Eat greens. Exercise daily. Drink plenty of water. Sleep well. These all constitute the steps our generation has cultivated for maintaining a healthy, balanced life. We live in a time where more and more people are concerned with longevity. Therefore, we make routines. We buy the latest health products. We follow the latest diet trends. We restrict our consumption. Sometimes, this can easily cause people to lose sight of their original goal of being healthy and develop something much more detrimental 一 an eating disorder.
There is currently an epidemic of eating disorders in this generation. The rise in eating disorder diagnoses can be attributed to the change in the way we define eating disorders. The clinical definition of eating disorders is established by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a publication of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The DSM contains sets of diagnostic criteria grouped into categories to assist clinicians with effective diagnoses and care of people with mental health disorders. As interest in eating disorders rose and research on the subject progressed, the DSM expanded its clinical definition of anorexia to encompass more people. Despite this expansion, people are still reluctant to accepting the prevalence eating disorders due to the long-lived stereotype around them.
Eating disorders are often stigmatized as a development among a certain group of people, typically in Caucasian adolescent females. Even though statistics reveal that the majority of patients with eating disorders are young women, the disorders are not exclusive to young women. Anyone can be prone to developing eating disorders, not only depending on their lifestyle habits but also genetic and neurological biological changes. The stigma around common eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa, has multiple negative ramifications. For instance, people who suffer from eating disorders may be reluctant to admit to their conditions if they do not fit into the stereotypes of patients with eating disorders. Thus, they are unable to identify the severity of their disorder and do not seek psychological or clinical treatment.
The matter of eating disorders is not just an issue pertaining to mental health, but an issue concerning the physical body and society’s standards on attractiveness and wellbeing. Although it commonly occurs, the individual cannot be blamed for their eating disorders. People will blame the individual for following certain diets and restrictions or the individual’s family for enabling them to do so. But these diets and habits are all promoted and encouraged by society. Through social media, we are more aware of other people’s lifestyles. One person’s minor habits, customs, and preferences can be publicized and glorified to become the next trend and obsession. Thus, we feel pressure to fit within specific metrics and sizes in order to feel satisfied with ourselves. The ambiguity of what determines this personal satisfaction is what needs to be questioned. Where do we draw the line between striving to become the healthiest versions of ourselves and becoming obsessed with strict routines and constant limitations?