Eating disorders

An estimated 5-10 million people in the US are affected by some kind of eating disorder. There are officially 12 types of eating disorders including the common anorexia and bulimia, but each is rooted in 3 common causes; biological, environmental and psychological. The causes for the eating disorders usually start from biology but can also arise from psychological and or environmental causes alone.

A lot of eating disorders arise first from a biological pre-disposition to developing an eating disorder and then are usually triggered by a psychological or environmental event or series of events. A common perception is that “Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger.” Some disorders though do not arise through genetics but instead sever trauma such as sexual abuse, especially as a child. The disorder arises, is this case as a coping mechanism. The abused seek comfort or control through food either as over eating, in the case of comfort or a strict diet in the case of control.

Racism and class standing can also contribute to eating disorders. Maybe not directly but because of the huge amount of stress accompanying the persons situation. I personally don’t see how racism and class standing can cause eating disorders except from the stress it can cause. Maybe if you lived in a part of the world were your race determined how much / what kind of food you get or that being poor may limit your diet but these are more social problems and not a disorder of the person.

BY David

Thinness =)


Twenty four million of today’s U.S. citizens suffer from some form of an eating disorder. An eating disorder is defined as an unhealthy relationship between food and weight that interferes with many areas of one’s life. Eating disorders account for the majority of all metal health related deaths.  Sociologists study the effects of social forces upon this illness.

There are three theoretical models that sociologists attribute to the explanation and treatment of eating disorders. The Biomedical Model focuses on only the biological factors that affected the sufferer‘s everyday life, searching purely for an organic cause. The faults of this model are failing to recognize socioeconomic standing, psychological and environmental factors. The Psychological Model focuses on a possible psychological origin of the eating disorder. This model fails to address the vast expanse of gender disparity, the social patterns and high incidence rate of eating disorders. Lastly, the Cultural Model explains how a powerful cultural influence can affect eating disorders. Some cultures believe thinness to be attributed to beauty. This model fails to account for why people exposed to the same influence, do not acquire an eating disorder, but does account for the gender gap.

Between one third and two thirds of women who have been sexually assaulted in so way, whether it be a family member or a stranger. When a person is abused, troubles are sure to ensue. Factors stemming from abuse consist of low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, lack of control, depression, anxiety, and difficulties expressing emotions. Sociologists have proven that abuse undergone as a child may indirectly affect psychological processes that can predispose children to developing problems in the developmental stages of food pathology, causing a food aversion or need for food. Sexual abuse is the most common trauma associated with the origins of eating disorders.  The most common form of eating disorders is binging. Binging helps to aestheticize their feelings of loneliness, anxiety, blocking painful feelings. Some people are not even conscious while binging, showing how deeply rooted the disorder is. Abuse most commonly causes a sense of no control over one’s own life.  Women who have bulimia and extensive dieting believe they were abused because of their weight, thinking that if they were smaller, thinner, they would have never been hurt. The disorder is partyl due to the guilt and shame they feel for the occasions they were abused.  Some say when dieting there is a split between body and soul; this is to protect the soul from the pain the body has caused. Bulimia and dieting are a person’s logical response to attempt to protect oneself by being a size and shape they do not think will be vulnerable to assault.

Many social forces could have potentially helped cause an eating disorder, racial classification and socioeconomic standing, are two of the major players. Studies have shown that the added pressures of racism have attributed to the need to be accepted, the need to be thin. Eating disorder victims feel they have no control over their lives so they obsess over the one thing they can control, their weight. Many people, back in the day and even today believed lighter skin was more beautiful causing them to strive to be perfect in any other way they can. Socioeconomic standing has inflicted upon society a weight limit for each given class. Studies show a higher rate of eating disorder associated with a higher class standing. Society believes that the women and men of the middle or upper class range should be more elegant, thinner. Whereas, if you are from a working class family, you are supposed to be plump to prove to everybody that the family was doing okay economically.

By Casey


Eating disorders is defined as unhealthy and extreme concerns with
weight,bodysize,food and eating habits.According to the American Anorexial
Bulimia Association,7 million women and 1 million men,ages ten to early
twenties,suffer from eating disorders.These eating problems maybe a response to
poverty,sexual abuse,racism,heterosexism,social class inequality and
There are three theoretical models used to explain and treat eating
disorders.These include the biomedical model,psychological model and feminists
models.The biomedical model offers important scientific research about possible
physiological causes of eating disorders.This model adopts medical treatment
methods that traumatizes and disempower women.
The psychological model identifies eating disorders as “multidimensional
disorders”that are influence by biological,psychological and cultural
factors.This model like the biomedical one,tends to neglect women of
color,lesbians and working class women.
The feminist approach is the last model.This model talks about eating
problems as gendered.It explains why women experience eating disorders the
most.Sexism and gender socialization are amongst the factors that contribute to
eating disorders in women because according to these factors women have to be
thin in order to be pretty.
Sexual abuse is the most common reason women develop eating
disorders.According to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre,recent
research has shown that 65% of people with eating disorders have experienced
some sort of abuse,including physical,emotional or sexual abuse.Sexual abuse can
be devastating to a persons body image.A victim of sexual abuse often
experiences extreme discomfort with their body because it is a reminder of the
horrible experience.The blacklash of sexual abuse is that survivors may turn to
food as a means to cope.In a desperate attempt to gain control over their bodies
some victims will turn to food and restriction.They may attempt to control their
body shape,becoming overweight or under weight,in order to push people away to
prevent further abuse,or so that the abuse will stop.This resort to food gives
them a sense of security thet they feel they cannot find anywhere.
Racism and class standing also contribute to eating disorders.Body image is
seen different in every race.In the African culture,thick and curvy is
considered pretty and sexy.If you are from Africa and you are very skinny,you
will resort to overeating in order to fit in and this goes a long way to affect
you.Likewise if you are from country where everyone is skinny and you are fat
you will go on diets and starvation in order to fit in.These pressures for the
perfect body image makes women do the extreme in order to be accepted and to fit
In order to prevent
this,first women must learn to appreciate themselves,their body and have self
esteem.If you are confident in yourself you will never resort to food to satisfy
you emotionally and internally.Secondly all the models used together hand in
hand can help prevent eating disorders.One thing we all should know is that true
beauty comes from within and there is nothng like a perfect body.

Eating Disorders

“Compare and contrast the three theoretical models used to explain and treat eating disorders”
1) All three theoretical models help to explain why people have eating disorders and try and curve or cure these disorders by using different methods. These models look at the physiological reason along with the biological and cultural factors that contribute to eating disorders. But all three models fail to fully understand some of the underlying reasons why people have eating disorders and fail to look at the whole picture. They fail to look at race, class, and sexuality and woman of color. It seems as though not all eating disorders fall into a nice neat package and can be diagnosed so easily.
2) Eating disorders caused by sexual abuse was a way for the women, who were children at the time to cope with their abuse and something they were in control of. Three of the subjects would use eating as a way to try and control the circumstances they were in, they thought because of their size that men were attracted to them so they tried threw different means to get smaller. These poor girls thought they caused the abuse and it was not their fault at all it was the sick male predators who should be castrated and put in a deep hole and left for dead.
3) It seems as though some people think the higher up you are in society the thinner you should be. In this account of two woman of different ethnic back grounds who both approached by their family members and asked to slim down is contradiction of terms you are who are. In this article I did not see the connection between racism and weight loses. The article seemed to be more of a family conflict over different perceptions of how someone should carry their selves and how they should appear. It did not seem to bring to the surface a true hate for a certain ethnicity or gender it did not seem to be racially motivated at all.


culture of thinness

It’s amazing to learn how many people actually have eating disorders. According to the America anorexia/ bulimia association, 7 million woman and 1 million men starting at the age of ten to early twenties suffer from eating disorders, and 1000 woman die from them every year. Starting at an early age kids receive the message that being fat is not cool or attractive and to be attractive you have to be skinny. I chose this topic because I have family members who had eating disorders and wanted to learn what causes them. A person might wonder why anyone would starve themselves. Do people starve themselves because their simply not happy with their weight? Eating disorders are caused by many things starting from poverty, sexual abuse, racism, heterosexism, social class inequality, and acculturation.
There are three theoretical models used to treat eating disorders. The first is the biomedical model, the second is the psychological model, and the third is offered by feminist. The biomedical model displays important information about the physiological causes of eating problems and how it leads to anorexia and bulimia. There are medical treatments to help but side effects could result in dramatization to women.
The second model is the psychological model. This model is influenced by biological, psychological, and cultural factors. This and the biomedical model, neglect women of color, lesbians and working class women.
The third model is offered by feminists. This model asserts that eating problems are gendered. This may explain why most of the people who get this are woman and not men. This method also shows how gender socialization and sexism relate to eating problems. This model is culturally, socially, and economically enforced for female beauty to be “skinny”. This leads to anorexia and bulimia.
Most women who suffer from eating disorders start out being sexually abused. According to a study 61 percent of woman connected that the start of their eating problems started when they were being sexually abused. Usually women cope with this problem by binging, which is eating for comfort. This helped woman “numb out”. Instead of food being something to eat, food is something that woman could trust and was easy to get a hold of when ever needed. Food becomes an “addiction”.
Another important aspect of eating disorders is the sensitive subject of racism and class standing. Joselyn an African American girl remembered how her white grandmother would often tell her she would never be pretty because she was not light like her other cousins who were white and slim. She was humiliated and called fat. This caused her to have an eating disorder. Although Joselyn could not change her skin color and be white like the rest of her family she could change her weight. As her father’s business picked up he was encouraging his wife and his daughter to be slim like everyone else. As the family’s class and culture started to change In Joselyn’s eyes being skinny was the only way she could fit in. Joselyn’s eating problems were handled completely wrong and could have lead to death because of culture change class standing and racism.
After researching eating disorders it seems as though there is not enough methods to help people suffering from them. Change in culture causes a huge impact on eating disorders because now a days to be “beautiful” or “attractive” it is encouraged to be skinny.


Thinness Discussion

In a world like the one we live in today, where technology and social media are essential to the daily tasks of most civilians, our values as a society are rapidly changing to meet the social requirements and stereotypes of our generation. The media becomes a source of information on how to look, how to dress, and basically, how to live your own life. This may seem fine in moderation but when people take these values and stereotypes too far, it can be seriously detrimental to their health, both mentally and physically. For example, teens and adults choose to put their own health at risk by using sunless tanning beds, and actually pay moneyto be exposed to harmful UV rays. Another example would be the eating disorders that have resulted from this cultural obsession with thinness that our society seems to value. The rise in eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, has affected as many as 7 million women and 1 million men, ages ten to early twenties.

There are three theoretical methods used to better understand and treat these eating disorders that millions of americans are struggling with each year. The first method used in describing the reasons many people develop such eating disorders is called the biomedical model. This model tends to assert that eating disorders are caused by biological factors. These factors could be things such as an imbalance of hormones in one’s body to malfunctioning neurotransmitters in a person’s brain chemistry. The biomedical model points to a person’s genetics and innate physiological features as factors that contribute to the development of such disorders, excluding the many social and cultural factors that people face. The second method, known as the psychological model, views such eating disorders as a multi-dimensional problem and includes biological, psychological and sociological factors as the causes for developing such disorders. This model indicates that these disorders may stem from a range of personal issues that an individual may be facing, such as low self-esteem or strained relationships in a person’s life. Theorists that focus on this model hypothesize that the repressed emotional problems of the individual become expressed through an abnormal relationship with food, while the cultural aspects that society tends to value simply reinforce such behavior that emphasizes thinness.

The psychological model can help explain the relationship between sexual abuse and eating disorders, in which there seems to be a definite correlation. This model suggests that the control an individual has over what they eat may serve as a mechanism for gaining a sense of identity or control over their life. Most victims of sexual abuse feel an immense loss of control over their bodies and even their life in general after being abused. Victims will often feel ashamed of their body afterwards, and may carry a sense of guilt with them for the rest of their lives. Some feel a need to push others away, in order to protect themselves and some turn to addiction to cope. Whether a person turns to drugs or food, binging offers a sense of comfort and control while masking their emotions of pain and anger. Purging may serve as a way to cleanse the victim’s feelings of being dirty and violated, or in some cases it serves as a means of self-punishment. Survivors of abuse often suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, and as the psychological method states, this types of emotional suffering drastically increases their chances of developing an eating disorder.

The third method of understanding these disorders that are dramatically increasing is called the feminist model. This model was created by feminist researchers who focused more on analyzing the nature of these diseases and the way they were classified throughout history to better explain their role throughout society. The feminist model asserts that these eating disorders are not specific to race, but rather to gender. It uses the history of women’s right to show how these eating disorders have formed and how the societal views on women throughout history have reiderated this obsession with thinness.

All three of these theoretical models help us to better understand how these disorders play a role in our society today, and mostly likely in any other society around the globe as well. Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are not confined to the “white americans” and can be found in almost any society today. The fact that racism and class standing have their own contributions to such eating disorders can go overlooked, due to the fact that African men and women and those who live in poverty with these diseases can go undiagnosed and untreated. As the psychological model explains, the emotional state of an individual can have a huge impact on the likelihood of developing an eating disorder. Therefore it can be assumed that people who suffer from external social stressors such as racism and those of class standing, would be more likely to develop these disorders.

All of these models offer useful explanations that aid in understanding how eating disorders can develop, how they can be treated, and how they play a role in the society we live in today. However, I do not believe that these eating disorders can be fully explained by understanding just one method, but rather by understanding all three methods as a whole. The bottom line is that it would be impossible to try and define the reasons for these disorders with solely one method. We must look at each method of analysis to completely understand this cultural obsession with thinness and the many effects it has had on our society.

By: Serene

thinness assignment fall 2011

Currently there are three theoretical models used to explain the epidemiology, etiology, and treatment of eating disorders: the biomedical, psychological, and culture of thinness model (offered by feminists). While the three theories attempt to address the causes of eating disorders through labeling them as psychological (biomedical and psychological models) or cultural problems (culture of thinness model), they fail to address certain other causes like race, poverty, and sexual abuse.
The biomedical model begins to address eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa as having biological characteristics: hypothermia, slowed heartbeat, and excessive body hair. But it often, however, fails to address a shared biological characteristic as a cause of the disorder. This model offers physiological evidence of the negative effects of long-term starving and cycles of binging and purging, but fails to address aspects of some cultural, historical, and social causes that attribute to the disease. The second model, the psychological model, states that eating disorders are multidimensional and influenced by biological, psychological, and cultural factors. It offers effective therapeutic treatment, but it also, along with the biomedical model, fails to address race, sexuality, and class standing. The third and final model, the ‘culture of thinness’ model, was created by feminists and equates eating disorders with women feeling like they need to be thin to meet the beauty standards of the time and to be successful.
One of the underlying causes of eating disorders that Becky W. Thompson talks about during in her article is sexual abuse. Throughout it Thompson explains her research on the links between sexual abuse and disordered eating habits. She says that the disorders were a survival response, and that the girls who attributed the sexual abuse to their eating disorders tried to either become thinner or chunkier in response to their own gatherings about what the ‘perverts’ wanted in little girls.
Other underlying causes of eating disorders as stated by Thompson are race and class standing. Her research states that women of color, Latina and African American women alike, sometimes develop eating disorders in response to their class standing. They may be impoverished or under stress in their current class, and so they, believing that white, thin women have it better off, try to control their weight thinking that if they become more slender and elegant they will be able to more easily move through the class barriers holding them back.
It used to be believed that eating disorders were in response to a control factor, you couldn’t control many aspects in your life so you controlled your eating habits and weight. Now it is being more debated and more causes are being discovered, like the aforementioned race, class standing, poverty, and sexual abuse. Hopefully in the future diagnosis and therapy for eating disorders will be better and more person-specific and accurate.

Obsessions with Thinness


There are three theoretical models that is used to explain and treat eating disorders. First there is the Biomedical model that uses scientific research to pursue the idea that physiological is the cause for eating disorders. In their research they felt medical treatment is the best way to go to treat peoples eating disorders. In doing so many women found it to be very overwhelming.

The second model which is called Psychological model believes eating disorders have to do with many different disorders that are brought on by biological, psychological, and culture issues. They believe the best treatment for this model is therapeutic treatment.

 Then lastly there is the feminist model that says eating problems are based on gender and that women are the primary target. This model says that thinness and beauty among women are sought out culturally, socially, and economically. With this makes them sustainable to dieting, weight loss and subsequent weight gain.

 All these model differ in what they believe is the cause and treatment. But what was noticed is that all these models neglect race, sexual orientation, and working class women.

 It is believed that between one third to two thirds of women that have been sexually abused have a eating disorder. Some of the women that they interviewed in chapter 7 Cultural obsession with thinness: African American, Latina, and white women. By Becky W Thompson say that eating helps them hide the pain or momentarily forget about there trauma that they have experienced. Others say extreme dieting and bulimia was their way of coping because they feel that their perpetrator found the extra weight to be attractive. So to feel safe that their perpetrators will no longer find them attractive because they have got rid of what attracted them in the first place.

 Racism and class standing also effect in the way of causing eating disorders, For instance with race, African and Latina women are stereotyped and are thought that fat is more expected and attractive. Once their class status changed from working class to middle class the way you were expected to look changed. In the working class if you were skinny, you were thought to be sickly and that your mother was a bad or insufficient cook. But once you enter middle class fat was frowned upon and skinniness was seen as classy.

 Carol Yager – She was born in 1960 and had a pretty disturbing childhood. Before she died in 1994 she declared in an interview that the reason why she developed an eating disorder early in her childhood is because she was sexually abused by a close family member. At her peak, Yager was estimated to have weighed about 1600 pounds, which makes her the heaviest person ever recorded in human history.                                                 


The link below tells a womens personal story on how sexually abuse was the cause for her eating disorder. Very sad!



Thinness Fall 2011

Many men and women are concerned with the way they look to others. These people who are so fixated on their looks often have eating disorders. There are three theoretical models used to explain and treat eating disorders. The first of these models, the biomedical model, claims that there are scientific ties to physiological reasons for eating disorders. This particular model has nothing to do with the history, socialization, or cultural factors of this disorder.The biomedical model is focused on treating people with disorders with medical treatment. The second meodel, the psychological model, is influenced by everything the biomedical model does not discuss, such as “biological, psychological and cultural factors.” These first two models “neglect color, lesbians, and working class women.” The third model, the feminist model, believes that almost all eating disorders occurl only in women and not in men. This model discusses how sexism may relate to eating problems and how men have an impact on the women’s eating disorder. According to this model a women feels she has to be thin to get a man’s attention.

There is also a link between eating disorders and sexual abuse. Some women with an eating disorder have said that they binge to help “anestheize their felings” while others sedate themselves through eating to “alleviate anxiety and combat loneliness.” Thompson argues that eating disorders are survival strategies. She says that they exemplify food as a resource that provides comfort and security to an array of issues including sexism, heterosexism and abuse.

Race also contributes to eating disorders. For example, “an African American women, rememberes when her white grandmother told her that she would never be as pretty as her cousins because they were light skinned.” Her grandmother also commented on her weight making this girl think that though she could not change her skin color she could change her weight.



Approximately seven million women and one million men, aged from ten to early twenties, suffer from eating disorders. One or two out of every one hundred students will develop an eating disorder. The two most common are anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

There are three models used to explain eating disorders, they are the biomedical, psychological, and the feminist model. The biomedical model displays important information about physiological cause of eating problems and the dangers of starvation and purging. But the medical treatments done can be traumatizing to women.

The second model used is the psychological model, influenced by biological, psychological, and cultural factors. This model like the biomedical one, may neglect women of color, working class women, and lesbians.

The third model is the feminist model; eating problems are believed to be gendered. Women being thin is required by society and enforced. Most people who have an eating disorder are women.

Sexual abuse is one of the main causes for women to begin with eating disorders. Between one third and two thirds of women with eating disorders have been abused. Binging was the most common of these women. Eating was a sense of comfort to them, and their only escape.

Racism and class standings also can contribute to eating disorders. For example, an African American father wanted his wife and his daughter to lose weight as their class standing began to change. “If you were a truly well-to-do family, then your family was slim and elegant.” African American and Latina women are known to be curvier than white women. If being white and slim is associated with being wealthy, why wouldn’t they want to be portrayed the same way since they can’t change their skin color they change their weight.

I believe times are changing a lot. I can see the eating disorder rates decreasing over time. Nowadays everyone wants to look like Nicki Minaj or Kim Kardashian. Skinny is out, it’s all about being thick and curvy.

By Gabrielle