Do I Look Fat? How many calories does it have? I can't eat that it's too fattening. Do I look fat?

I wish I had her body. How many times can we listen to woman say the same thing over and over again? How many times can we (as women) think these things about ourselves? It is words and phrases like these that seem to plague the minds of over 7 million women across the United States (Eating Disorders in the USA). Why is it that so many woman have such a preoccupation with the way their body's look?

Why is it that the shape of a woman's body determines how her high self- esteem is? These are questions that have been with out answers for many years. This in not the way it should be, but this is how it is. So many woman are concerned with they way they look. So concerned, that it often begins to interfere with their physical and mental health, causing them to develop sever eating disorders. Why is it like this, and who or what is to blame?

This is where the controversies start. There is overwhelming evidence and many reasons to believe that "today's society" is the one to blame in this case. Sadly enough, women are given the message that in order to obtain happiness and success, they must have the perfect body. Growing older in today's society is much different for women than it is for men.

If a man's body changes or his hair starts to turn gray, he is considered to be 'distinguished'. If a woman's body changes and her hair starts to turn gray, she is considered to be 'letting herself go'. Eating disorders often become a woman's way of escaping the daily pressures of life. In turn, woman begin to feel guilty for eating, because of the pressures that society has bestowed upon them (Psychiatric Times, 1999) Many people are under the impression that eating disorders only affect teenage girls. Unfortunately, more and more women are developing eating disorders well into their twenties, thirties, forties, and beyond.

The onset of such eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive eating can occur at any time in a person's life (National Association). There are no biological causes for these disorders, however there are many aspects of society that seem to have strong influences on women who develop eating disorders. The media is high on the list as being one of the negative influences on women, and may be one of the main reasons why women have such an obsession with the way they look. Women's beauty and fitness magazines, which are created to teach women how to be "beautiful", are one of the main culprits in this issue. Magazines like Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Teen, and Shape are some of the most widely read magazines in today's society (Eating Disorders in the USA). The majority of these magazines that are read by girls and women ages 13 and older portray ads that could make any woman feel fat or ugly.

Advertisements for clothes, perfumes, and other beauty products contain waif like models who are far under the average weight for their height. The average American woman is 5'5" and weighs 140 pounds, while the average American model is 5'10" and weighs 117 pounds. (Eating Disorders in the USA) So yes, models actually are as thin as they look. Other aspects of the media like television shows, movies, and television commercials are negative contributors in this controversy as well. Television shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and Bay Watch often build there shows around young, thin, beautiful woman with extraordinary bodies.

Also, a large portion of movie actresses like Calista Flockhart, Britney Spears and Portia de Rossi have gotten noticeably thinner as their movie careers have taken off. If that's not bad enough, even television commercial have negative influences on women. There are countless diet products being advertised daily, to remind women that they should do what ever it takes to be thin. Diet products like Metab-o-life (R), Xenadrine (R), and Hydroxy-Cut (R), which all claim to speed up metabolism in order to lose weight fast, are available everywhere. For many women, this next negative contributing factor comes as no surprise. Shockingly enough, men can cause woman to have very negative thoughts about their minds and bodies, both at home and in the work place.

With the high rate of divorce in today's society, it is no wonder why women began to doubt their beauty. Some women believed that their husbands left them for beautiful, more desirable woman and started blaming themselves, believing that they were too fat or too ugly. Some even thought that maybe if they were thinner or prettier their marriages would have worked out (Psychiatric Times, 1999). In the workplace it is not unusual to see men in positions of high regard. I once read a quote by Pauline Frederick that said, "When a man gets up to speak, people listen then look When a woman gets up, people look, then, if they like what they see, they listen'. Unfortunately that statement is very true.

Women aren't yet taken seriously enough in the business industry and feel that they must be "pretty" or "thin" in order to get anywhere in their careers. Understandably enough, not everyone may feel that today's society is the main influence on women who develop eating disorders. Many will agree that woman develop eating disorders because of familial or cultural reasons. Many cultural origins such as the Jewish, Catholic, and Italian origin, may lead to a higher risk of developing an eating disorder due to cultural attitudes about the importance of food (Psychiatric Times, 1999). However, if society were not to blame, then the study, done by psychology students at Duke University would be invalid. The study that congenitally blind women had the lowest levels of body image satisfaction and disordered eating attitudes compared to those women blinded later in life (Eating Disorders in the USA).

That just goes to show how much of what women actually "see" has an influence on how they feel. In conclusion, society puts women under a great deal of pressure to be thin which is why so many develop some kind of eating disorder. Women need to take a stand and stop trying to live up to the standards that society has set. For starters, women need to stop buying fashion magazines and diet products.

Most importantly, women need to remember that weight is nothing but a number, and has absolutely nothing to do with intellectual ability. So, to all the woman out there who have ever had any doubt about there inner beauty (or outer beauty) I say this- "There nothing wrong with wanting to be healthy and wanting to feel good, but we are going to be running this country some day, and we can't let not let the shape of our body get in the way of the wonderful things we can do". Women need to live their lives, happy, healthy, and confident. Hopefully, society will soon realize how truly amazing women really are.

Bibliography

Eating Disorders in the USA, web M.D., Merry N., and Pumariega, M.D. Andr " es. "Culture and Eating Disorders". Psychiatric Times February 1999, Vol. XVI, Issue 2 National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, web.