Body Image and Beaches in California

Woman on the beach struggling with co-occurring disorders

California. The very name of the golden state bears a multitude of connotations, including Hollywood, celebrities, the movie industry, high-end fashion and an entire coastline of beaches.  California possesses its own subculture that out lavishes the pace of many other states across the nation.  Whether you are a California native, visiting the state on vacation or relocating from across the country, there are challenging and beautiful aspects that are important to be aware of when living in this state.

It’s Hard to Find Mental Health Help

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the State of California is home to numerous adults and children who suffer with a mental illness.

Of California’s approximately 36.8 million residents, close to 1,175,000 adults live with a serious mental illness, and about 422,000 children live with serious mental health conditions [1].

According to the California Health Care Almanac, nearly 1 in 6 California adults has a mental health need, with approximately 1 in 20 suffering from a serious mental illness that makes it challenging to carry out major life activities [2].

The extreme costs of living in California, compared to that of other states, as well as inadequate public health services, make it challenging for individuals to receive appropriate mental health care. For women and men who struggle with a mental health illness, such as an eating disorder, the challenges of finding and receiving needed care can be daunting.

How Mental Illness Is Exacerbated By the Media

While eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that cannot be attributed to one single factor, the influence of media and peer pressure from one’s environment can play a part in the development of these diseases. Poor body image and body distortions are often one of the early signs revealed in individuals who may be struggling with disordered eating.

Does mental illness in California residents combined with the defining subculture of the golden state, lead to a greater risk of low self-esteem, poor body image, or even an eating disorder?

The Hyper-focus on Beauty in California

Indeed, California is a state of beautiful scenery, generally mild weather, opportunity and promises. Underlying the surface of this state is a culture that inundates with messages of thinspiration, the relentless pursuit of a “perfect body”, and a dieting mentality.

Cities in California, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, are among the highest regions in the United States to perform plastic surgery procedures, with some of the top cosmetic surgical procedures including breast augmentation, liposuction, and tummy tucks [3].

Though these things are not unique just to California, these facets may be even more prominent in a state that both encourages and rewards the pursuit of unrealistic beauty standards.

How Our Culture Influences Us

Whether or not you call California your home, it is helpful to understand how a subculture can influence body image or interplay with the development of an eating disorder. While one can be pre-disposed to developing an eating disorder because of genetics, environments can certainly influence the progression of these diseases.

Couple in the shadowsFacing mental health challenges within a culture that is generally not conducive to body positivity or resources for treatment can make these issues even more challenging to overcome.

Wherever it is that you call home, become aware of your surroundings. Ask yourself if you are falling into false expectations for reality and consider ways you can continue to strengthen your own body image, regardless of where you live or what environments you may be exposed to.  Be sure to surround yourself with a strong support system that encourages your overall well-being and self-esteem, no matter where you live.

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Contributing Writer for Eating Disorder Hope.

Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing.  As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH and nutrition private practice.


[1]: U.S. Public Health Service, Report of the Surgeon General’s Conference on Children’s Mental Health: A National Action Agenda, (Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services, 2000).
[2]: CHCF, “Mental Health Care in California: Painting a Picture”, Accessed 19 June 2017
[3]: Total Beauty, “U.S. Cities WIth The Most Plastic Surgery”, Accessed 19 June 2017

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 25, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 25, 2017.
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.