How the Media Hurt Teenage Girls

Changing the way we see media will save our youth.

A young influencer on Youtube number three on trending, explains to her young fans her insane diet consisting of just an apple for breakfast, two sweet potatoes for lunch and only a protein shake for dinner. As she rages about the immediate weight loss and hitting her “dream weight” by the minute her 19,000 views raise. This is what we teach our young girls; “starve yourself and you’ll be beautiful.” 

The problem here is it leaves only one body as worthy in the social eye for females. Well, then what will everyone else do? Constant diet or worse we let it get to a point where the act becomes extreme dieting, turning into cutting out too many food choices slowly turning into anorexia. 

The reason for anorexia developing in these girls, teenage girls especially, is the constant reminder to “Get thin!, Get thin!” within the media. When in reality that is not the end all be all; “75 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating.” Stated by Dove self-esteem fund; a group that specializes in teens– when every social outlet is screaming “10 fast ways to  lose the ugly fat!” In all these girls’ faces, it gets to a point where the question isn’t “well why can’t we love all bodies?” It’s now transforming to “what’s the next way I can lose weight? To be beautiful.” 

If the act of self-love and body confidence and just all-body appreciation were taught at school these YouTube trends wouldn’t be trends; they’d be red flags to what could be borderline anorexia. 

The thing with anorexia is that society doesn’t see it as life-threatening and has even made a stigma that only the skinniest of people have this disorder when in countless studies show that “ 0.9 [to] 2.0 percent  of females will develop anorexia.” Keeping in mind that anorexia is a “comorbidity” disorder meaning it often accompanies other disorders; which shows that this disorder is bigger than itself it can accompany and make other disorders even more severe. 

With anorexia, it is much more than mentally threatening but again physically threatening and psychologically scarring. This is a taught issue, society has again and again shown that it only ever values “thinness” this thought process is shown early on in life through multimedia. But with this knowledge anorexia is most known for its ‘comorbidity’; meaning it’s never really treated as its “own” disorder but paired mostly with others.  “[we] need to recognize that eating disorders are much broader than mental health, with” Isabella Randazzo, a therapist that specializes in young adults.

Although many other therapists like Ms. Randazzo think media is a big contributor to the push towards anorexia many other experts have expressed that anorexia can be genetically based. Psychiatrist Walter Kaye at the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues found a variation of a region on chromosome one that was common in people with the disease; stated in another document by Michael Devlin of Columbia University in New York City “By identifying serotonin and opioid receptors, the work suggests that the mood and appetite systems are disrupted by defective proteins in anorexia.” 

With this, there is no doubt other contributing factors go into anorexia within teenagers, but there is an obvious problem with our impulsive obsession with body image and the media has to be the ultimate factor to more and more teenage girls becoming victims of this disorder. 

If our schools were to add self-appreciation or positive body-image to their ‘Sex Ed’ curriculum increase within this disorder would stop. If we taught teenagers to see their body as theirs and what they are confident in and not an outline of society’s rules the constant need for extreme dieting and dangerous eating options wouldn’t be an issue. Teaching teenagers to love themself earlier on like how society teaches them to hate themselves is our best solution. 

“The work suggests that the mood and appetite systems are disrupted by anorexia” – Doctor Micheal Devlin

Anorexia disorder isn’t just a disorder, It can leave a drastic effect on its victims; “horrible it changed me completely as a person, physically obviously but also mentally” said a victim who asked to stay anonymous. This same 17-year-old stated, “I clearly wasn’t emotionally stable, it affected my anxiety and depression it was like a domino effect.” Anorexia isn’t just taking a toll on our young girl’s bodies but mentally scaring them.

“I remember sitting here thinking; things like this couldn’t be real since all I knew of them were only on TV and not even— since they don’t publicize these things so once I was clinically given this disorder it was shocking because again I never thought this was real let alone someone like me would have it,”  said the victim. There is this constant view that anorexia isn’t a real disorder but just young girls not wanting to eat. This epidemic needs to be stopped.  

Make a change in the way you look at the media; notice the constant bias on body type and break that bias. Neglect that social standard and embrace all bodies. Your body doesn’t need to be fixed for summer; diet culture isn’t mandatory. If all bodies were as embraced as small bodies were in media young bodies wouldn’t have to self-destroy.