Dieting has been a controversial discussion in society for years. People have long debated how to attain the “ideal appearance,” what diets are the healthiest and who should be dieting. According to Common Sense Media, an advocacy group, the most common age for children to start thinking about dieting was about 15 years old in 2011. Now the average age for children to consider their body image is seven years old. These statistics are due to social media’s promotion of unhealthy eating, new eating disorders emerging and society’s need to glorify an unhealthy body-image.
Many children are exposed to the ideas about dieting from social media. According to fitness.gov, there are currently over five million children under 10 years old using Facebook and Instagram. Because of this, young boys and girls have access to inappropriate pictures and videos, especially those glorifying eating disorders and unnaturally skinny bodies. In addition, one-third of boys from six to eight say they wish their bodies were thinner, and almost 80% of 10 year old girls in America have been on a diet.
“They take their cues from peers, adults and media around them,” said Common Sense Media, a website discussing social media’s affect on society, to fitness.gov. “Young children in particular pick up models for how to think and behave from those around them. Body-related talk and behavior is no exception.”
While most childhood dieting cases are temporary, many are not. Being too concerned with body image from a young age can lead to an eating disorder later in life. According to dictionary.com, an eating disorder is any of various disorder characterized by severe disturbances in eating habits. These disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and orthorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Bulimia nervosa is a cycle of bingeing followed by self-induced vomiting to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating. Binge eating is the consumption of food without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the intake. Lastly, orthorexia nervosa is the obsession with healthy eating to a dangerous point. Society has, throughout past years, glorified anorexia in social media and other mediums, taking the average model’s BMI from, according to rehabs.com, around 22 in the 1920s to 16.9 in the 2000s. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization classifies a normal BMI as falling between 18.5 to 24.9.
Anorexia and orthorexia are two very similar and yet very different disorders. Orthorexia comes from the Greek word “orthos” meaning “correct or right” and “orexis” meaning “appetite”, meaning “correct appetite”, and anorexia therefore is “without appetite”. Both are very unhealthy and serious eating disorders, yet anorexia is more commonly glorified and debated in society. However, orthorexia is slowly becoming a more serious issue that, if not discussed and treated, will lead to problems in the lives of young girls and boys everywhere. Especially here in Los Angeles, it seems that orthorexia is slowly becoming more and more prevalent. With all the healthier restaurant alternatives and gyms, people may tend to go overboard with the exercise and healthy eating and become orthorexic.
Models, adults, teenagers and even children as young as seven are struggling with body image issues, and this problem will not cease to exist until society changes its opinions and focuses more on self-expression of individuals. The world needs to stop using the phrase “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and start telling young girls and boys to accept themselves the way they are. Until body image opinions are changed, young children will continue to unhealthily diet and new eating disorders will continue to emerge.