Experts declare: Obesity is a “Socially Contagious” disease

I heard a news report stating that obesity was socially contagious. They warned about hanging out with friends who are downing super-sized fries and drinking shakes because there’s a chance you could catch their obesity tendencies.

Well, if obesity is socially contagious then I consider eating disorders and the fixation on body image just as socially contagious. We tend to do what those close to us do.

Men don’t seem to get as warped about their body image as women can. And men don’t really know what it’s like to be bombarded with images of feminine perfection. Thumb through women’s magazines and half the articles deal with diets and improving looks--and how both seem necessary to be desirable.

While some women have a harder shell than others—or a stronger self-esteem, living in a culture of sexploitation is not easy. Yep, body perfection can be a socially contagious mindset sometimes leading to eating disorders or for the financially inclined there’s cosmetic surgery. Over 11 billion dollars is spent annually with the goal of looking hotter or younger.

Here’s my raw truth, after I moved out at 18, I suffered anorexia while I figured out it was okay to be me. When they call anorexia a battle, they aren’t kidding. It’s a mental & physical torture. Only through God's grace was I able to build a stable self-esteem, quite a challenge in the midst of our sexualized culture.

As I visited schools these past 10 years, I’ve talked to a lot of teen girls who are confused by what they see and how it makes them feel. It’s sad when I see some make my awful choice—because unless you beat anorexia, you lose badly. Others choose to reflect what they see. They dress sexy and the attention seems to satisfy their fledgling self worth. No one is ever unaffected, because we all are here.

If this sexualized culture is in fact ‘socially contagious’ can we avoid getting exposed? Yes. Many years ago I realized to beat anorexia I would need to turn away from the harmful images and declare freedom from the slavery it requires. Like many things, it involves a choice—I say “no” to a lot of TV, movies & magazines, and I can tell you this, what I don’t see can’t make me feel bad.

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