Western culture predominantly promotes adolescence as a preparatory stage in life, when the teen must begin to construct the foundations for a successful adulthood. Unfortunately, this is an ideology largely based on 20th century concepts of a standardized, idealized existence within a society, and does not take into account modern elements of race, poverty, drug abuse, gang activities, and other social issues that radically influence how the adolescent views himself, and consequently his approach to health. This translates to enormous potentials of health issues, as the adolescent makes poor health choices to conform to a perceived standard, or as immediate reactions and/or repercussions of those social issues listed above.
Given that a teen's sense of self-esteem is generally forged by the societal expectations within the Western environment, there appears to be too prevalent an emphasis on decidedly unhealthy pursuits, or attainments which are pursued with little regard to health. For example, technically diagnosed eating disorders in teens are relatively minimal in most Western cultures, yet this does not address those adolescents who will practice poor, and often dangerous, diets to achieve a specific body image. Obesity is epidemic in the United States, and it is reasonable to surmise that this issue may be traced to adolescent eating behaviors which persist into adulthood. As Western media ceaselessly promulgates images deliberately geared to attract teen consumers by presenting them as invariably slender and attractive, it is to be expected that adolescents engage in unhealthy practices to immediately “become” the images, or fall into obesity through a sense of hopelessness.
Western culture must shift its priorities in the way it presents adult desirability to teens. The emphasis must be on how seeking a healthy body and mind is of far greater import than any attainment of a surface attractiveness, even as it must also be stressed that attractiveness is frequently a consequence of a healthy lifestyle. Essentially, the all-important component of self-esteem as guiding the adolescent's choice in health must be acknowledged, and removed from the stereotypical and unrealistic reals of media.