The Health Advocate

by Hannah Whittenly, The Health Advocate

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Although some people inherit genetic conditions that predispose them to eating disorders, many others are culturally conditioned to eat in unhealthy ways. The resulting weight problems can sometimes lead to mental health issues. Here are four ways that our culture fosters eating disorders and impacts mental health.

Pop Culture Images

Ironically, films, books, and music frequently depict beautiful people, especially women, as extremely thin or unhealthily overweight. When you think of popular actresses, several will probably come immediately to mind. Magazine covers of models who are either too heavy or too skinny set a standard that viewers, particularly teen girls, will try to follow. Unfortunately, those who are trying hard to get bigger or smaller often jeopardize their health in the process.

Lack of Medical Attention

Although more doctors are now emphasizing to patients the need for weight control through a nutritious diet and recommended exercise plan, physicians aren’t as adamant about a healthy weight as they are about other health issues, like smoking or drinking. As a result, many obese or dangerously slender patients do not get the serious warnings and professional help they need to get to a healthy size. Some people whose weight is out of control don’t even go to see a doctor. Many are undiagnosed or underdiagnosed.

Limited Treatment for Eating Disorders

Your first thought might be that there are plenty of treatments on the market today for eating problems. However, when you think further, you may realize that most of those products and treatments are geared toward appetite control for the obese, not necessarily those who need to eat more. The focus is on the symptoms rather than the actual eating disorder. Some companies, such as Center for Change, know that doctors should be referring patients with weight problems to a center for eating disorders. At these type of centers, specialists work closely with patients to determine the best individual plan of treatment for body weight needs.

Blaming the Patient

In general, society tends to blame the person rather than the condition when an individual has an unhealthy body weight. A person who is underweight might be classified automatically as an overachiever or an egotist trying to exceed social standards of beauty. An overweight person, on the other hand, is often blamed for lacking self-control, when for some, a metabolic disorder is to blame.

It is time for society and especially the medical community to take eating disorders seriously. People with weight problems often experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety, compounding their overall self-image and health.

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