why do we struggle with beauty and body image

Researchers say it is too early to know whether social media is having a big impact on the number of people who develop eating disorders. In the United States and other countries, the overall rate of eating disorders has remained steady for decades. That isn t always the case elsewhere, including the southern Pacific island nation of Fiji. Here, for nearly 20 years, Anne Becker has probed the effects of media on youth. She wants to know how outside influences such as media and networks of friends affect a young girl s body image. The second reason: People in remote areas of Fiji had almost no exposure to television until 1995. That s when their government began allowing TV stations to broadcast Western programs. Almost overnight, youth became exposed to Western media. Until very recently, Fiji s culture valued large, robust and strong-boned women.


In fact, the culture encouraged women to eat a lot. When Becker started looking for evidence of eating disorders in 1995, she couldn t find a single report of a girl in Fiji who had purged vomited to manage her weight. Then Western TV exploded onto the scene. People started watching shows such as
Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place and The X-Files. Becker wondered if the images and ideas in these shows might have affected peoples views of what the ideal woman should look like. And sure enough, signs of a change were emerging by 1998. In one small survey of teen girls in Fiji, slightly more than one in every 10 reported having vomited to lose weight. That is an oh-my-gosh kind of finding, says Becker. That s about what you would expect in a Massachusetts high school. In addition, more than three-quarters of the girls reported that television influenced their body image.


Over the next decade, Becker s team continued to study the impacts of TV and other media. In 2007, they surveyed more than 500 school girls between the ages of 15 and 20 in Fiji. At least four girls in every 10 reported having purged to manage their weight. Some said they had taken traditional herbs that can induce purging. Researchers say it is too early to know whether social media is having a big impact on the number of people who develop eating disorders. In the United States and other countries, the overall rate of eating disorders has remained steady for decades. That isn t always the case elsewhere, including the southern Pacific island nation of Fiji. Here, for nearly 20 years, Anne Becker has probed the effects of media on youth.


She wants to know how outside influences such as media and networks of friends affect a young girl s body image. The second reason: People in remote areas of Fiji had almost no exposure to television until 1995. That s when their government began allowing TV stations to broadcast Western programs. Almost overnight, youth became exposed to Western media. Until very recently, Fiji s culture valued large, robust and strong-boned women. In fact, the culture encouraged women to eat a lot. When Becker started looking for evidence of eating disorders in 1995, she couldn t find a single report of a girl in Fiji who had purged vomited to manage her weight. Then Western TV exploded onto the scene. People started watching shows such as Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place and The X-Files. Becker wondered if the images and ideas in these shows might have affected peoples views of what the ideal woman should look like.


And sure enough, signs of a change were emerging by 1998. In one small survey of teen girls in Fiji, slightly more than one in every 10 reported having vomited to lose weight. That is an oh-my-gosh kind of finding, says Becker. That s about what you would expect in a Massachusetts high school. In addition, more than three-quarters of the girls reported that television influenced their body image. Over the next decade, Becker s team continued to study the impacts of TV and other media. In 2007, they surveyed more than 500 school girls between the ages of 15 and 20 in Fiji. At least four girls in every 10 reported having purged to manage their weight. Some said they had taken traditional herbs that can induce purging.

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