Girls Body Image and
By Nancy Summer
It seems as if everyone is always talking about dieting and weight. We
look at images of thin attractive people every day on television and in magazines, but
rarely do we see any larger girls and women shown as attractive. We get exposed to
hundreds of diet commercials each year that tell us that if we want to be pretty, popular,
and successful, we have to be thin.
All this gives us some strange, and often wrong ideas about fat
people. If we are thin, we are afraid to get fat. If we are "overweight", even
by just a little, we feel bad about ourselves and want to be thin. Even thin girls
sometimes diet just because they feel fat.
The problem is that only two percent of women and girls can really look
like the fashion models that we are told are the "image of beauty." The rest of
us spend our lives looking at the ads and feeling dissatisfied with our own appearance.
Advertisers know this. Thats how they get us to spend money on their products.
The obsession with thinness hurts everyone. It hurts our self-esteem and
makes us risk our health to look like someone else instead of ourselves. It also hurts
larger adults who have to deal with discrimination, and fat kids who get picked on and
left out of things.
Many doctors now say that dieting doesnt work, and that far too
many people are dieting. They say that almost everyone who loses weight on a diet will
gain it back within a few years. Going up and down in weight can make you sick. And
weighing less than you should can make you sick, too. Dieting too much can also lead to
dangerous eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
So what can we do? First, we can become media watchers. We can look at
TV and magazine ads and ask ourselves, "Whats their motive (to get my money),
and whats their method (making me feel bad about myself so Ill buy their
product)." We can also look for our own role models of all sizes in our families and
neighborhoods instead of in magazines. We can develop our own images of beauty and feel
good about ourselves.
We can also make healthy choices about food and exercise. We can learn
about nutrition and how to read food labels to make the best choices. WE can stop counting
calories, and instead eat more breads, cereals, vegetables and fruits, and eat less junk
food and fatty food. And we can get enough physical activity to keep us healthy. Fitness
is the right of everybody, regardless of size.
Finally, we can stop size discrimination when we see it, and speak up
when anyone tries to make fun of people about their physical characteristics. We an get to
know kids of all shapes, sizes and colors. Not only will that help everyone to feel
included, but it may let us make some new good friends at the same time. ©
Copyright 1993, Nancy Summer, Council on Size & Weight
Discrimination, Inc. For more information write: International No-Diet Coalition, P. O.
Box 305, Mt. Marion, NY 12456, or call 914-679-1209. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copying
permitted (with copyright intact).
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