The relationship between body image and eating disorders is mainly about perception. If an individual perceives him or herself as being inadequate in some way, this feeling of inadequacy may be reflected in the form of an eating disorder. These conditions occur when an individual does not eat in a healthy and normal way. Common types of eating disorders include bulimia, anorexia and binge-eating. Most people who suffer from these issues suffer from poor body image, which is often influenced by culture, the media or stress.
Cultural influences also play a significant role in the way members of the society view themselves. Most people define themselves by whatever their society has declared as the ideal standard for physical perfection. In western society, thinness is much valued in contrast to more robust figures. This type of preference has led to a distortion of body image and eating disorders. Apart from the fact that thinness is promoted for health reasons, heavier people are often considered lazy and lacking the will power to restrain their appetites. To this end, many people go to extreme measures in order to be thin.
Media influences also play a major part in the link between body image and eating disorders. Most of the models in fashion magazines and other fashion-related TV commercials are thin, and sometimes impossibly so. Even the fashion models depicted in magazines do not have the type of proportions that an average woman can expect to have. The models in the photos are certainly thin, but they are also airbrushed and digitally altered to look even thinner and as perfect as possible. Women often feel more pressure to attain a higher standard of physical perfection than men. This is the reason why incidents of eating disorders are higher in females than in males.
The promotion of such unnatural perfection often leads to lowered self-esteem as people start to unfavorably compare their own bodies with those who are featured in magazines and on TV. Even though the pressure to conform to accepted standards of beauty is more common in women, men constantly receive the message that the ideal man has a well-toned, muscular body. This also causes some men to be affected by lowered self-esteem, which may be reflected in eating disorders. Other factors that can lead to a distortion of body image include stressful events, which may serve as a trigger for the eating disorders.