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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tumblr crack down on eating disorder sites good first step, but health starts at home

    Americans are suffering from a dangerous combination of eating disorders and body image problems.

    Last week was National Eating Disorder Awareness week, seven days devoted to recognizing eating disorders. A Daily Wildcat article focused on Tumblr’s initiative to target self-harm blogs, like those promoting anorexic habits for weight loss.

    Tumblr’s censoring these delusional blogs is admirable, yet it’s questionable how effective its crackdown will be. These self-harm sites are just symptoms of the problem. Tumblr’s goal is a step in the right direction on a long and arduous path, but it’s going to take more than just censoring personal sites to revolutionize what people see as healthy.

    Right now, approximately 36 percent of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But this figure doesn’t account for the millions of obese children and adolescents, nor does it include people who are only overweight without being obese.

    Many Americans also suffer from anorexia nervosa, a disorder characterized by obsessive weight loss, using extreme measures like starvation and crash dieting to achieve their dangerous ideals. The American weight loss industry is worth an estimated $60.9 billion, according to a study conducted by Marketdata Enterprises Inc.

    Just attach “skinny” to a product and it will sell, even to items not associated with weight loss, like alcohol. Bravo network star Bethenny Frankel reportedly sold her Skinnygirl cocktail line to Beam Global for an estimated $120 million dollars in 2010. From cocktails to exercise merchandise, Frankel has expanded her net worth by slapping “Skinnygirl” on multiple different products.

    In a country largely fixated on weight and looks, the media highlights who’s fat, who’s skinny and who’s aesthetically pleasing. Rarely does it ever focus on who’s truly healthy.

    “Over time we’ve allowed the media, both the print media and film media, to dictate the expectation of normal,” said Laura Orlich, a counselor at Counseling and Psych Services for Campus Health. “Are we going to allow the diet industry to determine what our healthy levels of weight should be? We’ve allowed these external forces to not only suggest, but also dictate what’s a normal body shape, style and size.”

    There’s a widespread mentality that the more weight a person loses, the more attractive he or she becomes. But health often becomes an afterthought in this process.

    Orlich works with students who frequently skip class to work out. She asks students to ask themselves, “Is it interfering with life functions? If I’m at the gym frequently, for too many hours, and I’m ignoring my work, my family, my social life or other aspirations that I might have just to reach some sort of body ideal, is that really in my best interest?”

    If someone is overweight, then perhaps losing weight is necessary. But instead of focusing on the assumed benefits in appearance, they should focus on the health benefits of losing weight and derive motivation from there.

    No one is going to stop the media from focusing on appearance. But consumers can stop letting that dictate their lives, Orlich said.

    “If you look at a magazine and see a beautiful actress or model and think, ‘Wow, that’s what I should aspire to look like,’ we maybe need to (start trying to) look like what the body image structure is in a physiology textbook,” she said.

    People need to channel all of that useless negative energy toward being healthy and feeling good instead of looking good.

    — Kelly Hultgren is a junior studying journalism and communication. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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