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Society’s Effect on Dysfunctional Eating and Negative Body Image

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>> Hi and welcome back. In this lecture, I'm going to be talking about modern societies influence on dysfunctional eating and negative body image. Before I begin, I have two quick disclaimers. When I use the term dysfunctional eating, I'll be referring to eating disorders as well as less severe, but still problematic eating behaviors that may be preventing a person from reaching an optimal well-being. And two, when I refer to modern society, I'll be referring primarily to the United States. While a lot of what I speak about will apply to other regions of the world as well, I want to focus on the US specifically because as many of you are aware, the United States is notorious for having the highest obesity rate in the entire world. It's estimated that at least 30 million people in the United States have eating disorders, and we have a weight loss industry worth over $66 billion. So what's going on here? Something clearly isn't adding up. As a writer, researcher, and eating disorder survivor, I've spent a lot of time hypothesizing what it is about American society that makes it so difficult for people, especially women, to trust their bodies and consume food in a way that's healthy and natural without attached feelings of guilt and shame. We have terms like eating disorders, and body dysmorphia to describe so called serious dysfunctions in the way people eat and in the way people see themselves. But what about the dysfunctions in society that contribute to disorders? A lot of emphasis gets placed on this notion of personal responsibility when it comes to consumer food choices. But has too much responsibility been placed on consumer shoulders? Are the expectations placed upon us realistic given our busy modern lifestyles, the food options that are accessible to us, and the persuasive often manipulative, marketing tactics were exposed to every day. I think a critical part of understanding and empowering ourselves as individuals is understanding the world around us. And so I'd like to spend some time examining the various sources of influence and persuasion in society that can contribute to feelings of hopelessness, and despair, and consumers. Let's start with three industries that dominate a huge percentage of the economy in the US that hold a lot of power when it comes to shaping what people buy, how people think, and how people feel about themselves. The food industry, the media, and the weight loss industry. The way I see it, the food industry, the media, and the weight loss industry have a perfect monopoly setup to control people's minds and emotions and to ensure that they all keep making money, while consumers continue to fixate on their weight and feel unhappy with their bodies. Think about it. The food industry makes people overweight, the media makes people feel bad about themselves for being overweight, and then the weight loss industry makes money from people who want to go on diets and exercise programs to lose weight. So as consumers, we're inevitably going to be facing some conflicts and mixed messages inside of a system that more or less sets us up to fail. We're encouraged to indulge one moment and deprive ourselves the next. Sounds like entrapment to me. We all know the modern food climate in America is full of food that's fast, cheap, and highly processed. Therefore, consumers are essentially doomed for healthy food choice failure unless they apply a great deal of caution and education to their food choices. It seems the main objectives of most food companies is to produce foods as quickly and cheaply as possible, while making food as tasty and addictive as possible, and ensuring it has the longest shelf life possible. Then on top of the way food is actually produced and manufactured, the food industry heavily markets unhealthy foods, especially to children using manipulative and persuasive tactics to tempt consumers to overeat. So the first main point is that unless you're a conscious shopper, and you prepare most meals from scratch using whole and natural ingredients, you're almost guaranteed to be eating foods that are high in calories and low in nutritional value with sneaky ingredients in there that are going to cause your body to gain weight and hold on to it. Next, let's take a look at the next area. Media. Now hopefully, I don't have to go into too much depth here because I'm sure most of you are pretty familiar with Western standards of beauty as they are promoted by the fashion industry, TV, Internet, and social media. The media enforces ideal body shapes and sizes. For women being tall and thin with long legs, full breasts and full lips is typically what is marketed to us as the American ideal. For men, it's more about being tall and muscular with defined facial features. This is what many of us have been conditioned to believe is sexy, and this is what is sold to us, and this is what sells. But because only a small portion of the population actually meets these standards or is capable of meeting these standards, the majority of people are left out receiving the message through every advertisement and celebrity Instagram photo that they're not good enough. So already here we have a problem. The food industry traps consumers into overeating unhealthy foods. Then when weight gain ensues, the media is there to blame and shame consumers for falling into this trap and for failing to meet very unrealistic standards of beauty. Now the weight loss industry steps in and says, "Need to lose a few pounds? Feeling frustrated with your body? I'm here to help." This brings me to the third main point of the cycle. The weight loss industry helps us fit into the media ideal after the food industry sells us unhealthy foods. It sells us everything from diet pills to meal plans to fancy workout programs and gym memberships. You're probably familiar with all the dogma around dieting that's out there. Think back to the dietary theory library from your Health Coach Training Program and the many different diets that were included there. In American society, I've noticed that a lot of people treat diet like a religion. They treat food like it's something of moral value telling themselves they're good if they eat this and bad if they eat that though, of course, no food is inherently sinful or righteous. People give their diets power over their entire lives using their food choices to define them as individuals and guide their life decisions. You have the people who are vegan, and the people who are paleo, and the people who are doing the keto diet. Now I fully respect people who choose diets like these for medical, ethical, or health reasons. But too often, I think it's the case that people want a quick fix or a set of rules they can follow like a faith or a discipline, rather than doing the work to become more connected to their bodies and trusting of themselves. That's the goal, right, what you learned in HCTP. Each person has bio-individual needs, therefore, no one diet is right for everyone. But think back to before this clicked into place for you. Maybe you were like so many Americans frustrated, confused, and stuck on a roller coaster of guilt and disillusionment. I mean, I'm talking here about the realities of the society within which we live and the impact of the messages we receive on a regular basis. But what I also want you to consider is the overall sense of inner chaos that's created by so many conflicting messages. Think about it. Our emotions are being pulled in a million different directions a day. Have you ever been listening to a playlist on shuffle and a song comes on that really moves you? It's an emotional song and you could feel it in your gut, you're almost moved to tears. Then a song that's really loud and fast comes on right after that, and suddenly you feel as if you weren't ready for such an abrupt transition. Now think about when you're watching TV and a commercial for Burger King comes on. The camera zooms in on a juicy sizzling whopper topped with crisp lettuce and a perfectly red slice of tomato to ignite your taste buds. It's almost provocative. Then right after that, you see a commercial for Calvin Klein underwear with a perfectly chiseled model wearing practically nothing, with the model's perfect physique glowing from head to toe. Or maybe, you see a commercial for Weight Watchers or LA Fitness. I mean, this kind of thing probably wouldn't even faze most of us, it's just a way of life. So what are the long term psychological effects of receiving so much contradictory information through our senses with this push-pull style of marketing that says, "Indulge, deprive, indulge, deprive." I believe that over time, we lose the ability to trust our bodies, our desires, ourselves. We lose the ability to feel in control and empowered by our choices. Given society's unrealistic expectations of consumers, it's no wonder that so many of us have developed unrealistic expectations of food. Now despite this being the situation many of us are dealing with, I'm not trying to suggest we're all victims of the system or anything like that. I'm not going to recommend we all throw our hands up in the air and give up. My goal in presenting you with this information is to help you feel more aware, more validated, and more empowered, not more hopeless. I think that the more people recognize that society and big profit-driven companies don't always have consumer's best interest in mind. The more we can make it our collective responsibility to transform the system within which we live into one where health and well-being are more prioritized and more accessible. This transformation can start with you and the work you do with your clients. As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, you're in a unique position. I mean, you're at the forefront of this movement to improve health and happiness as part of a ripple effect that's changing the world. If you're working with a client who feels trapped in a cycle of compulsive eating and dieting, you can empower them by helping them to explore the connection between societal influences and their emotional eating habits. As I mentioned in the last video, it can be really illuminating when you work with your clients to uncover the feelings that motivate their behaviors and the experiences that lead to these feelings. For the next week or so, I want you to do an experiment and pay extra close attention to the advertisements and other media influences in your daily life. What makes you feel bad about yourself? What makes you feel good about yourself? What makes you feel frustrated? What makes you feel confused? Consider the ways in which various marketing efforts are attempting to trigger your emotions in order to get you to buy something. What you'll probably notice is that the majority of marketing efforts target what's known as people's subconscious lizard brains. That is the oldest part of our brain which pays attention to three things, food, danger, and sex. This is why using sex in advertising is so powerful. We're strongly wired to react to sex. You'll notice in a lot of advertisements that there's often a sexual undertone to the way products are marketed to us, even food. Food and sex are two important parts of human survival, and they're also highly commodified in American culture. Now I want to take a moment to acknowledge that, if you're a woman in America, chances are you've probably struggled even more with your weight and body image than your male counterparts. I used to work at a café, and I was always astonished by the number of women who would basically apologize to me when ordering a cookie or brownie or some other bakery item from the pastry case. They'd always say something to the effect of, "I'm going to be bad today and let myself have a cookie." As if they were breaking the law or worried, I would judge them. I rarely if ever heard a man use this kind of disclaimer. So why is this? Why is it that woman seems to be more targeted by the weight loss industry than men? And why generally speaking do women struggle more than men with emotional eating, and body image issues? While there are many reasons, I'll name just a few. Throughout American history, and in modern times, women have been socially conditioned to believe that they're worth and sexual appeal is largely attached to their appearance, whereas men have been more encouraged to define their worth according to education, intelligence, talent, career status, etcetera. Women are also commonly conditioned to believe that having an appetite is bad. Women should mind their place. Refrain from asserting their needs and desires, not only when it comes to food but also sex, career advancement, etcetera. Women learn that pleasure is dirty or that pleasure comes with a price, and therefore indulging must be followed by a period of guilt, repentance, and deprivation. Sometimes eating disorders emerge out of fear of gluttony. Women hold shame around wanting, needing, and feeling. Women's bodies hold on to more fat than men's bodies, and they're genetically programmed to do so. On average, women have 6% to 11% more body fat than men. Studies show that estrogen reduces a woman's ability to burn energy after eating, resulting in more fat being stored around the body. The likely reason is to prime women for childbearing. Diet food is marketed more to women than men. Think of marketing for brands like Smart Ones, Lean Cuisine, Activia yogurt, and so on. Whereas some products market it's men encourage the opposite, encouraging men to be macho and to eat more. For example, hungry men dinners with slogans like, "Eat like a man." Protein powders with intense bold lettering. In my opinion, the implications of such marketing campaigns are oppressive to both sexes. More women than men are victims of rape and sexual assault. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, about 9 out of every 10 rape victims are female. Some people develop dysfunctional eating habits and/or eating disorders as a means of self-protection after dealing with sexual abuse and its related trauma. Sometimes, food is used to soothe shame around sex and intimacy. Sometimes women are in competition with other women and wanting to achieve a very slender body type since this is the body type that the media has portrayed as connected to success. Studies across cultures have actually shown that men tend to be more attracted to curvy body types than very slender narrow body types in women. Shapely hips in women are linked with fertility and overall health. So it makes sense evolutionarily speaking that men might find hourglass figure sexier. Yet, many women continue to strive to be unhealthily thin. Also worth noting is that we see an especially high prevalence of body image issues and eating disorders in the LGBTQ community, affecting both men and women and people who identify outside of the binary. Gay identified males are thoughts who represent 5% of the total male population. But among males who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay. And females who identified as lesbian, bisexual, or mostly heterosexual were about twice as likely to report binge eating at least once per month in the last year. This high prevalence of disordered eating in the LGBTQ community, maybe due to experiences of rejection, discrimination, bullying, and/or violence, which can lead to internalize shame and a poor self-image. In other cases, individuals may be moved to alter their bodies due to discordance between biological sex and gender identity. For example, a woman might diet to the extreme because she wants her body to appear more androgynous, or men might put his body into a calorie deficit to achieve a more petite and feminine shape. Now we've covered a lot in terms of factors that contribute to dysfunctional eating habits and negative body image in modern society. But before we wrap up, I want to quickly go over some other potential factors for you to think about that can play a role. Many people work at least 40 hours per week in addition to having other significant responsibilities like caring for children, elders, or sick family members, and time is a factor when it comes to making healthy choices around food. An extraordinarily large percentage of people in the US suffer from anxiety, depression, digestive issues, mood disorders, stress-related disorders, and fatigue. Many are taking prescribed drugs or self-medicating with food, alcohol, and other substances. Many people, especially those living in urban areas are largely removed from nature and the natural rhythms of the Earth. Even if you don't live in an urban area, many of us are over exposed to technology and other modern conveniences that cut us off from the Earth, from our intuition, and from one another leading to a void feeling or feelings of disconnect. In other parts of the world and in previous ages, things were different. Our predecessors relied more on nature for their immediate survival, and people worked together in tribes and communities to hunt, gather and harvest food. This is still seen in parts of the world where happiness is reported at higher levels. Many people feel overwhelmed and overstimulated by their lives. We've evolved to a point in our existence where we're overloaded with more information, and we have more decisions to make than ever before. Think about how many text messages and emails you receive in a day. Think about going to the grocery store and needing to choose between 13 varieties of ketchup. Think about your social media newsfeed. How do these impacts you on an emotional and physiological level? Information overload and decision fatigue are real things. When we live every day with so much excess entering our senses, it can make it more difficult to listen to our bodies. It can make us feel powerless, disorganized, and exhausted. If you're anything like me, you might find yourself yearning for simplicity and trying to achieve it. We all want to live lives that are fulfilling and meaningful. To do this, it begins with stepping into your personal power and divinity, gaining awareness and really owning your choices. I believe that in order to be healthy and happy, we must know how to think for ourselves beyond the constructs of society, and make choices that suit us as individuals. We must recognize and honor the fact that each and every person is entitled to nurture themselves according to their own unique needs and values. In the next video, I'll be talking about healing self-destructive behaviors around food. But first, I want to summarize the main points for you to take away from this lecture. Dysfunctional eating and poor body image may in part be influenced by unrealistic standards of beauty and conflicting forces of persuasion in society. Society plays a large role in affecting the choices we make and the way we feel about ourselves. An important part of understanding and empowering ourselves as individuals is understanding the world around us. Factors including the priority placed on physical appearances, especially for women, the pace and demands of modern life, over reliance on technology, and lack of connection to the Earth, and access information, stimulation, and decision making can confound and exacerbate this issue. And finally, a meaningful life begins with stepping into your personal power and divinity. Seeing beyond, what you've been conditioned to believe and taking responsibility for your choices. I hope, I've given you some points to think about. Remember to pay close attention to the advertisements and other influences in your daily life this week. What makes you feel bad about yourself? What makes you feel good about yourself? What makes you feel frustrated? What makes you feel confused? Reflect on these questions and if you feel comfortable, share your thoughts with us in the Facebook group. Let's keep this very important conversation open. Thanks for watching, and I'll see you in the next video.

Video Details

Duration: 20 minutes and 26 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
Genre: None
Views: 5
Posted by: integrativenutrition on Mar 14, 2019

Society’s Effect on Dysfunctional Eating and Negative Body Image

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