Scientists have long tried to ascertain if there’s a genetic reason behind why it appears that women are disproportionately affected with eating disorders. Recent studies suggest it may be because women are more likely to voice their issues than men.

When large random studies have been conducted, researchers’ data suggest that women are much more open to discussing any issues they have with body image, pressures to fit in, stress eating, and loss of appetite when stressed, or conversely, an increased appetite when under stress.

There is actually no correlation between the level of stress and the ineffective ways in which women (and men) respond. Based on data, men are more likely to complain about a lack of appetite. Their tendency leans more on the side of bulimia, but not every time, and not in all reported cases.

Although researchers were not able to provide a clear explanation as to why more women than men are affected by eating disorders, they were able to narrow down what women report. Women are more likely to overeat or binge eat when under stress. Women are also more likely to obsess about their weight or looks. They report being obsessed with comparing how they look with how others might look in person or online.

The online part of this troubling equation plays a major role in the prevalence of eating disorders.

We live in a post-truth society. With apps and filters to hide blemishes or, in some cases, reshape an entire face or body, people are led to believe everyone except them is in tip-top shape. People, oftentimes women, only show the best of themselves or only give the highlights of their lives, leaving other women and girls believing that what they see is a constant reality. They compare their lives to the truth-challenged lives and lifestyles of those they see in the media and on social media.

The ideal body image that is portrayed on television has become smaller and smaller over the decades. What used to be the ideal way to look often stemmed from Old Hollywood starlets like Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and the like, but when Twiggy, the world’s first supermodel, began gracing magazine covers, perceptions changed. Her stick figure became the look women should aspire to. After some fits and starts, that ultra-thin look remains an ideal that many women aspire to achieve.

Thankfully, things are changing and women are embracing their curves, imperfections, and natural bodies, but unfortunately, that has not yet filtered down to young, impressionable minds or up to older women (and men) who’ve lived with horrible messages about body image, self-esteem, and what makes them beautiful.

By Micaela Lanao

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