Calorie-restricting diets have negative effects on women’s long-term physical and psychological health.
The above video goes behind the scenes of the popular reality TV show, America’s Next Top Model. More specifically, it shows the psychological struggle of one particular model and her self-consciousness of her body due to the ridiculously unhealthy model requirements. She discusses her diet and lack of food intake along with her willingness to lose weight until she is content with her body. Because she is competing with other extremely skinny models, she feels pressured to be thinner than them to win the positions and properly fitting clothes on the runways. Although she is a very thin girl, clothing designers made comments about her thighs and constantly measured her body to ensure their clothes would fit her.
Pictures of models and celebrities on magazines have a huge psychological effect on women’s body image. Referring to runway models, Sarah Murnen, professor of psychology at Kenyon College says: “The promotion of the thin, sexy ideal in our culture has created a situation where the majority of girls and women don’t like their bodies… body dissatisfaction can lead girls to participate in very unhealthy behaviors to try to control weight,”(Hellmich). The fact of the matter is that it is not healthy to be 5-foot 9-inches tall and to weigh only 125 pounds. According to Dr. Steven Halls, the ideal weight for a woman who is 5-foot 9-inches tall is between 140 and 155 pounds (Halls). When women see such a large difference in size between themselves and models or celebrities, they become psychologically scarred and more susceptible to negative self-image and lower self-esteem.
The picture above compares an unedited photo of actress, Jennifer Lawrence to the final product after Photoshop effects have been used. Lawrence is much skinnier in the right-hand picture, showing more ribs, thinner thighs, and twig-like arms. Her face is also much more slim. This is one of many examples of media improperly depicting celebrities as something that they are not. Lawrence is not overweight or unhealthy-looking in the left-hand, unedited picture. The use of Photoshop to cut her body is completely unnecessary.
Although Lawrence’s body is not realistically this thin, this is the image young girls will see in magazines. Lawrence is a popular role model, which can influence girls to make durastic changes to be like her, including heavy cuts to calorie intake. This is absurd because girls will try to look like their role model, when this is not even an accurate depiction of her body. Heavy calorie cuts often leads to anorexia. “The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old,”(Eating Disorder Statistics). This statistic demonstrates the legitimacy and dangerousness of the psychological impact of media and unhealthy dieting.
Not only do drops in caloric intake hurt women psychologically, but also affects their internal body systems, such as the cardiovascular system. Due to the lack of nutrients and electrolytes, calorie deprivation can lead to hypokalemia, hyponatremia, and heart arrhythmias (Lein). Not only does calorie cutting cause nutrient deficiencies, but it also affects the blood cells themselves: “The blood itself may also be damaged. Abnormal blood counts and anemia (low red blood cells or abnormal red blood cells with impaired oxygen-carrying capacity) are not uncommon”(Lein). According to Lein, these abnormalities and deficiencies in the blood can also cause one to bruise more easily and have low blood pressure.
Secondly, calorie deprivation affects women’s reproductive system. Because caloric restriction limits available energy in the body, the brain must prioritize where the energy should be spent: the reproductive system is often the first to shut down because it is not necessary for survival. This means that the reproductive system will stop ovulating, making it difficult or impossible to bear a child. Although ovulation can be retained if the woman’s health is recovered, “they are at an increased risk for having a miscarriage and if the baby does come to term successfully, of needing a C-section. Their baby is at an increased risk of having a low birth weight,”(Lein). This shows the severity of extreme calorie cutting: it affects more people than the dieter alone.
Lastly and most visibly noticeable are the physical affects of calorie deprivation on the skin, hair, bones, and joints. “Hair and nails become brittle. Nails can become discolored and yellow. Hair loss may even occur. The joints may swell as well as the extremities,”(Lein). According to BMJ Group Medical Reference, “[calorie deficiency] makes your body produce less of the hormone called oestrogen. Oestrogen helps bones stay solid and strong.” When the body is lacking oestrogen, there is a greater risk of bone fracture and development of osteoporosis, which is when the body is losing more bone mass than it can replace (BMJ Group Medical Reference).
BMJ Group Medical Reference. “What anorexia can do to your body.” Mental Health Centre, WebMD. BMJ Publishing Group Limited. 1 Nov. 2010. Web. 9 Nov. 2013.
“Eating Disorder Statistics.” ANAD: National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, ANAD. n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2013.
Halls, Steven. “About the “Metropolitan Life” tables of height and weight” Halls md. n.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2013.
Hellmich, Nanci. “Do Thin Models Warp Girls’ Body Image?” USAToday: Health and Behavior. USA Today., 26 June. 2006. Web. 7 Nov. 2013.
Lein, Stefanie. “Effects of Anorexia.” Eating Disorders Online, EatingDisordersOnline. n.d. Web. 9 Nov. 2013.
Celebrities Before/After Photoshop. 2013. The Unknown But Not Hidden, Blogspot. Blogspot.Web. 19 Nov. 2013. <http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-hjUxDohvV6Y/Un_BZGtIXmI/AAAAAAAAA9s/4xHydbUONhs/s1600/modified+Background+-+Copy.png>
IKat381. “Case Study: Eating Disorders and Top Model.” Online video clip. YouTube. Youtube, 10 Nov. 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRjBEHmVFII
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