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The Globalization of Eating Disorders

Selected Reading

Bordo, S. (2014). The globalization of eating disorders. In G.H. Muller (Ed.), The McGraw-Hill reader: Issues across the disciplines pp. 639-643. New York. NY: McGraw-Hill.

Selected Prompt

What is the extent to which globalization has perpetuated eating disorders, and what can be done to suppress their continued rise?


Currently, the globalization phenomenon affects not only the economy and trade, which were considered the core promoters of globalization, but they etch in other fields, such as politics and culture. There are profound cultural changes that result from the globalization impact. Though they may not be directly visible, they are large-scale and span issues and areas that once seemed unchangeable, such as in the case of food culture, cuisines, and eating habits. At this point, it is crucial to reference Susan Bordo’s article “The Globalization of Eating Disorders,” which explores how globalization has promoted the flourishing of eating disorders globally. Different factors contribute to the rising cases of eating disorders, including social pressures, misleading promotional information, ignorance, and biological and genetic factors. Nevertheless, it is crucial to understand the extent to which the problem has increased, and the implementable measures to curb the problem. Further, it is crucial to assess all aspects of clinical classification, including causes, consequences, classification, pathophysiology, risk factors, assessment, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment options.

Thesis Statement

Although biological and genetic factors are inherent to individuals, the high prevalence of eating disorders is promoted by societal pressures, such as familial expectations, misleading promotional materials, and career endeavors, which detract a person from achieving a healthy lifestyle.

Bordo, S. (2014). The globalization of eating disorders. In G.H. Muller (Ed.), The McGraw-Hill reader: Issues across the disciplines pp. 639-643. New York. NY: McGraw-Hill.

In this article, Bordo disseminates substantial information that prompts the world to rethink the extent to which globalization has broadly affected people’s way of life, including their consumption of mass media, which has eventually corrupted their eating habits. Bordo presents various instances of people affected by eating disorders. Though one may think of eating disorders as one that affects a specific class of people, Bordo broadens that perception, indicating how social and cultural attitudes have promoted eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Society highly upholds beauty, and for this reason, many people, both males and females, try to adjust their bodies to gain specific body images they deem perfect. As Bordo enlightens, the ideas of accepted appearance, including how to act and dress, are taught by mass media rather than parents and teachers. Though they are predominant among women, the male gender is affected. Men compare themselves to famous figures in magazines and TV, and abuse steroids as they strive to achieve the right muscles. Thus, Bordo believes that the development of eating disorders across the globe has vast roots, such as the westernization, which has spread across the globe. However, Bordo also attributes eating disorders to factors such as the economic endeavors of western people, which has resulted in the establishment of many fast food outlets that are known to increase cases of eating disorders not only in the western countries, but also to the entire world. Nonetheless, Bordo successfully proves that eating disorders have become fully globalized, and she tries to show the reader that unlike terminal diseases, which are similarly on the rise, eating disorders are curable.

Gerbasi, M. E., Richards, L. K., Thomas, J. J., Agnew-Blais, J. C., Thompson-Brenner, H., Gilman, S. E., & Becker, A. E. (2014). Globalization and eating disorder risk: peer influence, perceived social norms, and adolescent disordered eating in Fiji. The International journal of eating disorders47(7), 727–737. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.22349

The authors focus their attention on the global burden perpetuated by eating disorders. For this reason, these authors seek to explain how globalization has elevated the risk of eating disorders due to changing social norms associated with peer influence. Notably, societal interactions have a significant impact on individual behaviors and course of action. The concept of globalization has triggered a common standard among peers, which in effect, has brought common practices regarding eating habits that result in the development of eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia, and binge eating. Notably, western stereotypes and perception of an ideal female body have dominated and affected the rest of the world. Westernization has affected food habits, as in Fiji, where females have emulated western females in regulating their body weight by vomiting shortly after eating. The major driving force in eating norms is the advent of mass media. Western media, especially from the UK and the US, has continuously promoted the culture of the west, lifestyles, and ideals of beauty, consequently contributing to the food culture and eating habits. However, Gerbasi et al. believe that reshaping the perception of western models, reinforcing traditional practices, and boosting the potential for individuals to question and critique emerging norms can help minimize the impacts of globalization on human health.

Pike, K. M. & Dunne, P. E. (2015). The rise of eating disorders in Asia: a review. Journal of Eating Disorders3(33), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40337-015-0070-2

Pike and Dunne address the extent to which eating disorders have become globalized. From their analysis, the disorders were once dominant in the western world. However, with globalization, the cultural transition has become a commonplace globally. Their report focuses on Asian countries spanning three decades. In their report, Pike and Dunne identified a strong relationship between culture and eating disorders. Notably, the increase in cases of eating disorders in Asia aligns with the westernization of Asian communities due to increased cultural contact between the west and non-western countries. Pike and Dunne also appreciate the anchor that westernization has built to help understand eating disorders among Asian communities. Notably, their answer to whether progress, such as urbanization and industrialization occurred in tandem or independently with the increasing cases of eating disorders in Asia, is foundational to fathoming the contributing factors. Moreover, by reviewing examples of eating disorders in Asia, the researchers build foundational knowledge for researchers to understand the diversity and distinct cultures in individual countries and how eating disorders have vastly affected the world. However, Pike and Dunne note that the diagnosis of eating disorders using DSM is challenging across cultures due to varying rationales, such as the case of fatphobia, a common problem among anorexic individuals, but is not common among females in certain Asian communities, such as women in Hong Kong, China. An important conclusion from their study is that eating disorders are culture-reactive, rather than culture-specific or culture-bound, which helps to explain eating disorders globally.

Shuttlesworth, M. E., Zotter, D., Mazur, B. M., & Shannon, K. (2016). Ethnic identity as a predictor of body dissatisfaction: a comparison of black and white women. In M. Nina (Ed.), Eating Disorders : Prevalence, Risk Factors and Treatment Options, pp. 79-97. Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Shuttleswoth et al. examine eating disorders from a different perspective, body satisfaction. They examine the level of satisfaction with body image among black and white women. In their analysis, they identify black women as more contented with their body image compared to white women despite black women being voluptuous. In their analysis, the researchers find that ethnic identity positively relates to the extent with which people appreciates their body as being attractive or otherwise. Though their study focuses on women within a campus setting, their research covers a vast population due to the cultural diversity witnessed across many universities. Moreover, similar to other studies that have addressed the concept of ethnicity and how it impacts eating disorders, they identify that strong ethnic identity promotes body satisfaction. For this reason, their study indicates that black women endorse higher levels of ethnicity, which resultantly promotes higher level of body satisfaction. Though the evidence provided may point out that ethnicity does not affect self-image, the opposite is true, especially when considering the impact of mass media on the perception of body image among white females. The study strongly relates to studies that have addressed eating disorders from a global perspective since it proves how the perception of body image among white women has spread with time to affect other cultures. The concept of body dissatisfaction among western individuals has slowly diffused into non-western cultures, to the point that eating disorders have become rampant, as opposed to the minimal cases that used to exist before.

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