Mia Holland, EdD Faculty Chair

Mia Holland, EdD, has launched a campaign to obliterate body dissatisfaction, and subsequently, eating disorders.

Since 2002, she has spread her message far and wide: body dissatisfaction is the most common factor behind eating disorders.

In February, Dr. Holland, chair of the Studies in Human Behavior programs at Capella University, was a featured speaker at a TEDx event at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. She used the parable of the boiled frog to illustrate her topic, Leading the Movement Toward Self-Acceptance: Disempowering Eating Disorders. The parable states that a frog dropped into boiling water will try to jump out and save itself. Drop it into warm water and turn up the heat, it falls asleep in the warmth, and when the boiling stage is reached, it’s too late. Seem extreme? The parable makes sense in relation to body image issues.

Americans from early childhood are inundated with media and social messages that size 0 has become the perfect-sized body. The unrealistic misperception is the result of models touted in magazines, clothing advertisements, television and film images—the list is long. Society has gone from revering the beauty of Marilyn Monroe, who was size 14, to thinking that she’d be considered a plus size today. Society is slowly boiling the frog with deadly consequences.

To illustrate the potency of this body image perception problem, Dr. Holland asks her TEDx audience to close their eyes and envision the perfect body. Then, she asks for a show of hands, “who pictures their own body as the perfect body?” You can probably guess the outcome; no hands were raised.

Dr. Holland had just under 12 minutes to explain the gravity of eating disorders—they have the highest mortality of any psychological condition—and outline a plan to foment change.

Eating disorders are showing up more and more in preadolescent girls and boys. “I think that social media is hurting us,” she says. “A recent UK study suggested that 11-to-13-year-old girls who participate in and view social media are more likely to feel anxious, be depressed, have low self-esteem and body image issues, and experience eating disorders—the constant bombardment of selfies and pictures of lurid body images has an effect on our society.”

She gravely explains, “The average model is 5’11” and weighs 117 pounds. The average woman is 5’ 4” and weighs 140 pounds.” Quite a disparity. She goes on to say that we can’t control the media, magazines, or how clothing companies portray fashion, but we can control our self-talk and act as role models by accepting our own bodies.

Having the perfect body, she says, has little to do with appearance and more to do with being able to engage in activities you enjoy. “I think valuing the function and healthiness of our bodies is important—not how it looks, but how it performs,” she says. “Make it less about weight and appearance, and more about function and appreciation.”

Her message? We have an opportunity to change our future and the future of children through self-acceptance. Yes, there are barriers, but they are not insurmountable. “We must stop judging ourselves and start accepting our differences—and celebrating our differences,” she says. It’s a matter of each of us changing our idea about what is perfect by embracing our differences.


Want to gain the skills and understanding needed to effect  individual and group behavior? Learn more about Capella’s human behavior studies degree program.