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Eating Disorders in Pop Culture


In the industries of acting, singing, and modeling, eating disorders run rampant. People in Hollywood and the public eye often go to great lengths to reach and retain an unrealistic, unhealthy body size while stars with healthy bodies are bashed in the media for their weight. The portrayal of beauty and success in pop culture has a huge negative impact on society, particularly on young girls who are misled to believe that the key to love, success, and happiness is their dress size.

Many aspects of this business are rooted in weight, and those in this world often go to extreme measures to become thin. Some of the celebrities that have publicly discussed their battles with anorexia and bulimia include Lady Gaga, Nicole Scherzinger, and Katie Couric. Runway and fashion models have reportedly gone so far as to starve themselves via IV drips and eat tissues in order to maintain their weight. Industry professionals use image enhancing tools like Photoshop in order to both slim down stars (as Dior recently did with Jennifer Lawrence), and to lessen the appearance of bones that jut out of the pin-thin models that are photographed. Stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, who is slim and fit, but not bone thin are constantly having to defend their bodies; and she has even recently said that she is considered obese in Hollywood. While it is sad to see so many talented, beautiful people suffer, the effect of these images that are idolized are far more sinister and dangerous than we have acknowledged.

Young girls model themselves after their favorite TV characters, singers, and celebrities. In 2002, a study found disturbing data regarding the commonalities of eating disorders as related to Western television. It found that 3 years after this type of popular media was introduced, young girls felt pressured to be thin and look like characters—in a society where full-figured women are traditionally considered the standard of beautiful. In fact, 40% of these 63 subjects reported that after this time lapse, they felt as though their weight was directly correlated to their success…unsurprising, seeing as stars like Lady Gaga, Scherzinger, and Couric all catapulted their careers in the height of their eating disorders. The message that these impressionable young people are receiving is that in order to be successful and beautiful, they have to personify the unattainable beauty that is portrayed on television, often without the knowledge of the extreme measures their idols go to. Even when celebrities do come out and talk about their eating disorders, it is often glamorized and viewed as a means to an end; that disordered eating is going to solve self-esteem problems, and get them to a place they want to be. Obviously, this is a highly harmful way of thinking.

Anorexia, bulimia, and impossible skinniness are all hallmarks of modern entertainment; from magazines to television to movies. As a society, we focus on extreme thinness as a testament to people’s willpower and beauty rather than as a sign of a potentially fatal illness. Youth become determined to emulate their idols, and go down a path that leads to pain, health problems, and even less self-esteem than they started with. It is important that if we are going to discuss eating disorders in popular media that we begin to focus on recovery and how weight doesn’t determine beauty or success. It is the person who is successful, not the weight of their bones and skin. Today’s generation needs to be reminded of their beauty, and stop being encouraged to reach for unhealthy, unattainable goals. That is our responsibility as a society, especially as Hollywood doesn’t seem to be singing that tune anytime soon.

Works Cited

Desk, News. Ex-Vogue editor says models eat tissues to stay skinny. 04 April 2013. http:/truthdive.com/2013/04/04/Ex-vogue-editor-says-models-eat-tissues-to-stay-skinny/. 04 April 2013.

Stone, Abbey. Celebrity Eating Disorder Confessions: Inspiring or Dangerous? 02 March 2013. http://www.hollywood.com/news/celebrities/55002837/. 04 April 2013.

—. Jennifer Lawrence Talks About Her Weight, Again. 09 November 2012. http://www.hollywood.com/news/celebrities/43959185/. 04 April 2013.

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Written by

A native New Yorker, Bre loves the California scene and writing for Treatment4Addiction. She has been writing content for T4A for five months, and loves to learn new things, form opinions, and send them out to the world. Her interests include dance, singing, acting, talking with friends, being a daughter, and being the best big sister she can to her 16 year old brother. After attending ASU for a few months, she is interested in taking cosmetology classes and exploring her options. She looks forward to learning all she can, and doing something positive with that knowledge and experience.

Filed under: Celebrity News, Conditions and Disorders, Eating disorders · Tags: anorexia, anorexia nervosa, beauty, body image, body size, bulimia, Celebrities, Eating disorders, happiness, Hollywood, Katie Couric, Lady Gaga, love, media, Nicole Scherzinger, pop culture, Self-esteem, society, success, Weight, women, young people

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