We need food to survive — a fairly simple concept. However, the rapid rise in eating disorders indicates a fundamental problem whereby many people have a distorted relationship with food which leads to eating disorders. The definition of an eating disorder is a health condition which causes a serious change in ones normal eating habits and which could, if left untreated, be potentially life-threatening.

The three most common types of eating disorder are anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating. With each of these conditions, the main issue is not necessarily about food. There are various underlying reasons why an individual may develop an eating disorder, and very often this issue is linked to control. The individual may feel that they lack control in certain areas of their lives or in certain circumstances. They therefore try to exert control over the one thing they feel they have power over: the food they consume. As well as acting as a control mechanism, in the case of binge eating, food is often used as a form of comfort and is no longer a means to obtain nourishment and sustenance.

One major issue that has led many people to develop a distorted view of food is the pressure exerted by social media and printed material to look a certain way. This is also evident by the many pro-anorexia social media sites that vulnerable people have access to. In recent years, reality television has also presented an unrealistic body image highlighting how an individual should look and dress in order to make themselves attractive and desirable. The constant bombardment of images showing thin, model-type figures (which are often enhanced by plastic surgery and elective procedures) has a seriously negative effect on individuals who may already be struggling with low self-worth and eating issues.

In our modern age, the most important message to get across to all people, especially impressionable youths, is that of positivity and acceptance. People should embrace themselves however they look. External appearances are irrelevant if you are uncomfortable with yourself as a person. Treating others with kindness and respect far outweighs personal looks. Even good-looking individuals can become unattractive if their personality and behaviour is ugly.

Pressurising people to look a certain way can lead to distorted views of food and diet which in turn can cause eating disorders. People in positions of authority who can influence to a certain extent the content on social media and television bear some of the responsibility. They can take steps to avoid using unrealistic, perfectionist images by promoting more realistic, natural images which help build confidence and self-esteem.