I am a child of the ’80s. As such, I have learned, we were heavily influenced by television. You may be familiar with a research study around the island of Fiji that showed that there were virtually no eating disorders in 1995 when they weren’t watching television. By 1998, after introducing television, nearly 12 percent engaged in eating disorder behaviors and wanted to lose weight. As an eating disorder therapist, I take note of this information. The media influences us. It’s not just television and film; we now have social media. It is a good practice to take a break from social media regularly and periodically review the media content that you are filling your mind, consciously and subconsciously.
Lately, I have been looking rather reminiscently at some older television shows. Thanks to various streaming services, you are likely to find just about anything. Recently, I have been looking at older sitcoms. This sometimes backfires, as shows I loved to watch as a teenager or even a young adult is not as good as I remember. Signs of the times show up, which can be fun, like phones that hung on the wall that rang for the whole household. Signs of the times show up, which aren’t so fun, with content that would be considered discriminatory or offensive that was just glossed over at the time. Guess what else shows up? Diet culture, our old friend! A few weeks ago, I talked about just wanting to watch or read something without it. This is not a new problem, as I am finding in my reminiscence of old television sitcoms.
- Mary Tyler Moore–Mary and Rhoda talked about Rhoda’s diet and how she gets fat just looking at a dessert.
- Dharma and Greg—now this one is generally pretty good. Still, there was an episode where Dharma was working at a grocery store (for a friend), and Dharma wouldn’t let the guy buy bacon and was policing his purchase, seemingly because this guy was in a bigger body.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun—the entire episode was about how Dick had gained weight because of his breakup with Mary. He attended a “Fat Losers” meeting. He went on a diet and was miserable. I did like the ending where he announced that his pants fit. His family cheered. He said he went and bought a bigger size. While this was for comical purposes, it is amazing how we take it out on our bodies when our clothes don’t fit. The solution is sometimes as simple as getting clothes that do fit.
As much as I enjoy the lightness of “good old television,” I am learning that there are some dark parts that aren’t so good. I am watching with discernment. I can literally turn it off, right? As for social media, I will take regular breaks—at least once a week—when I won’t be on social media at all for my own wellbeing and mental health. I do a decent job of weeding out social media feeds that are not aligned with my values, but that is an ongoing review.
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