Adults often reinforce these beliefs consciously or unconsciously as they begin to expect the overweight child to be lazy than other children, again judging the child by appearance. The focus on beauty as a means of gaining social acceptance is also reinforced by adults, mostly women, who consider plastic surgery an acceptable means of attaining it. Attempting to escape the persecution of their childhood, many adolescents frequent these centers as well. In a Scotland study questioning 2,000 girls with an average age of 14, “ four out of ten said they would consider plastic surgery to make themselves slimmer” regardless of their current weight status (Gustafson, 2005).
For those who can’ t afford plastic surgery, the only option they see available to them frequently emerges as a form of eating disorder, most commonly bulimia, a pattern of binge eating followed by forced purging, or anorexia, a pattern of willful starvation. Often believed to be rooted in issues of appearance and ‘ not fitting in’ , these conditions become issues in and of themselves. As is revealed through Rimm’ s research, a number of factors contribute to why a child might become overweight, but the perception they form of themselves is based largely upon how they and others feel they conform to a social standard.
The media plays an active role in defining this social standard and thus the perception of self for many people. Children glancing in the mirror quickly understand how well or poorly they measure up with the ideal images they see on TV. This is a natural and automatic process. There are numerous arguments that indicate the focus on outward appearance is an unavoidable and even necessary aspect of life.
From our earliest history, it has been through our outward appearances that we project who and what we are to other people. This was and still is done as a means of instantly identifying everything from tribal membership to comparative rank in the social hierarchy (Gilman, 1999).
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