How the glamorous culture of Los Angeles compounds its students’ eating disorders
Because nothing is as glamorous as being skinny … right?
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” said supermodel Kate Moss in an interview with WWD Fashion Magazine. Moss’s belief is a sentiment that is echoed in all corners of body dysmorphia havens. Internet communities centered around the promotion of eating disorders plaster Moss’s motto like a daily mantra. The medicalization of the female body, the concept that something in a woman’s body always has to be fixed, is a cultural norm.
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“From my standpoint, LA has some of the largest amounts of eating disorders in the country,” said Mansi Varma, a public health worker in the psychiatric industry. “There aren’t statistics because patients will pay with cash to avoid leaving a paper trail of their condition.”
Varma found that patients don’t want to break the illusion that they have attained their body through normal methods. Understandably, the unrealistic standard of beauty that pervades Los Angeles stems from the entertainment industry. People flock from all corners of the world to make it into Hollywood. And the glamorous culture inevitably bleeds into all surrounding institutions, including schools like USC.
Actors, actresses, and models with “ideal” bodies that many glorify, walk Trousdale every day. Suddenly, students freaking out about how many carbs they consumed in EVK becomes an expected dinnertime conversation among friends.
“My eating disorder became much worse because of the LA obsession with glamour,” a USC freshman told me.
The student even kept a notebook to log her daily caloric intake, workout schedule, and several weight loss slogans to help her stay underweight. She is currently recovering from her disorder. Although the student has chosen to stay enrolled at USC, many others with severe eating disorders decide to take a leave of absence from school. Nonetheless, the commonality of body dysmorphia on campus and in LA seems to affect even those without an eating disorder.
“The pressure of being one type of image is intense. There is a narrow definition of what bodies are considered beautiful, especially in LA where people are often interested in the limelight,” freshman Jessica Milton said. “Our visual obsessed society makes us committed to being that one image.”
It is important to note that people with all different types of bodies can have eating disorders. They are not limited to cases of emaciation. Instead, eating disorders in those who look “healthy” often start with skipping a meal or purging after dessert.
“Eating disorders can begin in a subtle way so you think it’s not an issue,”Joanna Poppink, Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist and author of Healing Your Hungry Heart; Recovering From your Eating Disorder, said. “As you accept it in little ways, the little ways grow until you find yourself in a trapped situation that you can’t get out of.”
And it seems the situation is egged on by the media, with headlines analyzing Lady Gaga’s “pudge” and predicting whether Beyoncé’s body will snapback after her pregnancy. Although it sounds difficult, surround yourself with media and entertainment that encompasses diverse types of beauty. True happiness comes from unconditional self acceptance – not from losing weight.
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“Treatment is possible and available, do not despair,” Poppink said. “Look for quality people who have good referrals, good recommendations, written books, who have experience and be prepared to go the distance with them.”