Honors Blog Post #2 (Eating Disorders)

Joanna Leski, Reporter

Honors Blog #2


Mayra Hornbacher did not start her anorexic and bulimic habits to an attempt to be “perfect” or “pretty” or even to “fit in.” She began to develop her habits after an experiment in the bathroom gone wrong. At age 9, she wanted to see what effect sticking her finger down her throat would have. She binged for the first time and she immediately became addicted, which later let her down an even darker path of developing not only bulimia, but anorexia as well.

Although Hornbacher’s case was clearly different, a leading reason behind why thousands of boys and girls, even man and women, develop eating disorders is an attempt to try and meet society’s expectations of being “perfect”. In today’s society, many would agree that the world “perfect” is synonymous with “skinny.” During her five hospital stays, Hornbacher meets patients that have spiraled down this dark path due to achieve these societal standards.

It is important to consider that Hornbacher published this book in 1997 and she was battling her demons long before then. Societal pressures existed back in 1997 as well but as the usage of social media as risen, the amount and intensity of these pressures has only risen. Young girls and boys grow up longing all that social media shows them- if you’re not skinny and beautiful, you won’t fit in with the popular crowd. You will never find a man if you’re not perfect, and no women will be attracted to you if you’re “fat” as well. Social media is not only television or websites such as Facebook. The article I read by Medical News supports that these societal pressures are also found in books and “Fifty Shades of Grey” is an excellent example.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James has became a worldwide sensation. 100 million copies have been sold worldwide. The movie version of the book will be released in movie theaters on February 13th,2015. A study done by Ohio State University students suggests that this is novel is actually not harmless, as young adult women who read it are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors that are risk factors for eating disorders.

The story revolves around the sexual endeavors of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey who embark in a “daring, passionately physical” affair, or as lead study author Amy Bonomi of Michigan State University deems it, an abusive relationship. Ohio State University students wanted to find out if the book “depicts pervasive violence against women, perpetuating a broader social narrative that normalizes these types of risks and behaviors in women’s lives.”

The team found that women who had read the first novel more 75% more likely to have starved themselves for more than 24 hours or used dieting aids after reading the novel.

Some behaviors might have already been pre-existing, but reading the book can cause problems. Researcher Bonomi explained, “If women experienced adverse health behaviors such as disordered eating first, reading Fifty Shades might reaffirm those experiences and potentially aggravate related trauma, likewise, if they read Fifty Shades before experiencing the health behaviors seen in our study, it’s possible the books influenced the onset of these behaviors.”

This article really connects with my book and proves that societal pressures are only getting worse and growing. Book characters became heroes for their readers and sometimes the readers will get so engaged in the book they will do anything to become more like their character- even something as extreme as following in risky behaviors that are similar to the ones of the character. This is interesting to see that during Hornbacher’s times these pressures existed and now more and more “triggers” are present in today’s society. Books and movies and various types of social media are not meant to be taken so seriously, but unfortunately many people, especially adolescents, take them seriously. Children and young adults should be taught to be critical when it comes it watching movies, reading books, or viewing any other media that influences risky behaviors.