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What’s Eating You?


the scientific student, magazine

A teenage girl is talking to her friends about a celebrity while looking at a magazine. They talk about how thin that girl is, or how good she looks. While this might seem to be normal behavior, some say that this is the beginning stages of anorexia. They say that when these girls see a thin women on the cover it will cause body dysmorphia which will then act as a gateway to anorexia. That their diets will lead to a horrible mental disorder. I have to disagree, it is unrealistic to believe that society’s promotion of a thin body as an ideal contributes to anorexia.

     While it might seem obvious with social media advocating for the “thinspiration movement,” (Mascarelli) or magazines filled with thin models. Experts fear that the focus is driving a small number of women, especially teens, into behavior that could lead to eating disorders (Mascarelli).  A well-intended worry until you delve deeper.

    However, well-known dietitian Susie Burrell says it is not the pressure to conform to a supposed ideal of the female body that prompts clients to seek professional advice in shedding pounds (Le Marquand). “The majority of women I see are incredibly unhappy with their weight, not because society pushes them to be thinner but because they do not feel well,” says Burrell (Le Marquand). Those who do try to lose weight do not do it because of society’s ideal, but because they don’t feel well. Consequently the reason they diet or try to lose weight is because they are not healthy.

     Also, “Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa may be caused by environmental factors which switch on specific genes that trigger the dysfunctional eating behavior,” (Cresswell). A leading US expert says “by the emerging science of epigenetics, the study of changes to gene activity caused by environmental or biochemical factors experienced often as early as before birth,” (Cresswell). Although anorexia has been viewed as a result of pressure to conform to unrealistic physical ideals those who have anorexia could potentially have an anorexic gene. Anorexia could go beyond something that is controllable.

     Brain scans were done on the brains of healthy people and those with anorexia nervosa. The scans didn’t look the same. Researchers have pieced together clues that suggest anorexics are wired differently than healthy people (Rosen). This again proves that there might be an anorexic gene that people cannot control. The mental brakes people use to curb impulsive instincts, might not work properly in people with anorexia. Some studies suggest that just a taste of sugar can send parts of the brain into overdrive. Other brain areas appear numb to tastes, and even sensations such as pain. For people with anorexia, a sharp pang of hunger might register instead as a dull thud (Rosen). Many scientists think anorexics’ brains might be wired for willpower, for good or bad. The control center could be how anorexics lock down on their appetites. James Lock’s results also highlighted that people with eating disorders might have glitches in their self-control circuits. The tight rein on urges could steer anorexics toward illness, but the parts of their brain tuned into rewards may also be a little off track (Rosen). What this means is that you cannot become anorexic. You are either born that way or not. This is the fundamental argument against society’s promotion of a causing anorexia.

    “You can’t just choose to be anorexic,” Lock says (Rosen). A society that glamorizes thinness can encourage unhealthy eating behaviors in kids, scientists have shown. But a true eating disorder goes well beyond an unhealthy diet. Anorexia involves malnutrition, excessive weight loss and often faulty thinking about one of the body’s most basic drives: hunger. The disorder is also rare. Less than 1 percent of girls develop anorexia. The disease crops up in boys too, but adolescent girls are most likely to suffer from the illness (Rosen). As I said earlier, although society’s promotion of a thin female form may cause dieting, an eating disorder, anorexia, goes beyond that.

     The teenage girl laughs, “I’m thinking about going on a diet guys,” she might jokingly say. Joke or not, the likelihood of her becoming anorexic is slim to none. Society might promote an ideal, but just because they promote it doesn’t mean that an illness will develop. Anorexia may be seen as a choice, but it is, in fact, not.

Cresswell, Adam. “Environmental Factors May Trigger Anorexia.” Weekend

    Australian. 25 Aug. 2012: 8. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 07 Dec.    


Le Marquand, Sarrah. “The Great Weight Debate: Are Celebs Really to

    Blame?.” Daily Telegraph (Surry Hills). 14 Jul. 2012: 34. SIRS Issues

    Researcher. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

Mascarelli, Amanda. “Fueled by Social Media, ‘Thigh Gap’ Focus Can Lure

   Young Women…” Washington Post. 02 Jul. 2014: n.p. SIRS Issues  

   Researcher. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

Rosen, Meghan. “The Anorexic Brain.” Science News. 10 Aug. 2013: 20-24.   

    SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

Edited by: Shreya Singireddy