It’s that time of year again. January 2015; New Year, new me and “celebrities” seem determined to make their money from diet supplements and ‘belly-blasting DVDs’ but are they fuelling eating disorders in adolescents?
As social media allows fans to become ever closer to their idols the presence of media and body image is almost impossible to escape. The new idols of teenagers are the stars of reality shows such as Geordie Shore and Made in Chelsea and the use of social media allows young girls (and boys) to follow all aspects of their life; from their wardrobe to their eating habits. A constant daily reminder on social media that another TOWIE star has dropped 2 dress sizes and is happier than ever through a new dieting technique, or pictures of what diet supplements “Vicky Pattison” is replacing her meal with. By observing the profiles of these girls that are ‘retweeting’ celebrities’ diet secrets or thanking these celebrities for the diet supplements they ordered, it is clear to see that a lot of these girls are under the age of 18.
During your teens your body is undergoing many changes during puberty and whilst in this important transition period it is imperative to intake the right nutrients in order to develop. Eating disorders can result in being underweight at this important stage of your life and may lead to a lack of energy, nutritional deficiencies, a weakened immune system, delayed periods and damage to future fertility.
As a past suffer of anorexia/bulimia nervosa I know what a difference media can have to a young girl’s eating habits. I suffered mostly around the age of 13, I used to go through periods of starving myself before binge-eating and making myself vomit. Undertaking in a lot of exercise also kept my weight down but I also used this as an excuse for my skinny appearance. My eating disorder was driven by the constant images that I began to see of the perfect bikini body on the front of magazines combined with my lack of self-esteem. Luckily I managed to battle the condition by myself in about a year and it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I came to the realisation that I had even suffered from an eating disorder. Now aged 20, considered “normal weight” at 59kg I am trying to tone up and lose a little weight but this time through eating my 5 a day, replacing snacks with lower calorie options and exercising more regularly.
By seeing celebrities losing large amounts of weight in just months I can’t help wondering if this promotes extreme and often short-term solutions to weight loss. A worrying idea considering the teenagers that avidly follow these stars. Instead the promotion of a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise is crucial. The principles of healthy eating should be upheld; particularly eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, the importance of breakfast and basing meals around starchy carbohydrates. As well as this joining a team sport can help teenagers lead an active healthy lifestyle as well as increasing social interaction and developing personal skills.
As the age that girls in particular begin to start to worry about their body appearance decreases rapidly each year it is important that we as a society teach from a young age that the importance of body image is not about looking good on the outside but feeling good inside, both physically and mentally.