Risks of Internalizing Beauty Ideals


One of the most natural aesthetic attractions to us is the beauty of the human body. It is a biologically driven inclination—after all, the body is the first thing that is relevant in all activities, as it’s the medium of action. The definition of beauty, however, is not purely biologically based, as it is also shaped by culture. In ancient China, for example, chubbiness and small feet marked a women’s beauty. Even today, some tribal cultures still attribute what our society deems as “obese,” as a sign of power, status, and beauty.

In modern society, media has helped to promote a so-called “perfect body” image for women and men alike. Advances in science and rises of industries like modeling and social media have helped to promote this perfect image. There is a growing abundance of products that are aimed at making this constructed beauty standard seem more accessible than ever. With increasing exposure, many of us start to associate the perfect body shape, and the often too strict diet that goes with it, with the state of being healthy. In an attempt to meet this standard of “healthy,” we start going to the gym, stop eating junk food, abstain from alcohol, etc. While these are generally healthy choices, too many of us become too rigid with the constraints and enter into an incessantly stressed state of mind. When we indulge in a cheat day by eating a cookie or skipping a workout day, we may start to feel guilty and may overcompensate the following day. We may discipline ourselves more strictly in order to prevent a “relapse”. As such, our lifestyle becomes rigid, but not necessarily healthy, for such regime makes our minds filled with anxiety and stress, which negatively impacts our physical and mental wellbeing.

While exercising regularly can improve overall fitness and physical health, over-exercising can counter the progress you’ve been making by inducing feelings of exhaustion and irritability. On a similar note, dieting ensures more nutritious intake and less empty calories and toxic substances, but over-restricting what we eat can mitigate feelings of pleasure and satiation. Even though a healthy diet and exercise routine do require sacrifices, it is important to keep in mind that they are meant to improve our mood and state of mind. If we do not feel like it’s improved, then the diet or the routine needs to be adjusted. It is always important to remember what your goals are when dieting and exercising. This prevents us from conforming to the invisible influence of the beauty culture and ensures that we are pursuing a healthy lifestyle that suits our individual needs.

Beauty may be determined by culture, but health is an individual matter because health is supposed to improve the person, not the image of the person.

By: Ruihong Yuan

Ruihong is a graduate from University of Toronto with a major in Psychology and Physics. He is currently looking to gain either clinical or research experiences in psychology. His goal is to become a clinical psychologist with his own practice and research in order to help people improve their lives and explore the mysterious human mind.

Summer Date Ideas in Toronto


Every couple goes through their share of thinking that they have exhausted all possible date night options. However, with summer creeping just around the corner, there’s no shortage of things to do in Toronto. From activities that allow you to escape the heat to enjoying the beautiful natural resources of the city, we have you covered with having an unforgettable summer with your significant other.

Hit up one of Toronto’s many Food Festivals

Toronto has wide selection of food festivals that happen every summer! From Taste of Asia to Toronto’s Ribfest, there is bound to be a festival that satisfies your tastes.

Cool off at one of Toronto’s ice cream parlours

Summertime in Toronto means it’s time to cool off with some of the city’s best frozen treats. Satisfy your sweet tooth for extravagant cones, scoops, and ice cream sandwiches, by trying out all the unique ice cream and gelato shops in the city. Some suggestions include; Sweet Jesus, Eva’s Original Chimney’s, Arctic Bites, and La Paloma.

Spend a day at Kensington Market

Take a stroll in one of Toronto’s most unique and lively neighbourhoods – the one and only Kensington Market. This neighbourhood is full of local businesses, including art shops, bars, vintage stores, and cafes. It’s nearly impossible to become bored in Kensington Market, despite its small size. Sundays are perfect for this date idea, as it is labelled “Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington” since they close down the streets and Toronto’s local artists, musicians, and performers come out.

Toronto Islands

Although closed until the beginning of August, visiting Toronto Islands is a must during the summer months. With bike trails and canoeing, music festivals of all genres, beaches to tan on, and a miniature theme park with an outdoor maze to become a little kid again, the Islands is enjoyable for all.

Ripley’s Aquarium

Spend the day cooling off by visiting this gigantic aquarium boasting 35,000 square feet of sea and freshwater creatures. With sharks, stingrays that you can pet, and daily shows, the Aquarium makes a perfect date. Bonus points, the Aquarium is located right by the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre, which makes for a scenic walk and lots of things to do on a date.

Toronto Zoo

If you’re wild about your significant other and animals, definitely head over to Toronto Zoo during the summer! This enormous zoo will take up the entire day to explore, as it comprises of seven unique regions, including a Tundra Trek and a Canadian wildlife section.

Patio restaurants

Whether it’s private, elegant, casual, sprawling, or shaded, a patio date can be one of the loveliest ways to enjoy an evening with your significant other. Toronto’s plethora of restaurants, cafes, and bars will have you covered with finding a perfect patio for you and your date. Here are just a few of my suggestions: Amsterdam Brewhouse, The Wallflower, Bandit Brewery, Gusto 101, El Catrin, The Dime, and Queen Mother CafĂ©.

Picnic

With summer in full swing and gorgeous weather peeking in, a picnic is the perfect date to enjoy food, nature, and especially your loved one’s presence. Here’s a small list of Toronto’s most beautiful parks so that you can escape the urban jungle and enjoy the city’s greenery: Bluffers Park, High Park, Riverdale Park, Dufferin Grove, and Edwards Gardens.

Movie under the stars/outdoor screening

Free outdoor movies appear often throughout the summer amongst various venues and parks in Toronto. Catch a flick with your loved one in the city or go for a short cruise to a drive-in theater along the GTA. My picks include the 5 Drive-in located in Oakville, Landing Park’s City Place, Regent Park’s Weekly Under the Stars movie night, and Toronto Harbourfront’s Free Flicks.

Day trip in Niagara Falls

Take the GO transit, Greyhound, or your own vehicle, and enjoy a weekend getaway at Niagara Falls. Spend the day as tourists and check out the gorgeous Falls by taking the Maid of the Mist or by simply walking along the beautiful path. Also, if you are a shopping enthusiast, there are plenty of outlet stores and malls nearby, as well as the obvious option of crossing over to the States! Finally, enjoy Clifton Hill and its many touristy attractions including, haunted houses, funhouses, and wax museums.

Berry picking

Support a local farm while experiencing a fruitful and tasty experience by picking berries in the GTA. Some farms include Whittamore’s Berry Farm in Markham, the Applewood Farm Winery in Stouffville, Downey’s Farm Market in Brampton, and Walch Family Strawberries in Stratford.

By: Maryam Sorkhou

Maryam Sorkhou is a second year student specializing in psychology at the University of Toronto. Her research interests comprise of mood and personality disorders. She hopes to pursue a career in clinical and counselling psychology, in which she can reduce the stigmas that are often associated with mental illness.

Are mental health issues within indigenous youth bearing the marks of the past?


In Oct 2017, I had the opportunity to travel to Iqaluit, Nunavut for the Arctic Youth Ambassador Summit (AYAS). Throughout this summit, I had the chance to interact with indigenous youth and learn about the mental health issues they face. Many indigenous youth with mental health issues unfortunately commit suicide. Some of the leading causes of suicide include depression, alcohol & drug abuse, hopelessness, sexual & domestic abuse, and homelessness. The suicide rate of First Nations males between the ages of 15-24 is 126 per 100,000 compared to 24 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous male youth. For First Nations females the rate is 35 per 100,000 compared to 5 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous females. Suicide rates of Inuit youth are 11 times the national average. Although the government has developed various programs to overcome the impacts of residential schools, there is still a lot that needs to be done to improve the mental health of indigenous youth. When it comes to mental health, the resources are limited and wait lists are long, making it harder for the youth to get access to proper mental health care.

Through my interaction with the indigenous youth in Iqaluit, I learnt about the stigma against the mental health issues they face and the lack of trust in the programs provided by the government. The fact that the social and mental health workers are not indigenous themselves or cannot speak indigenous languages increases this mistrust. The stigma and mistrust thus leads to youth not looking for help. One way to combat this issue is to create youth ambassadors who are from Iqaluit so that they can help other youth to come forward and get the mental health care they need through them. It may be easier to open up to someone who is young, comes from the same culture, and understands the impact that trauma has on someone. It is also better to approach this situation through someone who is from the same culture and speaks the same language, as a lot of the aboriginal communities do not fully trust the services provided by the government. These steps may help increase mental health awareness and decrease the suicide rate among indigenous youth.

By: Maleeha Khan

Maleeha is currently doing a double major in Human Biology and Neuroscience with a minor in Psychology at the University of Toronto. Her current research focuses on the sex differences in factors predicting conversion from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease. She is interested in pursuing MD after her undergraduate degree and helping third world countries dealing with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

How Movies can be used to Benefit our Mental Health


The different types of movie genres reflect the different effects that movies have on us. The emotions that movies trigger in us can be very real and have an effect that lasts longer than we might expect.

I consider the different movies that I watched as a repertoire. In different situations, I remember parts of movies that stuck with me. Even some of the movies that seem to be made only for entertainment can have a meaningful message that lies underneath their surface. Some movies seem to be packed with action and adventure themes, but in fact they might have important messages to tell. I tend to find a common thread in many of the movies that I have watched, and this thread is very often the emphasis on family and friends living a happy and healthy life. In terms of psychological significance, many movies stress the importance of sacrificing for your loved ones and the importance of standing by each other through difficult situations.

Furthermore, due to the variety of movies out there, we can easily find a movie to help us through a difficult or unpleasant situation. I will use myself as an example here. When I feel stressed out because of work piling up on my desk, I take deep breaths in order to alleviate my stress and, if time permits, I allocate 1.5-2 hours later that evening to watch a comedy movie. This strategy has generally been successful in alleviating my stress, making me laugh, and boosting my mood. This helps me feel more energized and continue my work with a more positive mindset.

I do realize that many of us have very busy schedules, so my intention is to not limit the positive effects listed above to movies only. I often resort to short (2-5 minute) comedy videos that are posted online, which tend to have the same effect as a longer comedy movie. In general, we tend to know what works best for us and what makes us the happiest. This differs across people and across the emotions that they are experiencing. In my personal life, laughter is the best medicine!

By: Ghinwa El-Ariss

Ghinwa El-Ariss holds an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto. She will be pursuing her Master of Science degree in Psychology at Trent University starting September 2017. She is passionate about Psychology and the Environment. She hopes that her blog posts help you learn a bit about her and her take on certain things. Most importantly, she hopes that you enjoyed what you read!

How to Fight with a Loved one


One of the things that distinguish us from one another is individuality. While this characteristic brings wonderful things like creativity, when it comes to interpersonal interactions, it is also this individuality that brings unexpected friction. Fights occur when two people’s personalities (inclinations, preferences, temperaments, etc.) clash. When this happens, we tend to use our own frame of reference to understand the other person’s behavior. The result, more often than not, is an exaggeration of the original conflict, which still persists despite all the verbal exchange.

Our values are so important to us that we spend a lot of time trying to preserve them. When fights occur, we tend to invalidate the other person’s values in favor of our own because we have a bias towards ourselves. Therefore, the first thing you might want to do is just listen to the person you’re arguing with. It sounds simple, but in the heat of an argument, taking the time to listen to the other person’s perspective can be quite difficult. The good news is that we can train ourselves to be better at listening by starting with daily conversations. One useful standard for judging the accuracy of your understanding of others is to articulate their thoughts as you think you understand it. Ask the person for feedback on your interpretation, so that you can begin to understand other people’s perspective when you’re not in an argumentative situation.

Only after achieving this understanding, can we have a real argument—a fight that actually means something and can produce something. After making sure you understand the other person’s perspective accurately, you should focus on the influence of what that person said to you. That is, how did that person’s thoughts make you feel, or what part of it did you not understand, etc. Ask questions based on these feelings or thoughts that appear in your head as you achieve an understanding of the other party. Don’t furnish it too much, be genuine and authentic—otherwise by the end of it you won’t resolve the real problem, but a furnished, decorated one. At this point, you will should be able to sort out the components of the conflict—what, exactly, was the cause of the fight. With this advance, at least now you both can strive to make the situation better. Remember, this is not about which of you is “right” or whose idea is “better.” This is about building a new house that fits both of you so that neither gets squished out or crushed down.

Fights are inevitable in genuine relationships. For the relationship to survive and evolve, we need to learn how to properly have a fight. And the secret to it is to listen and reproduce the other’s minds before you state your own.

By: Ruihong Yuan

Ruihong is a graduate from University of Toronto with a major in Psychology and Physics. He is currently looking to gain either clinical or research experiences in psychology. His goal is to become a clinical psychologist with his own practice and research in order to help people improve their lives and explore the mysterious human mind.

The Pros and Cons of Starting a Private Therapy Practice at Home


It may seem very convenient to start serving clients from the comfort of one’s home. This is a very interesting choice and may not be suitable for all of those looking to build a successful private therapy practice. Before going down this route, it may be important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of seeing clients from one’s home.

Advantages of Working from Home

A number of business professionals like the convenience of working from the same location in which they live. This can reduce commuting time and make it easier to serve more clients, potentially increase a business owner’s profits. Working from one location can reduce costs associated with maintaining both an owned office location and a private residence. It may be useful for those who are starting out in their practice to reduce their potential overhead by offering sessions from their home.

When it comes time to pay the IRS, there may be benefits to itemizing expenses and using deductions to reduce tax burden on a home business. Rent, mortgage deductions and utility costs may be reduced as a specific percentage may be applied toward business purposes. Those that require a single treatment room and work alone may find they do not need to incur the additional expenses associated with separate premises for a practice.  

In addition, it may make it easier to spend quality time at home with family. The time spent in commuting to an office can be used toward connecting with family and friends, as well as self-care. This is an important consideration for those who need to balance their home and work commitments, as well as to take care of one’s own needs.

Disadvantages of Having a Private Practice at Home

Many practitioners prefer working from a location that is not their home. They like the level of privacy with this option and the ability to keep work and family life separate. Many may find it difficult to separate their personal life from their work life and may get interrupted by friends and family during regular business hours. This may be viewed as unprofessional by clients and by fellow colleagues.

Working from home may make it easy to overwork. Individuals may spend more time tending to work commitments when they can take a few steps and be in their office. Working from a separate location creates a mental break between the practice and the home. Therapists have more pressure to work within the business hours listed with separate work and home locations.

Working from home can be socially and professionally isolating. Working within a larger practice makes it easier to connect with those in one’s field and may lead to additional referrals. Those that choose to operate their private practice from home may want to make a conscious effort to attend conferences and network with those in or connected with one’s area of expertise.

How to Successfully Work from Home

Toys scattered in a waiting area, smells of home cooking and interruptions from teens will not be helpful in attracting and maintaining a full caseload. In order to be viewed as a professional in the field, take steps to maintain a separate work space, waiting area and office area. Sometimes renovations might be needed in order to make clear separation of living and working spaces. Family and friends should know the behavior expected from them during business hours and what types of interruptions, if any, are permitted at such times. From answering machine messages to the general setup in an area, those working from home have to take additional steps to maintain the appearance of professionalism and connect with colleagues, staying abreast of the latest changes in their field.

Before looking to work from home, check into the zoning regulations on a property and whether or not in-person visits are permitted. Those who rent may have additional restrictions when it comes to using a residential property for business purposes.

Anthony Gilbert is the owner of The RealFX Group. Anthony specializes in real estate, real estate marketing, and home business startup strategy.

There’s a Therapy That’s Right For You


We have all experienced that relief of freely venting to a trusted friend, feeling listened to with total acceptance, with your experiences fully acknowledged and validated. Navigating the ups and downs of life is not an easy thing, and there are life circumstances that test us in many different ways. Sometimes we may need guidance from a trained professional to provide us with understanding and acceptance, and allow us to develop new skills that can help us navigate these ups and downs more easily.

Many people are hesitant to consider therapy, as there is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues. It may seem easier to try and take on your challenges alone or perhaps you are hesitant to reach out for help because you think your problems aren’t “big” enough. But every experience is valid, no matter how big or small, and if you think that having another person to assist you in managing your challenges might be beneficial, therapy may be something to consider to help ease some of your stress. A therapist can provide you with that same feeling that is brought on when you talk to a close friend, but they also have the skills to provide you with ways to overcome your challenges.

There are many different therapy modalities to consider and each of them offers a different style of addressing your experiences and helping you develop new skills to meet those challenges.

1. Client-Centered Therapy

Client centered therapy is a humanistic approach which focuses on the individual. Carl Rogers developed it in the 1950s and he identified 3 core elements that were necessary for the success of the therapy:

– Unconditional Positive Regard

The therapist openly listens to you, without any kind of judgment, and will accept your experience as just that-your experience. This element of the therapy is important, as it allows you to feel comfortable being vulnerable, without fear of being judged or ridiculed.

– Genuineness

The therapist provides genuine, authentic responses to your experiences, which enhances the therapeutic relationship. You are able to trust that your therapist is being honest in how they respond to you, using their education and knowledge base to influence their response.

– Empathy

This is a critical component of this therapeutic approach. Your therapist will do their best to try to understand where you are coming from, to put themselves in your shoes, and understand how you are experiencing your current situation.

The goal of the therapy depends on what you wish to achieve, but ultimately focuses on your personal growth and development. What this means depends entirely on your current situation, and how you define personal growth.

2. Existential Therapy

This approach focuses on increasing self-awareness. Through this sense of strengthened awareness, you are able to understand that you are a free agent in making your decisions and you are responsible for the direction you take your life. It is also concerned with how a person finds meaning out of life. Because of this sense of responsibility and the understanding that we must create our own meaning, anxiety may be the natural response to these realizations, and the existential therapist will help to address this anxiety.

3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This approach is more focused on structured sessions and often includes homework assignments for completion outside of the therapy sessions. As the approach is focused on meeting goals, these goals are set out within the first couple of sessions, and thus the progression of therapy is very transparent. The therapist may ask you to attend to your automatic thoughts that occur throughout the day in order for you to begin to become more aware of certain thought patterns. Within the session, the therapist will work with you to address these automatic thoughts and whether they are actually supported by your reality. This practice allows you to gain greater awareness of your maladaptive thinking patterns and eventually adapt these to become more in line with reality, which may improve your functioning in day-to-day life.

4. Psychodynamic Therapy

This kind of therapy approach derives from Freudian psychoanalysis. There is an emphasis on unconscious motivations, as well as an individual’s early life experiences, which both influence current problems. Defense mechanisms often operate in the individual to defend against anxiety they may experience. Through therapy, theses defense mechanisms are explored. A key concept of psychodynamic therapy is transference. Transference is the idea that the client unconsciously transfers feelings from an early relationship, typically a parent, onto the therapist. This transference is explored by the therapist, and the reactions that emerge in the sessions often provide useful information about the client.

These different therapy modalities are just a few of many different kinds of therapy that are used to help people deal with issues they may be experiencing. The approach you choose may depend entirely on what it is you need to address and what your goals are. Whatever it is you are struggling with there is someone that can help you, so you don’t have to go through it alone.

By: Talia Main

Talia is pursuing a degree in psychology at the University of Toronto. She hopes to continue her education in psychology following graduation. She is passionate about ending the stigma surrounding mental health through her writing and education.

How to Have a Hard Conversation


One complaint that I often hear people making is “How do I speak to that individual?” As humans, we have a tendency to avoid tough conversations because we fear a negative outcome. These hard conversations can create a lot of anxiety, especially when the outcome can affect your work life, education, and/or involve family/friends. Within a professional context, there are all kinds of situations where initiating and engaging in conversation is absolutely necessary. I will list several factors that I believe are necessary for having a successful hard conversation.

1. Manage your expectations. It is important to know that not everyone will always agree with what you have to say. Be open to being wrong and compromising, as the person may perceive the situation in a different manner.

2. Manage your nerves. It is important to know how to soothe yourself in a situation that may be distressing to you. Our minds will often imagine the worst-case scenario when engaging in something this is anxiety provoking. We need to know how to calm our nerves before engaging in the conversation. An approach that I find very helpful is to listen to relaxing music before the conversation.

3. Have an open mind. Enter the conversation with the attitude “I want to learn and get the best out of this conversation.” When you focus on the ultimate goal of the conversation, which is usually to learn about a particular subject, your nerves will subside.

4. Use attentive gestures. I believe that smiling and nodding from time to time during the conversation will signal to the other person that you are carefully and respectfully listening to what they have to say. This will show them that you are paying attention and will also ease the flow of the conversation.

5. Take notes. By taking notes on what the other person is saying, your mind will automatically generate more questions that you probably hadn’t previously thought about. As a result, you will be able to get as much information as possible out of the hard conversation.

6. Believe in yourself. Always know that you have given it your best and that you are a capable person. Even if you think of better ways to reply after the conversation is over, that’s okay! That is a signal that you have learned a new way of thinking about the topic of the conversation. Just by believing in yourself, you are already half the way through the hard conversation!

By: Ghinwa El-Ariss

Ghinwa El-Ariss holds an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto. She will be pursuing her Master of Science degree in Psychology at Trent University starting September 2017. She is passionate about Psychology and the Environment. She hopes that her blog posts help you learn a bit about her and her take on certain things. Most importantly, she hopes that you enjoyed what you read!

Coming out: How to Support your LGBTQ Teenager


Coming out can be hard a hard experience, but not just for the person coming out, but also for their family. It is particularly hard when the person coming out is a teenager this is a time of identity development and there are often social pressures to just fit in and not stand out. Sometimes families can also add to the stress by not taking the right measures even if they want to help. Unfortunately, the stress from so many different directions leads teenagers to anxiety and depression. Here are some of the ways you can be a responsible parent to your coming out teenager.

1. Be a good listener: It is very important to give your child the time to explain how they feel to ease the coming out experience. They might not want to explain everything to you which is fine, but do encourage them to come to you if they feel unsafe as the result of coming out.

2. Learn about the LGBTQ community: It is extremely important to take some time to learn more about the LGBTQ community. Learn about what they stand for and what challenges they may face, so that you can be on the same page as your child. This will show that you want to be involved in your child’s life and are willing to go out of your way to know what your child is going through.

3. Be open-minded: This might be the first time somebody in your family came out and you might need a little time to adjust to this new reality which is understandable. However, make sure that your child does not take this as you not being supportive. Let them know that you need some time to process, but that you are willing to support your child along the way. Open communication is key.

4. Be patient: Nothing can be more important than being patient with your child to ease the coming out experience. Do not ask too many questions because your child might not have all the answers. Let them take their time to discuss things with you, as they feel comfortable.

5. Consider family therapy: If for some reason, you feel like your child’s coming out experience can be enhanced through family therapy then go for it. Make sure your child has everything they can to ease the experience.

By: Maleeha Khan

Maleeha is currently doing a double major in Human Biology and Neuroscience with a minor in Psychology at the University of Toronto. Her current research focuses on the sex differences in factors predicting conversion from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease. She is interested in pursuing MD after her undergraduate degree and helping third world countries dealing with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

The Weight of Eating Disorders


American Psychological Association defines eating disorders as “abnormal eating habits that can threaten your health or even your life.” The 3 most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. Anorexia nervosa is an illness in which a person fears weight gain resulting in a restriction of eating to become thinner and thinner. Bulimia nervosa consists of eating an enormous amount of food and then purging almost right after. Binge eating is similar to bulimia nervosa, but without the act of purging.

Although eating disorders only became noteworthy back in the 1980s, the rate of the disorder is on a steady increase all over the world. Eating disorders can affect any race, age, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. As a matter of fact, researchers have noted that there may be a fourth type called “compulsive exercising,” more commonly in men than women, where an afflicted individual may be prone to exercising obsessively. It is crucial to take note of this upward trend, as eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all disorders. One in five afflicted individual’s commits suicide, and every hour approximately one person dies as a result of his or her eating disorder. It is often extremely comorbid as well, specifically with anxiety and depression.

The disorder commonly manifests as an intense fear of gaining weight, resulting in symptoms such as dieting, restricting food intake, pickiness, and preoccupation with body weight and food. Due to a person’s intense fear of gaining weight, a common sign that someone is experiencing an eating disorder is having an excessive amount of measuring tapes and scales around the house, including the bathroom, living room, bedroom, kitchen, and even in their own purses. A research study asked people with an eating disorder to point to the photo that best represented their current body shape (one photo was of their actual current selves and one photo was altered to make them look fatter). They found that people chose the altered fattened photo of themselves, suggesting that a person’s cognitive distortion of their body shape reinforces the classic belief of “I am never thin enough.” Interestingly, although the word anorexia means a loss of interest in food, person’s with this disorder often become more obsessed with food via gourmet cooking, taking photographs of fancy food etc. Their obsession with food acts as a way to regain control and cope with intense emotions.

Eating disorders can be caused by multiple factors including genetic, biochemical, psychological, cultural, and environmental. An example of a prominent cultural factor is the way society has come to view women’s

body as an object of admiration and beauty. In the media there is an overwhelming and consistent depiction of how a woman should look like in order to be considered beautiful. In 2013 a short one-minute video showed an attractive woman with hair and makeup fully done by a professional team getting airbrushed after a photo shoot to the point that she almost looked like two different individuals before and after the photos. The video explicitly revealed the unrealistic and impossible standard regular women strive to reach for. Despite the fact that this clip went viral, the dietary culture remains intact. These societal pressures can lead a young child, who may be going through puberty or getting bullied at school, to develop an eating disorder in order to fit in with their peers and what society portrays as “normal.”

Thinking about environmental factors, it’s important to note that eating disorders do not occur in isolation. According to “Family Systems Theory,” the disorder can be understood by looking at the symptoms embedded within a person’s dysfunctional family structure. Families of children afflicted with eating disorders frequently exhibit the following characteristics: overprotectiveness, a great deal of enmeshment, and lack of conflict resolution. As a result, children do not develop independence or control over their life, leading them to seek control in other areas. The simplest solution is often to control their body shape by controlling what they eat.

The disorder requires meticulous attention to a person’s physical and psychological state. In order to appropriately address the issue of eating disorders, there should be initiatives at both the micro and macro level. Family therapy is a good treatment option because eating disorders affect the whole family, so it’s important to involve everyone’s voices. There should also be more campaigns that work towards redefining the definition of “beauty” to counteract the affects of current media portrayals of beauty.

By: Stella Hyesoo Pock

Stella is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto with a double major degree in Psychology and Neuroscience. She is currently working on three projects that focus on maternal mental health at the Mothering Transitions Lab at the University of Toronto under Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis. She has various research experiences that range from postpartum depression to LGBTQ members with schizophrenia. She is dedicated to help those who are afflicted with mental disorders.