Part 1 of Chapter 3 of Runaway Eating: what causes Runaway Eating, and who’s at risk?
Earlier on, we talked about stress and how we women can easily turn turn to food for comfort as a result. Why do only some actually become runaway eaters?
There are some risk factors that are especially responsible. These are as wide-ranging as the media’s emphasis on thinness as beauty, or as personal as family history, or depression. The driving forces do remain the same. While having risk factors don’t ensure that you will get the condition, it does set the stage, so to speak. It might not actually start a fire, but the tinder is built up.
First, we’ll look at the beauty factor. For years and years, women has been valued for her beauty. From Helen of Troy to Paris Hilton, those with beauty seem to have everything. They have wealth, love, adulation, jobs, and career advancement. Many of us spend lots of time and money on cosmetics, manicures, and pedicures. We flip through catalogues and women’s magazines looking for the latest styles.
The sad part is that to society, beauty equals thin/skinny/slim/slender. Most people cannot achieve the desired weight. They were not made for it. How can a big-boned woman like Oprah ever become a waif like Nicole Richie? It brings a terrible price, this pursuit.
The writers have compiled a short timeline for this.
The early 1900s. Thin becomes in. This is perhaps when it all started. Before this time, plump, full curves were the ideal. They indicated that the well-endowed woman was well-fed and didn’t have to work.
The early 20th century ended this trend of round people. Slim, trim, and slender was desired, perhaps to differentiate from the stocky immigrants that were pouring into the States. It was a symbol of good breeding and discipline. Heaviness, the women thought, meant laziness, greediness, and lack of self-control.
Charles Dana Gibson revolutionized our perceptions with the Gibson Girl. This woman appeared tall, very slim, fit, and athletic with a small waist. Her face was gorgeous. Naturally no one looked like this, or very few people. After all, she was merely a figment of the artist’s imagination, based on what he felt the ideal woman should look like. However, women felt bad about themselves or not achieving this goal.
Just then, a physical fitness craze hit the country. Clothes started to reveal more, making women feel self-conscious about their appearance.
1920s: This was the age of the flappers. These girls wanted to be free to dance, play sports, and lead more active lives than their mothers and grandmothers. No more corsets, sleeves, or skirts. Well, not really. But whatever was there barely scraped the top of their calves. Women’s anxieties skyrocketed, especially since the perfect flapper’s body was small, slim, and flat chested. Fad diets were in. Self-induced vomiting was in. Laxative abuse was in.
Advertisers took the chance to take advantage of women’s insecurities about themselves to talk about weight-loss equipment, fad diets, and much much more. The message here was: “Slim down and you’ll be beautiful and happy.”
1940s to 1970s. Thin becomes a fashion statement. We know from other reading that designers prefer skinny models. Why? Because skinny works like a hanger. Clothes hang on the lady with fewer wrinkles, while people with a little shape have more wrinkles because of their curves.
Along the way, the hanger lady became an object of beauty. But no one looked like a hanger. Big problem. Instead of seeing that this ideal was not only unattainable but also quite ridiculous, women conformed it. They lusted after it, starved to fit into it. The result was despair.
Twiggy, a 95 lb, 5 feet 6 teen model, exploded onto the fashion scene during the late 1960s. Her sticklike figure made everyone feel heavy, even slim women. Fashions left little to the imagination. People believed, “You can never be too thin or too rich.” Eating disorders, as a result, suddenly abounded.
1980s. A fitness craze hit the nation. Jane Fonda turned out her famous exercise videos, urging women to “feel the burn.” The thin woman was apparently not only supposed to be hanger girl, but also have well-defined muscles, flat stomach, and a small, tight butt. Jane Fonda had all these things. Only later did people find out that she was bulimic. However, this look was impossible for most women. Those that succeeded did so only by spending hours at the gym, or starving, or purging.
1990s. Welcome to the era of the middle-aged woman who never gets old. Think about the 40-50 year olds (like Goldie Hawn or Demi Moore) who look like 20 year olds. These woman have an unusual combination of genes, along with personal trainers and plastic surgery. They have set a higher standard: looking your age is bad. You should be doing all you can to look young.
I can’t deny that. It seems that every single magazine I open is filled with spreads and spreads of anti-aging commercials. It’s not just the commercials, either. Most women’s magazines include a beauty section which will inevitably include some creams and serums which will make you look younger. The product testing department also has a few products. Why? Because right now there’s a demand for such products. We want to look young. We want to look young now. We also want to continue to look young at age 50-60, just like Demi Moore. I don’t think Moore or Hawn are responsible for the problem, but the fact that the media commends them and emphasizes the fact that they still look young even at such an age makes most women feel inadequate for not being like that.