It would be incredibly naive to believe that our American society is not extremely preoccupied with the quest for thinness. Everywhere you go, (i.e. grocery stores, bookstores, fitness centers, theaters) images of both men and women who society has deemed "beautiful" are deliberately posted in order to sell a product, entice an audience, or merely to gain attention. Even in an age where the rates for obesity are increasing at a rapid pace, it seems as though our society still idolizes the chiseled, lean man and the ultra thin woman. Many would argue that Hollywood and media has a definite force on creating a standard of beauty for its viewers. Many adolescents and young adults are feeling it very difficult to achieve and maintain this specific body and weight "ideal". It should make one wonder whether or not this emphasis on the external appearance has a played a part in the increasing numbers of men and women who are unhappy with their bodies and who as a result, decide to make extreme changes in their dieting and exercise routines.
It has been suggested that mass media may be partly to blame to the drastic increase in the prevalence of eating disturbances in our nation (Anschutz, Van Strien, & Engels, 2008). Many believe that there is an ever-widening gap between what the media portrays as the ideal body size and weight and what women's actual body size is. As a result, after continually viewing images of people whose size is almost impossible to achieve, both men and women are increasingly feeling bad about their bodies and report dissatisfaction. Thornton and Moore assert, "according to the social comparison theory, people tend to evaluate their own appearance more negatively after viewing highly attractive individuals" (as cited in Anschutz, Van Strien, & Engels, 2008).
American culture and media have set unrealistic expectations for thinness. The statistics for eating disorders and body dissatisfaction in our nation are quite troublesome. The Journal of American Dietetic Association (2011) states, “In the United States, conservative estimates indicate that after puberty, 5-10% of girls and 1 million boys and men are struggling with eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder or borderline conditions" (Journal of American Dietetic Association, 2001). Disordered eating, a term used by the DSM-IV-TR, is a phrase that is used to describe a wide range of abnormal eating patterns. These behaviors include those that are seen in eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, compulsive eating, habitual dieting, and restrained eating (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV-TR], 2000). Often a person with disordered eating patterns will ignore both physical hunger and signs of fullness. For most suffering with disordered eating patterns, eating is often accompanied by feelings of intense guilt, fear, or anxiety.
The unrealistic expectations for thinness, which are often portrayed in various media outlets...