How many times in one day would you say you look in the mirror and long to change something-- whether it be less bulge in your middle area, tightening the wrinkles under your eyes, or even changing the structure of your face altogether? Multiply that number by the number of people in the nation and what do you have?
The answer: more wishes to alter body image than are countable.
The concerns we have about our body image can have consequences on every aspect of life, allowing a cloud of negativity to oftentimes overcome even the simplest tasks. Most of the time the thoughts and ideas about altering ones' appearance are harmless enough, but for a portion of the population, these notions can become a major force driving their lives down a road that can, and in several cases do, lead to death and the destruction of not only the victims' lives but the lives of those around them.
We can begin to slowly see this destruction in the images we subject ourselves to every day. Our televisions show us images of "beautiful," thin women, who, on the surface seem to have it all -- money, fame, love and admiration.
It seems simple enough to understand why many average-looking people connect the physical qualities of these "models" with ultimate success.
It seems no wonder many young ladies and gentlemen would risk everything, including their own lives, in order to achieve these physical traits. The message we are getting is very simple--this is what beautiful is and this is the path to success and happiness.
People, they are all trying to sell us something we really don't need.
But for someone living in smaller communities like Tulsa the problems seem so far away, after all, these forms of media are created in places like New York City and on the west coast -- not in the heartland of America. Then, does the fear of becoming a victim of the consequences of negative body images really have a place within our community?
You only need to visit the local drugstore or retailer to see that it does. These same "perfect" models are staring back from the covers of magazines all over Tulsa. The commercials on the local network stations are still showing reruns of the Victoria's Secret runway show. And local people are still suffering from the effects negative body images have.
Disease like Anorexia, Bulimia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression and Body Dismorphic Disorder which have strong roots in negative body image can be prevalent in any city -- any community in the world.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders about 8 million Americans have some form of eating disorder and females between the ages of 13 and 30 account for 90 percent of all cases.
The symptoms of these diseases can last for several years and even over the course of an entire lifetime. Statistics are staggering but rarely make an impact on a world full of figures and analysis of data.
With the use of the internet and other technologically advanced resources, anyone can collect the disturbing figures of the effects of eating disorders on society. To really understand the problem one only needs to be observant and pay attention to life.
Dr. Scott Moseman, Psychiatrist of Child and Adolescent Psychology at Laureate Psychiatric Clinic, 6655 South Yale Ave., knows all too well the damage caused to victims of eating disorders.
Dr. Moseman agrees that a distorted body image is the beginning of most eating disorders and other mental health issues but is quick to point out almost 100 percent of people on the planet have at some point had issues with some aspect of their body.
Moseman went on to state that recent research indicates diseases like anorexia are now thought to be more genetic than previously indicated. For those who do not understand the origins of these types of disorders, Moseman explains that a general notion is that eating disorders are a chosen disease, that the patient has all power to stop their behaviors, and that is simply not true.
"Most parents, when they find out their child has an eating disorder, tend to blame the child and want to force them to stop. What they don't realize is this is not something that simple -- these types of diseases are complex and require multiple layers of treatment, from psychiatric to physical," Moseman said.
Moseman said 90 percent of the patients who visit Laureate are from out of state, a majority of them young women.
Even celebrities are prone to the disease and have been treated in Tulsa. Former pop star and American Idol celebrity judge Paula Abdul once spent some time getting treated at facilities in town.
Moseman says citizens in Tulsa and surrounding communities are statistically more prone to have problems with obesity rather than to have an eating disorder like anorexia, but ongoing battles with food take their toll on those who are both severely overweight as well as underweight.
For many who come from other parts of the country, Tulsa provides an outlet and hope for recovery. Laureate is ranked at the top among all of the facilities in the country that deal with eating disorders. For many doctors like Moseman, it is an uphill battle everyday with the patients he tries to help.
Moseman feels the media could take further steps to help prevent the spread of what he calls the "glamorization of eating disorders." "Celebrities like Lindsey Lohan and Nicole Richie seem to add glamour to the mysteries of the disease, and that certainly does not help the average teenage girl dealing with this disease," Moseman explained.
In order to prevent the escalation of these diseases Moseman says simple things like eating as a family and paying attention to the people around you is key.
"Most times, supporters of victims of eating disorders say they thought they were eating and had no idea they were either binging their food or throwing it away," Moseman said.
The battle with eating disorders isn't the only thing to consider when discussing our society's outlook on body image. Rhonda Fields, a registered nurse and manager of Reflection Medical Spa, 3319 East 46th St., deals with clients every day who are concerned with body image.
For Fields, her life's work is giving people the confidence they once possessed through medical procedures designed to enhance nature and give people the looks they want. But Fields is the first to stress that education and prevention is the key to unlocking inner beauty.
"For most people who come in they are simply seeking to recognize who they are in the mirror, nine times out of ten if you ask people if they want to look like a super model they say no, I just want to look like me," Fields said.
Reflections practices educational choices when it comes to medical body altering including procedures like plastic surgery, laser hair removal and Botox.
"During our consultations we determine who and who is not a good candidate for things like plastic surgery. When we see patterns in patients that indicate underlying problems, we immediately refer them to see a psychologist. Most times these types of people need to be fixed on the inside, not medically speaking but more of with their soul, and that is something that can not be fixed with any plastic surgery," Fields explained.
As for the way Fields feels about how society influences the ideas we have about our bodies Fields replies that in recent years she has noticed a backlash of more acceptance than before.
"Kids today are more accepting of all different types of bodies," Fields said.
Celebrities who tend to speak out more for acceptance are becoming more and more plentiful with stars like Jennifer Lopez with curves, Kate Hudson who proclaims she is happy with her A-cup and Kate Winslet who has spoken out about the effects negative body image had on her life as well as her battle with weight issues.
For people like Fields and Moseman the battle to educate and aid comes full circle even though they seem on the surface to be from opposite ends of the spectrum. Body image issues are always going to be a factor in any society and in each and every community.
By educating not only our youth but also the adult population, hopefully we will continue to see a rise in the images which promote acceptance of all body types, only then will we begin to win the war over the dark thoughts that plague so many of us with doubts and concerns. It all leads to a happier and healthier community.
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