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Eating Disorders & Pageantry: Is There a Connection?

According to some experts, eating disorders and pageantry have unfortunately been linked for many years. The intense pressure to conform to a certain beauty standard, which often includes being thin, can lead some individuals to develop disordered eating habits in order to maintain their appearance for pageant competitions. Here are some ways in which pageantry and eating disorders intersect:

  1. Beauty Standards: In pageantry, there is a specific beauty standard that contestants are expected to meet. This often includes being thin and having a certain body shape. The pressure to conform to this standard can lead some contestants to develop unhealthy eating habits, such as restrictive dieting, fasting, or purging.

  2. Judging Criteria: Pageants often have a swimsuit competition, in which contestants are judged on their physical appearance. This can be particularly triggering for individuals with eating disorders, as they may feel the need to achieve an unrealistic body standard in order to be successful in the competition.

  3. Training: Pageant contestants often undergo extensive training and preparation in order to compete at their best. This can include working with personal trainers or dieticians to achieve a certain physique. Unfortunately, this can also lead to unhealthy practices and disordered eating behaviors.

  4. Stress: The stress of competing in a pageant, particularly at a high level, can be immense. This stress can be a trigger for individuals with eating disorders, as they may turn to food or restrictive eating habits as a coping mechanism.

  5. Prize Incentives: Winning a pageant can come with a significant prize, which can further incentivize contestants to conform to an unhealthy beauty standard. This can lead to a dangerous cycle of disordered eating habits in order to win the competition.

It's important to note that not all pageants promote or encourage disordered eating habits, and many have made efforts to be more inclusive and accepting of diverse body types. However, the pressure to conform to a certain beauty standard in pageantry and in society as a whole can still be a trigger for individuals with eating disorders.

It's crucial that we work towards promoting healthy and realistic body standards, and supporting individuals in their journey towards recovery from eating disorders.

Gena D. Richardson, Ms. Alabama Global Continental 2021

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