to have more accurate self-images.
The infographic below shows some of the ways that our society promotes thinness from. Click the image to enlarge it.