FREE SPEECH ZONE | Disclaimer on Digitally Altered Pictures

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I am a statistic. I am one of the estimated ten million girls who suffered from anorexia last year.

I never had an issue with my weight until I hit high school and the pressures of the media and my peers started to affect me. I battled with minor episodes as an underclassman, but they were easy come easy go. Then in February I passed out in my basement after going two days without eating. Leading up to that I had lost twelve pounds in four weeks, mostly by only eating 700 calories a day and exercising at least thirty minutes a day. After coming to on the carpet I realized the magnitude of the damage I was inflicting on my body. I realized I needed to stop killing myself just to try to look like the girls in the magazines.

My story is similar to millions of others around the world who think the only way to be happy is to feel their rib cage jutting out of their skin. Eating disorders have been around since man has been in existence, as has the perception of beauty, though this concept has evolved with man. Twenty years ago the average model weighed eight percent less than the average American woman while today there is a twenty three percent difference. Of course there’s the old adage “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” but a 2009 US Department of Health and Human Services survey found that seventy percent of girls define beauty by the images in magazines and advertisements. The increasing skinniness of models and increasing amount of images we’re subjected to each day (400-600 images) is causing serious negative affects among America’s youth. Rates of anorexia and bulimia among young children (8-11 year olds) are rising. The news always talks about childhood obesity becoming a crisis but attention needs to start being given to the other extreme eating disorders.  It took me almost killing myself for me to realize the magnitude of what I was doing to myself. Other girls aren’t so lucky. The number of anorexia-related deaths is twelve times higher than any other cause of death for 15-24 year old women.

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You can’t just pass my behavior and the behavior of other anorexia sufferers on poor parenting or education. I have no doubt that if my parents knew what I was doing they would have intervened. But being a busy high school student it’s easy to hide certain habits, like eating. As for education, I took health sophomore year and all I got out of it was anorexia is safer than bulimia. This problem is larger than individual households and District 284.

Government action needs to be taken if there is any hope to see a decrease in national rates of eating disorders.

Bills have been proposed in France and England to mandate a disclaimer on digitally altered photographs. In all my research I wasn’t able to find if said proposals have been passed or denied, but there are other laws which have been passed to help improve self esteem among adolescent girls. A bill legalizing the punishment of promoting extreme thinness (on the internet, in advertising, on the runway) was passed by France’s lower house in 2008. Australia has had an entire campaign on improving self esteem. They have placed restrictions on digital alteration of photographs, television commercials, and the size of runway models with positive results showing a significant decrease in reported incidents of anorexia and bulimia.

If the US Congress could pass a law helping tame the damaging images of overly photoshopped and unhealthily skinny models other girls wouldn’t have to go through what I did. Even if we don’t see a change in the statistics, at least we can say we tried.