Girls’ Body Image and Health
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. That’s how they get us to spend money on their
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 doesn’t 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, "What’s their motive (to get my money), and what’s their method (making me feel bad about myself so I’ll
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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