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Counseling seminar discusses body image concerns

Written By Jessica Body


The VSU Counseling Center hosted an event Tuesday night to address body issues that affect many students on campus.


Dr. Marcie Wiseman, Ph.D., of the VSU Counseling Center hosted “Body Image and Eating Disorders: The Contribution of Cultural Factors and Media.”


The seminar focused primarily on the eating disorders known as bulimia and anorexia.


Dr. Wiseman listed statistics from the late ’90s and said that she has not been able to find any updated statistics. Eating disorders have tripled in the last 50 years, 10 percent of the population has an eating disorder and 90 percent of people with eating disorders are young women or adolescent girls.


Throughout the event, Dr. Wiseman explained the difference between anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia can be explained as mainly restricting calories, while bulimia can be described as purging.


To be diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia, a person must be below the 85th percentile on the height and weight charts used by physicians.


People suffering with anorexia can develop ritualistic ways of eating such as chewing food a certain number of times. The brain creates a distorted image of one’s body. Both anorexia and bulimia are considered a mental illness.


Bulimia is usually characterized with binge eating. There are two subtypes of bulimia: purging and non-purging.


Purging bulimia is the most common type of bulimia and involves self-induced vomiting and laxatives as a way to get rid of calories. The non-purging method is usually characterized by excessive exercising.


Bulimia can cause an irregular heartbeat and can eventually lead to a heart attack. Anorexia can cause an inability to maintain body temperature.


Anorexia is also the deadliest of all mental illnesses. Twenty percent of people with anorexia will die.


Eating disorders have been said to be a coping mechanism and a remedy to a sufferer’s need for control. It may also be a way to cope with self-esteem/self-worth problems.


There are risk factors that can trigger someone to develop an eating disorder. These include personality factors, family influence and media/culture factors.


The main factor talked about at the body image event was media and culture. Many places that do not have a big media outlet have never had diagnosed cases of eating disorders.


Over the course of many years the idea of the ideal woman has changed in regards to size and weight.


According to Dr. Wiseman, every picture we see in the media has been retouched. Movies are also doing their own retouching by using body doubles in place of actors.


Much focus goes toward women when speaking about eating disorders; however, men suffer from the illness as well.


Fifty-four percent of men are dissatisfied with their bodies, according to Dr. Wiseman. Men account for 10 percent of the cases of anorexia and bulimia, and there are a reported 1 million cases every year.


According to a study, heterosexual women have the worst body image, followed by bisexual or gay men, lesbian women and heterosexual men.


Dr. Wiseman also said that a lot of the influence of a woman’s size has come from the fashion industry.


“The fashion industry is concerned with making their clothes look good,” she said.


People from the fashion industry have said that it costs less to produce a great deal of size two’s rather than size 14’s. The fashion industry is not necessarily saying that the idea woman is that small, just that they want their clothes to look good on the runway.


“I didn’t realize how much the media really does have an effect on how we see our bodies,” said Jessie Brooks, junior accounting major.


Europe has started responding to concerns about the concept of the “ideal woman” and is trying to reduce the influence that the media has on people.


“Europe is responding to it and we’re not,” said Dr. Wiseman.


Students who attended the body image course did not realize how unaware they were of the severity.


“I’ve never known anyone that has come out to me about having an eating disorder, but some of the stories she described were crazy to think what people are putting themselves through to be ‘perfect,” said Lorena Gasque, junior mass media major.


The VSU Counseling Center holds seminars similar to this on occasion. Students who think they are suffering from an eating disorder should seek medical attention immediately.

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