I am writing to respond to Andrew Carpenter's article, ""Prevention needed to combat anorexia."" I certainly appreciate Carpenter's concern with the health of his peers and I commend him for criticizing the unattainable beauty standards our society perpetuates. However, I felt that by making reference to the weight room at the SERF and the ""hottest"" women on campus, Carpenter still suggests that our main goal as young adults is to look good. In an article concerning struggles with body image, this notion of what is ""hot"" and what isn't seems misplaced and inappropriate.
I must point out that what young people suffering from anorexia need is not tips on how to lose weight in a healthy way, or assertions that muscular and fit people are the most attractive—what they need is effective counseling (perhaps supplemented by a prescription for antidepressants). Anorexia is not just an issue of a distorted body image. It is largely a disease of obsessive compulsive behaviors that have been directed towards food and weight. Substituting weight training and healthy eating habits only provides a different outlet for these obsessive tendencies, thereby running the risk of unhealthy amounts of exercise (anorexia athletica). Being so inherently linked with OCD and clinical depression, which are usually the result of atypical brain chemistry, anorexia should be assessed and treated similarly: with counseling and drug therapy.
Furthermore, anorexia is often a way in which people in an otherwise chaotic environment exercise control over some area of their life. Examine a random collection of people suffering from eating disorders and I bet you'll find a whole slew of issues in their lives that they hold little to no control over, such as a parental divorce, a death in the family, a difficult school schedule, or, as is the case with many adolescents, a hormonal change.
Thus, though the depictions of ""beautiful"" men and women in the media certainly may play a role in the development of eating disorders among men and women, this assertion is dangerously close to the incorrect assumption that eating disorders are diseases of vanity. In order to effectively prevent and treat eating disorders, we must remember they are very often associated with clinical depression and self-control, and not just a result of distorted ideas of body image. As a former sufferer of an eating disorder, I should know.