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Eating disorders are psychological sicknesses that lead to an individual eating either more or less food to change one’s physical and mental health. On the other hand, globalisation is the process of increased interconnectedness of societies in the world through trade, exchange of culture and ideas. Notably, the prime reason as to why people will develop eating disorders is purely for beauty, self-acceptance and realism based on how the society describes beauty. The psychological nature of this issue invites a psycho-social approach to addressing globalisation of eating disorders.
Beauty is relative and different cultures describe or define beauty differently. Right from birth an individual begins being socialised on how to behave in the society, what the society expects from a person and how to ascribe to such. Beauty is of core concern to women as compared to men. The second factor is media; media through imagery content portray and define beauty in a unique and very powerful way. Since the post-Victorian era, skinny women in the Western culture are seen as the accepted body figure characteristic of a beautiful woman. The widespread of television throughout the global and westernisation of the televised content has led to cultures having to change so as to fit in. A good example is the Fijian women. In the Fiji society; a beautiful woman was concerned to be plump and big for the longest time ever. However, the introduction of western media and the portrayal of the ‘skinny model’ image as ideal led to eating disorders being recorded in a country that never before had recorded such. According to findings from CIA World Factbook in 1998, 11 percent of Fijian women confessed having to vomit to lose or control weight and 62 percent having to diet to check their body and weight. A similar case was replicated in Nigeria when the society turned to skinny women after the first ever black African Miss World pageant winner came from Nigeria; Agbani Darego. Men haven’t lagged behind as the image of being muscular; being big-bodied and athletic has led to men using steroids and injections to accentuate their looks.
A psychological framework needs to be used in order to solve the eating disorder problem. The multiplicity of the global cultures needs to be recognised and one society should not ascribe to another’s way of defining beauty.
However, the psychological determinism of eating disorders is debatable based on the fact that personality traits and environmental influences do lead to eating disorders. Hormonal changes during puberty, physiological and cultural influences do lead to either eating more or less (Feldman et al, 220). Adolescents undergo the biggest hormonal changes and this warrants significant changes in their physiological makeup; with the ladies tending to eat more when on menses. Such changes do justify eating disorders and the usual case being of the pregnant women.
Eating disorders cannot be a sole product of psychological and hormonal changes as environmental changes do also affect this. Childhood maltreatment, social isolation, parental influence, peer and cultural pressure also cause eating disorders to individuals. In a research done in New Zealand, the findings concluded that up to 25 percent of the interviewed respondents who were children in foster care had eating disorders (T-Sweeney, 20). The role parenting has in this matter can either lead to this disease or either counter it. Parents have the restrictive, upbringing and guardian role to play over their children and consequently the behavioural composition of a child is the aggregate of the nature of parenting that child. Biological factors like genetic inherited traits have been found to lead to eating disorders in children whom their parents suffered from the same.
In all the causes of eating disorders, be it biological, psychological, trait-related or environmentally based, the buck stops with the brain. An individual has to establish the need and essence of having this disorder that in most cases is voluntary. The element of the unquestioned subscription to pre-existing culture could be a factor but individuals make decisions as individuals based on the effect the social force (eating disorder) will have on their lives. This is the social imagination argument propounded by C. Wright Mills in 1959. No person will make drastic changes but rather gradually conform to the desired goal and this case applies to beauty too. Few people will indeed want to do anything that could harm or make any less of human but instead make decisions that best fit or benefit themselves.
Media and culture only play the role of persuasion in the individual’s nature of decision he is making in the end. In insight, this can be seen as aggravating of facilitative means of the globalisation of eating disorders. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs depicts that ‘the most strived-for need’ is esteem and self-actualisation. Both needs are psychological and attest to the consequential behaviour one results to after looking in a mirror and noticing he or she is the contradiction of what the society defines as a beauty.
There are numerous advantages one can gain when analysing the globalisation of eating disorders from a psychological perspective. It is easier to establish causality when using this method. For example, there is a loophole in building that lies in explaining why children from parents who have such disorders do not end up like their guardians. Could it be cultural impacts, media or unpretentiously peer pressure? Such ambiguities are well-addressed from the psychological standpoint.
All other causes be it environment based tend to rely on the mental part of the individual to effect the actions that will lead to eating disorders. No matter what the television portrays, it won’t affect the person in any way if he or she does not see the need to conform. It’s more like a value-based system where an individual’s valuation through reason and cost-benefit analysis forms the benchmark of the decision he or she makes. This goes back to the role that the psycho-social part of the individual plays. The psychological approach validates the role culture plays as an aggravating factor to the globalisation of the eating disorder. Other factors or causes of these diseases are comprehensible through this approach and one can answer the question why. This method gives room for understanding the complexities associated with decision making of an individual more so the voluntary eating disorders than with the other causes that ignore the role the individual has in this.
Beauty is multi-cultural and diversified but the nature in which a consolidative and one-dimensional approach to its definition has rendered other cultures retrogressive. The western culture determinism in fashion and beauty can be the sole reason to this and a solution to the globalisation of the eating disorders is well-dissected through a psycho-social mechanism.
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