Eating Their Words

Are magazines to blame for eating disorders?

It’s a question that’s come up again recently as part of the coverage surrounding Rachel Johnston.

Rachel, now aged 20, nearly died after a four-year battle with anorexia. She believes that reading about airbrushed models was the reason for her disorder.  As a result, she’s launched a campaign to ban magazine images showing super-slim celebrities.

I applaud Rachel for taking a stand and fighting on this issue. But though magazines may be one factor in why someone develops an eating disorder,  they’re not solely to blame. Instead there are many different causes – from personality type to life experiences, media to geography.

That said, it’s hardly surprising that what we put in our heads impacts upon how we think and live. This was illustrated in a study conducted several years ago by Steven Thomsen. Thomsen, a communications professor at Brigham University, examined how often eating disordered students read magazines.  He found that frequent readers were much more likely than other students to practice unhealthy forms of weight control. Nearly 80 per cent of frequent readers had made themselves sick, 73 per cent had taken diet pills and 60 per cent used laxatives. However, the figures were similar for those reading health and fitness magazines (which claim to support healthy living) and those reading fashion and beauty magazines (which may not).

Thomsen however, is reluctant to point the figure at the glossies.  Writing for the American Journal of Health Education, he commented;

‘These magazines may be more of a perpetuating factor than a causal factor…It seems that young women who already have eating disordered attitudes and thoughts are turning to the publications for support’.


2 thoughts on “Eating Their Words

  1. I have never read those magazines. But I’ve seen those behaviours in those around me who probably have and from them maybe I have copied some of that to develop my own issues with food/body….

  2. Good point. When I was at school, we were always comparing our bodies/diets and I’m sure that’s still applies today, albeit in more subtle ways.

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