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The Relationship of Body Image and Bulimia

What is the ideal body type?  Is there an ideal body type? Each day, we are bombarded with images and advertisements in Magazines, television and movies.  We often get the message that our bodies are not good enough. This is because they are constantly selling us unreal, air-brushed images of girls and women we are supposed to emulate.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, the average American woman is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 117 pounds. Often, society associates being "thin" with “hard-working, beautiful, strong and self-disciplined people”. On the other hand, being "fat" is associated with being "lazy, ugly, weak and lacking will-power." So, due to these somewhat harsh critiques, women are rarely completely satisfied with their image. And, as a result, they often feel great anxiety and pressure to achieve and/or maintain an appearance that is out of reach for the normal individual.
Eating well and exercising – not dieting – are the best ways to maintain a healthy weight. However,, people can become obsessed with body fat or losing weight. This can be a sign of stress or depression, and can develop into an eating disorder.
When coupled with psychological problems, body image problems can lead to serious medical problems.  Eating disorders like Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are serious medical problems.  They frequently develop during adolescence or early adulthood but have been known to occur in childhood or later adulthood.  These eating disorders develop more often in females than in males.
These are the definitions of the 3 major eating disorders, and these definitions can also help you determine whether you or someone you know may need help:

The problem is not the food or the eating per se.  The food is used as a control. Food is used to feel in control of other feelings that may seem overwhelming. For example, starving is a way for people with anorexia to feel more in control of their lives and to ease tension, anger, and anxiety. Purging and other behaviors to prevent weight gain are ways for people with bulimia to attempt to feel more in control of their lives. They use the purging and binging behaviors to ease stress and anxiety.
Although individuals with bulimia do not normally display the dramatic weight loss that Anorexics do, they usually have severe health problems due to the results of vomiting, purging and a bad diet. All too often, , all of these eating disorders stem from body image issues. It is very common for individuals, both females and males to perceive their bodies in a way that is not realistic. They see themselves as "fat" when in reality they are not. It's a type of thinking and perception that is individual and usually is not reflective of the reality of how they truly appear to others on the outside.
Triggers for these disorders can stem from so many things. To name just a few, they could include:
1) Past trauma
2) Poor self-esteem/self-image
3) Parents or someone in authority influencing an individual to achieve perfection and nothing else
4) Low self-worth
There are many reasons why these become triggers.  Control is usually at the core.  Take for example a teenager whose life has always been managed by parents who have always expected perfection.. A teen may get to a point, that in order for them to feel any control over their own life that they take control of food- how much they eat, how much they don't eat, etc. It gives that person a sense of control, where everything else seems out of control in their lives. So you see, it’s not the food that is at the core, but the control issue, and it’s complicated by the person’s sense of body image and how they can control it with the food, thus controlling a part of their lives.

Other contributing factors to the development of these disorders have been found to be:

Rika B.

NOTE/Disclaimer: Inclusion in our list of organizations, books, counselors, and other links and resources does not necessarily indicate a recommendation or endorsement. What is helpful for another survivor may not be right for you. As always, use your own judgment when contacting any of these organizations. Advice given at this website, or in conjunction with Joshua Childrens Foundation activities is not to be taken as a counseling or clinical relationship but only as suggestion based on the founders personal experience as a sex abuse victim resulting in bulimia eating disorder and the healing journey from that. Articles, links, or content contained on this website should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner, nor should it be inferred as such. Always check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about a specific condition. Joshua Childrens Foundation does not take any responsibility and is held harmless from any actions by anyone associated with the websites we link to.