We live in a world where media sends a blast of mixed signals. Ads consume the radio waves about weight loss techniques for the ever expanding obesity epidemic, and popular daytime television shows such as Dr. Oz emphasize different techniques to "blast fat" and "shred the pounds". Sure, with 60% of Canadian's being overweight or obese some of these ads can be certainly helpful, but what about that small population of individuals where it could be life threatening?
Fact of the day: Did you know that there are more people who are obese in the world than there are people who are starving, even though over 50% of the worlds population still lives in poverty?
As a budding nurse, I agree that some of the weight loss ads are vital to people's health. Childhood obesity increases an individuals risk of developing lifelong conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and sleep disorders. Majority of these complications can be prevented with proper education, but my question is how do we specifically target this population?
Remember when I referred to that "small" population where these dieting ads and hype around weight loss can actually be detrimental? Do you know what population I'm referring to? I once belonged to this population.... it's individuals dealing with eating disorders.
Did you know, that girls as young as EIGHT years old think about dieting or actually diet?!?! And that 90% of girls are unhappy with the way their bodies look? According to a study done in 2002 in Canada, 28% of girls in grade 9 and 29% of girls in grade 10 have already engaged in weight loss behaviours such as dieting, restricting, excessive exercising, use of laxatives, vomiting and smoking to control their appetite. WHAT KIND OF MESSAGE ARE WE SENDING TO OUR CHILDREN? Children who engage in weight loss regimens are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than their "healthy" or over-weight counterparts in a six month time span...
Just like obesity, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia have serious and life threatening complications. Some of these complications include fertility problems, electrolyte and hormonal imbalances, bone density loss, anemia and internal bleeding. Lucky for me, I never suffered from any of these complications when I had my 3 year stint with anorexia, but I did suffer from more of the psychosocial complications (depression, anxiety, social withdrawal).
So where am I going with all of this? I'm not even sure. I think what I'm trying to get at is we, as society, have a dilemma. With such a large population suffering from being overweight and/or obese, it's extremely necessary to take action and combat this entirely preventable epidemic. With simple education at an early age, the percentage of children who are obese could dramatically decline. However, teenagers (especially girls) are extremely impressionable by social media, and it is estimated that 27% of teenage girls feel pressured to diet or have a "perfect" body from what they seen online or on TV. Advertising images have also recently been accused of giving both men and women unrealistic ideas of what their bodies should look like. So what do we do? Do we continue to advertise, promote and educate on weight loss regimens and techniques to reach the larger part of society? But if we continue to do that, how do we protect the vulnerability of not only those suffering from eating disorders, but our younger population who are more suggestible and more prone to trying dieting techniques? Whose needs come first, and how do we even begin to make that decision?
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