Does American dad talk about eating disorders? (3 key episodes)

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In this page, we shall answer the question “does American dad talk about eating disorders?” and look at the episodes where it depicted eating disorders. We will also define what eating disorders are and their types.

Does American dad talk about eating disorders?

Yes, some episodes of American dad talk about eating disorders. These episodes bring into awareness what people with eating disorders feel and the distorted thoughts they have. The episodes also show what society thinks of eating disorders and people with the disorders.

Although some people felt offended by how the episodes depicted eating disorders, others were appreciative of the details the production team took into researching the symptoms of eating disorders and bringing them into reality in their characters. We should be able to talk about these issues without fear of being criticized. Before we look at the episodes that depict eating disorders in American dad, let us look at what the show is about.

What is American dad about?

It is an American adult animated sitcom that premiered on February 6, 2005. It follows through the escapades of Stan Smith, a conservative CIA agent dealing with family life and keeping America safe. The series derives humour from its quirky characters, the relationship between family members and the relatable plots.

The series’ plots are based on family stories and real-world issues. Its 19th series premiered on January 24, 2022. Its episodes have generated both love and hate with some people feeling that they are insensitive towards the injustices faced in the world. Others feel that it is important that they depict the real issues without sugarcoating them while still being entertaining.

Some of the issues brought up in the show include mental issues and eating disorders to be precise. Before we look at the episodes which discussed eating disorders, let us look at what eating disorders are and their types.

 What are eating disorders? 

Eating disorders are mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits, and complex and damaging relationships between food, exercise and body image that impairs physical and mental health.

Eating disorders are also known to cause death. In fact, about one person dies every hour as a direct result of an eating disorder. (Eating Disorders Coalition, 2016)

Types of eating disorders explained in American dad

According to the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition (DSM-5), there are six types of eating disorders. Obesity is no longer included as an eating disorder since it results from long-term excess energy intake relative to energy expenditure. 

A range of genetics, physiological, behavioural, and environmental factors that vary across individuals contribute to the development of obesity; thus, obesity is not a mental disorder. (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition 2013).

The eating disorder that is most talked about in American dad is;

Anorexia nervosa

Is a severe eating disorder characterized by abnormal body weight, distorted body image, and unwarranted fear of gaining weight. In order to prevent weight gain, anorexic people try to control their body weight by vomiting food, using laxatives, diet aids, and excessive exercise. In two episodes, Stan is seen to perceive himself as fat and starts working out excessively and denying himself food.

His family and workplace friends try to intervene but instead, he thinks there are mocking him and don’t want him to succeed. His health starts deteriorating and his wife drags him to a treatment facility by force.

Common symptoms include extreme low body weight, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, dry skin, hair that easily falls off, preoccupation with food, skipping meals, refusing to eat, denying hunger, complaints of being overweight, measuring weight often and lying about the quantity of food taken.

Causes include; biological factors such as genes, psychological factors such as temperaments and environmental factors such as societal demands.

Preverance

Usually begins during the teenage and early adulthood years. It is more common in women than in men.

Anorexia is the most deadly mental illness. One study found that people with anorexia are 56 times more likely to commit suicide than people without an eating disorder. (Eating Disorders Coalition, 2016).

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Although this disorder is categorized as obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, it has a correlation with eating disorders. Eating disorders can be caused by BDD and vice versa. It is a mental disorder where a person is preoccupied with their body image.

They spend most of their time worrying about their flaws and appearance. These flaws are usually unnoticeable by other people. In the episode where Stan is anorexic in American dad, he has perceived that he is fat and does everything possible to lose weight. Even after becoming thin, he still sees himself as fat and continues on a downward spree to ruin himself until it affects his health.

The symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder include anxiety and general discontent with their body, intrusive thoughts, compulsive behaviour, depression, and constantly comparing their body to other people. The most common features people with BDD focus on include their nose, breast size, muscle size, skin, body hair, blemishes and genitalia.

Episodes where American dad talks about eating disorders

Stan is anorexic, season 3 episode 2

The episode shows Stan’s POV, where he is overweight. He works out all the time, even when the others are eating and refuses to eat. He mentioned that he was defeated at work due to his bad shape (overweight).

He also has a friend, a gym instructor, who encourages him in his journey of overworking and turns him against his own family. He starts feeling and saying that his family is doing something to his food, hence making him overweight. 

At one point, his wife offers him a sandwich and he panics, throws it to the ground and shoots it multiple times shouting, “get that away from me! Die calories die!” he finally passes out due to his ill health, gets suspended and blames his family for making him fat.

The POV changes on what Stan really looks like. He is emaciated with his bones popping out and looking very frail. All this while, the belief of him being fat was in his mind. His gymnast friend is also imagined meaning that he got hallucinations. The reason ‌he could not exercise and perform at work was that he was emaciated and had no strength. His family finally tells him ‌he is anorexic, and he is delusional about being fat.

Comments

Many people applauded how accurately they described a person suffering from anorexia while still making it a skit. Those who have had the disordered agreed that is how the disorder felt like and were happy that other people could now understand how it felt being anorexic. The fact that it is Stan with anorexia also shows that all genders can get affected and not only women, as many people assume.

 Stan realizes his own fatness, season 2 episode 2

In this episode, Stan’s son introduces his girlfriend to his family. His father is proud of him and excited to see her and even hints at her having their family name and him joking at their wedding. This, however, changes when he sees Debbie. She is not the girl he had imagined as she was plump.

He even hoped that Debbie was hidden behind the ‘fat girl’ or that the ‘fat girl’ was bringing a roadmap that would lead them to Debbie. When his son tells him that was Debbie, he panicked and carried everyone off to the panic room to get away from her. He is angry at his son for bringing a ‘fatty’ to the family. 

The rest of the family is against him and calls him out for his harsh words. He mentions that he doesn’t want his grandchildren to be half fat and forbids his son from seeing her. His family, however, points out that he is not in great shape himself.

He runs out to the mirror and screams in panic when he sees his growing tummy and shouts, “I’ve become one of them!” and eats potato chips which even makes him bigger.

Comments

This episode talks about how society views the perfect body and body image. Stan judges Debbie for how she looks and does not listen to his son when he tries to tell her how good she is. It is educative about body shaming and shows how you can also get a problem that you judge others for having.

Stan’s support group, season 2 episode 2

Stan is shown to be dragged to treatment by his wife Francine by force. His body frame can be seen and he looks to be in a bad shape. His wife is able to carry him, probably showing how much weight he has lost.

In the support group, Stan is the only guy among the ladies who look to be in their teen years. The leader actually assumes all of them are in college and mistakes Stan for one. This shows the societal belief that anorexia only affects women in their youth. It is also educative on symptoms of anorexia, i.e. lack of menstrual periods in girls. 

Stan is seen talking to another anorexic girl, Veronica, and he complains that he doesn’t want to eat and he hates food. Veronica teaches him a trick by removing a sandwich from the back of her throat. This could mean purging through vomiting after eating which is a symptom of an eating disorder.

Conclusion

We hope that this description of the episodes from American dad has been able to show the societal misconceptions about eating disorders as well as provide awareness of eating disorders which can happen to anyone. We have also looked at the types of eating disorders that are listed in the DSM. 

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment section below.

Frequently asked questions: Does American dad talk about eating disorders?

In what episode of American Dad, does Stan have an eating disorder?

The American Dad After School Special

Which eating disorder is most commonly found in males?

Studies show that men are most frequently involved in binge eating.

In what episode of American Dad, does Stan get fat?

The American Dad After School Special

Citations

American Psychiatric Association, (2013). Eating disorders in Diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders (5th edition). American Psychiatric Association.

Single care team. (February, 15, 2022). Eating disorder statistics 2022. The check up by single care. Retrieved from https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/eating-disorder-statistics/

Wikipedia. (3 June, 2022). The American Dad After School Special. Wikipedia. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_American_Dad_After_School_Special#:~:text=It%20aired%20on%20Fox%20in,and%20directed%20by%20Pam%20Cooke.&text=Episode%20no.&text=In%20the%20episode%2C%20Steve%20falls,looks%20that%20he%20develops%20anorexia.

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