Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When Anna Meets Jane, part 1: The Underlying Problems & Beliefs Most Women Suffer From

Meet Anna Freud; my professor liked her.

This is a pretty dense post, bear with me.

In my class, we covered anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN), but due to both having low prevalence, and I don't think any of my readers suffer from either disorder (I hope not), our focus will shift to another set of eating disorders. They're known as eating disorders not otherwise specified, abbreviated EDNOS, or also known as partial syndrome eating disorders.

They are less recognized because they don't meet full criteria for AN or BN. The problem?

50-70% of eating disorders are EDNOS. What's with this?

Well, did you know that because body-image dissatisfaction, satisfaction/dissatisfaction one is with one's body & physical appearance, is so common among girls and women that it's considered the norm? This means a significant portion of the population shows being unhappy with their physical appearance as typical.

This is awful, and unfortunately, there's more.

A type of corumination - the focus & discussion of negative feelings with peers - termed "fat talk" refers to weight-related negative body talk that occurs in peer groups, which in turn perpetuates the thin ideal. Not only are the majority of women dissatisfied, but their feelings are further reinforced by this "fat talk."

Simply saying things such as

  • "Do I look fat in this?"
  • "You look great, have you lost weight?"
  • Commenting on what one is eating.
  • Criticizing others based on weight.
"I feel fat," how often have you heard the phrase? How often has the person looked perfectly fine? I'm sure plenty of times.

And to make matters worse, these worries about appearance can be found in young children. A few facts we were given in class...

  • Over half of average-weight adolescent girls have at one point in their lives tried dieting.
  • In one study, almost one-third of girls (ages 10-14) were currently on a diet.
  • The majority of girls who diet begin dieting before the age of 15.
  • Concerns about being "fat" and high levels of body-image dissatisfaction are found in children as young as 7 or 8.
  • Half of girls between 7-13 years old, and two-thirds of girls between 14-17 report often feeling "fat" or wanting to lose weight.
That's ridiculous.

Let's look at a few reasons that high body-image dissatisfaction is present.

1) Pubertal development:
  • Girls experience an average weight gain of 20 lbs. during puberty. The body changes significantly during this time period.
  • Interest in opposite sex leads to more concerns about appearance.
  • Importance of peer relationships increase, fat talk occurs with peers.
2) Adulthood:
  • Stress increases.
  • Metabolism slows down later in life, and no longer able to simply eat whatever you want.
  • Responsible for what you eat as you get older. Easiest options aren't always the healthiest.
  • Friends eat junk, easier for you to "go with the flow" instead of choosing better alternatives
Looks bad, right? That's because it is.

Another change that occurs is in the size of muscle fibers. Men develop larger type II/fast twitch muscle fibers than women, who actually develop larger type 1/slow twitch muscle fibers. The former-mentioned are important to train in weight lifting. They allow for sprinting, lifting heavy, and doing virtually anything that requires strength. The other fibers, they're better suited for activities like long distance running.

So far we know that,

1) the majority of females are not happy with their body.
2) "fat talk" compounds the problem within a social circle
3) concerns begin young
4) changes occur with aging (physical & intra-/interpersonal ones)

Now, what does a person do when they want to improve their appearance? Either diet, exercise, or a combination of the two.

Diet will be covered in part 3, but let's look a little at exercise.

What do most women use as their form of exercise for fat loss? Usually, long distance running.
What did I say about muscle fibers? Type I/slow twitch muscle fibers are larger and better for long distance running.
How often has it led to that dream body? Most likely, not enough.

It's important to make those type II/fast twitch muscle fibers grow. But still, women don't want to take up weight training. It's the fear of bulk and having muscles that scare women. This aversion is a limiting factor for potential success.

As you can see, Rachel Cosgrove's hardly "bulky"
despite holding 225 lbs. in that picture.
(click the image for the original article)

Where's this perception of bulk come from? Chances are because muscle is usually added before fat is shed - creating more total mass - and the fact that muscles become bigger during a workout session.

It isn't that simple to become hulkish, as in bodybuilder-like (despite women following bodybuilder routines, more on that in part 3).

I'll end this first installment on a simple note.

In one word, what is the function and purpose of the muscular system?


And movement encompasses an array of motions outside just running.

Also keep in mind, this doesn't include every single female individual. There are women who train hard, eat wholesome foods, and aren't part of the majority that are stuck in a rut.

Hope you all enjoyed part 1. Stay tuned for part 2 next week, where I'll go over how men and the media play a role in this big picture.

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