There is an old saying not to judge a book by its cover, but until today, society continues to judge people based on how they look. When it comes to physical appearance, body shape and weight are major factors. When a woman has a beautiful face but has a weight that society deems to be too much, people say, “What a waste!” A person’s weight becomes their identity and overshadows the real character and personality.
Negative Emotions Affect Attitudes Toward Food
The pressure from society, especially from mass media, and particularly social media, is strongest on women but also affects men. The YouGov Body Image Study 2021 confirmed this. Conducted nationwide among 1,302 respondents aged 16 years old and older from April 26 to 27. It found that more than three-fourths believed that there is more pressure on women to attain a certain body type, and the same percentage stated that the media fosters this idea. Fashion companies are also seen by 69 percent as promoters of such idealized body images.
About half of all respondents admitted that they felt this pressure. Consequently, 20 percent saw themselves as chubby, and 20 percent saw themselves as overweight. Around a fourth saw themselves as being less attractive than average. When people see themselves as inferior to others, they develop a negative body image. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) defines body image as the total of the person’s self-perception, thoughts, and attitudes toward their physical appearance, shape, weight, and height.
A negative body image stems from a warped and overly critical self-perception. It views the body as something that needs to be “whipped into shape” to achieve the ideal form. There is an overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment with oneself. Because of self-consciousness and shame, the person tends toward self-isolation, avoiding social interactions.
This extremely low self-esteem has a great emotional and psychological effect on a person, leading to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. It also affects the person’s attitude toward food because food is perceived to be related to body shape and weight. The person begins to see food as a weapon of self-destruction. Persons in this situation are angry at themselves and blame themselves for “being fat.” They associate food with guilt, and they also begin to punish themselves with food.
Food as a Weapon or Enemy
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) lists various eating disorders that affect about five percent of the American population, mostly affect females from the age of 12 to 35. With anorexia nervosa, the person develops an aversion to food and diets to the point of starvation. This is why this disorder is serious and has the highest mortality rate among mental health disorders apart from illegal substances. Anorexia results in muscle weakness and wasting away, bone loss, bone fractures from excessive exercise, cessation of menstrual periods, dehydration that may lead to fainting, severe constipation, fatigue, poor concentration, depression, anxiety, irritability, cold intolerance, and brittle nails and hair.
In bulimia nervosa, the person swings between periods of dieting and binge eating. The person then induces vomiting or misuses laxatives. This can be fatal if it causes cardiac arrhythmias, gastric rupture, and esophageal tears.
In binge eating disorder, the person has periods of uncontrolled bingeing, eating large volumes of food in secret beyond satiation. This results in obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
With rumination disorder, the person repeatedly regurgitates swallowed food and re-chews it. After several repetitions, the person either spits out or swallows the food.
In avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), the person is an extremely picky eater. This results in malnutrition.
In pica compulsively eats non-food items like soil, pebbles, pieces of metal, pieces of plastic or rubber, paint chips, cardboard, among others. This can result in poisoning or intestinal blockages.
Other specified feeding and eating disorders are atypical variants of the listed disorders. They may also be combined disorders.
Professional eating disorder recovery programs can provide full-time medical supervision and therapy needed by persons with these disorders.
Food Is Your Body’s Friend
People must finally free themselves from the judgment of others and accept that their body, in whatever shape or weight it has, is only a neutral part of themselves, like the size of their feet. Only then can they truly use their body to experience life to the fullest, with no shame or guilt. Only then can they savor food for its flavors and appreciate it as healthy nourishment.