Eating disorders are a common thing in America. The National Eating Disorders Association says that 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. And between the ages of 6 and 12, 40 to 60 percent of elementary school girls start feeling concerned about their weight, which triggers the disorders, the NEDA reported.
Much has been debated about what the disorder means. It’s not always the feeling of being fat, as one Huffington Post writer explains, but rather a psychological problem that people suffer from. In fact, the NEDA pointed out that 82 percent of respondents of a survey thought that eating disorders are a result of a mental or physical illness and not “vanity.” Some are even suggesting that gluten-free dieting may be a source of eating disorders.
But people recover from the disorder. Take this one imgur user, who once weighed 70 pounds — something she doesn’t remember fondly. According to a post of hers on imgur, she “destroyed most of (the photos) when (she) got out of the hospital."
At her sister’s wedding she weighed only 90 pounds. Her weight gradually increased from there as she reached 95 pounds as a promotional model, then 113 pounds for her own wedding.
“As someone who is tired of seeing weight loss stories on imgur. I must say, congrats on your weight gain! You look great!” wrote one commenter.
Some of the photos she posted online are below:
This imgur user is just one person recovering from eating disorders. Other teens across the nation are finding different ways to recover. The latest way involves virtual reality, where patients can overcome food situations without feeling the pressures of real life, according to Liberty Voice.
“Wearing a headset and holding a computer control, patients can virtually play out scenarios that they struggle with from the safety of the therapists office,” The Guardian reported. “The virtual component removes the stress and the risk that the patient's brain associates with food related situations, and they can therefore play with creating new neural pathways that will influence their future behavior.”
Teens are also finding help from apps — like High School Story, which has more than 10 million users and puts players into many different high school situations. One of the newer options is avoiding eating disorder issues. Specifically, they play as a cheerleader who hears disrespectful comments about her body image, Liberty Voice reported.
“These scenes are designed to help teens understand the words and actions that can be potentially damaging to others in terms of body image and eating disorders,” Liberty Voice reported.
But it’s not just affecting young teens and girls. Men, too, are feeling the effects of the media’s portrayal of people on the screen, Deseret News National reported.
“The male body in the media has an impact on how males, especially developing males, perceive their own bodies,” Bonnie Brennan, a certified eating disorder specialist, told the National Edition. “Males are being exposed to the same extreme ideals of body perfection as females.”
Brian Cuban, author of “Shattered Image,” a book about eating disorder recovery, told the National Edition that parents shouldn’t blame themselves for these problems. In fact, parents need to encourage their kids to find ways to recover, like the imgur user above did.
“If your child is suffering from body image issues or an eating disorder, it's not your fault,” Cuban said. “There is no shame in a child having these issues. The only failure for a parent is if you allow shame to keep you from putting your child in a position to recover.”