Researchers from UEA’s school of Art, Media and American Studies (AMA), have shown the potential positive effects that discussing cultural expectations surrounding femininity can have in the treatment of anorexia.

Researchers carried out their study in a treatment centre in Norwich, which took place over a ten-week period and involved seven patients.

Patients were shown news articles, adverts, Disney films, and social media posts which were catalysts for the discussion of “gendered constructions of appetite” and “cultural prescriptions of femininity”.

The study gave evidence that these kinds of conversations can have the effect of reducing feelings of self-blame which often affects sufferers of the condition.

Dr Susan Holmes, who led the research, also reported that such discussions could evoke a “greater sense of personal agency” in the patients, thereby enabling a potentially improved recovery framework, especially with regards to feelings of self-control.

Eating disorders affect roughly 1.6 million people in the UK alone. This research could lead to a greater understanding of society’s impact on mental health and body dysmorphia.
One patient from the study has warned against the potential trivialisation of anorexia by sole attribution being to the common-place ‘skinny model’.

Anorexia remains a complex eating disorder that is driven by a mixture of physical, social, and environmental triggers, and so cannot be wholly attributed to societal pressures.

This research, however, does shed light on the potential feminist theory has for helping to tackle issues that arise from environmental pressures acutely affecting sufferers of anorexia.