Critical Summary of Cultural Effects on Eating Attitudes in Israeli
Subpopulations and Hospitalized Anorectics


In the article "Cultural Effects on Eating Attitudes in Israeli
Subpopulations and Hospitalized Anorectics (Apter Et Al, 1994), the authors
introduce to us their thesis: due to the clashing values between the western
ideology of the teenage feminine body and the traditional Israeli subpopulation
views, there is an increasing amount of anorexia nervosa proportionate to the
severity of the western influence. To test their hypothesis, Apter surveyed
adolescent Israeli girls in 10 subpopulations of Israeli culture. Throughout
the rest of the article, Apter goes on to prove their thesis by illustrating to
us the method they instantiated as well as the results they attained from
conducting the survey.
Apter explains to us that anorexia nervosa is a severe eating disorder
that affects mostly upper & middle class teenage girls in the western world.
This disease is both physically and psychologically damaging to these girls.
For these girls, thinness and self-appearance is what they revolve their lives
around. Studies conclude that people in professions where physical appearance
is of extreme importance are more likely to develop an eating disorder. In the
Western world, over the past two decades eating disorders have increased
substantially. People believe that this increase in eating disorders is due to
the fashion industry. The fashionable female figure of today has become thinner
and more tubular (Szmulker, McCance, McCrone, & Hunter, 1986).
In the world today, Apter believes that thinness is more and more a
symbol of the feminine ideal. He finds that the Western role of a woman is now
beginning to include success in the work force, sexually attractive as well as
the traditional roles as nurturant wives and mothers. Apter hypothesizes that
this added stress of Western ideology combined with the non-Western ethnic
origin of these adolescents could create complications such that the attitudes
towards food will begin to resemble that of anorectics. In contrast, Apter also
hypothesizes that adolescents of non-Western ethnic origin less exposed to
Western ideology would have less of a chance of attaining an eating disorder.
Using a selected group of hospitalized anorectics as a control, they tested
their hypothesis by surveying 783 adolescent girls in 10 Israeli subpopulations
as well as a group of hospitalized anorectics.
The first test conducted in the survey was the shortened form of the
Eating Attitude Test known as the EAT-26. This test was administered by school
nurses and is proven to detect instances and levels of eating disorders. The
determining factor in this test, as stated by Apter, "was the oral control
factor - an indicator of impulsivity and presumable of sexuality." The second
test conducted, was a 17-question survey that dealt with the way they subjects
viewed their body. As indicated by the control group, the higher the scores on
the tests, the more likely the subjects have an eating disorder.
In the results of the survey, Apter et Al found that the Kibbutz
resembled the scores closest to that of the anorectics; however, the oral
control factor score was lower than expected. Apter defends this by attributing
it to their "communal dining rooms." Because of the low Western influence in
the Muslim culture, the prediction that they would have a lower score on the
survey was false. They scored low in the body image pathology and high on the
dieting factor. Apter stays with his hypothesis by indicating that "the Muslim
group has the highest average weight (53.8 kg), so that their concern with
dieting may reveal a desire to lose weight rather than insidious \'slenderness
culture." They also state that their findings do require further investigation;
however, they feel that the Muslims are not at risk for eating disorders.
From these results, Apter et Al concludes his thesis that: due to the
clashing values between the western ideology of the teenage feminine body and
the traditional Israeli subpopulation views, there is an increasing amount of
anorexia nervosa proportionate to the severity of the western influence.
I feel that Apter et Al did not successfully incorporate all aspects
when trying to prove their hypothesis. I say this because they only took into
account the aspects of anorexia nervosa in each subculture. They did not take
into account the amount of Western influence in each subculture. To make the
proof of their hypothesis more complete, Apter et Al should have conducted some
sort of test or survey that would tell how much Western influence was present in
each subculture.
If Apter et Al would have taken the amount of Western influence into
account in their