Posts Tagged ‘media images’

Leave the Children Out of It!!

March 22, 2012

Almost at my goal weight!

The other day I was at Whole Foods buying some overpriced organic groceries when I overheard a mother telling her elementary school-aged daughter to put the  Snickerdoodles  she had picked up back because they were too “fattening”.  Now I understand that in this day and age gluten and refined sugar are the body’s enemy, clogging up your system wherever they go, but as far as I know no child has ever porked up from a single Snickerdoodle. It is far from my place on my childless pedestal to judge, but it hit a nerve to hear this woman force her food issues onto her young child. While I agree that parents should be concerned with their children’s nutrition, and certainly there should not be a free-for –all mentality when it comes to junk food. But what message does it send to young girls when their mothers tell them they should fear certain foods? Do these children have the skills to think critically and understand that their parents don’t want them to become obese and unhealthy, or will they start to think that they must be as skinny as models in magazines or the thinnest girl in their class in order to please?

I came across some pretty startling statistics:

Among children in grades 1-3, 42% want to be thinner

Among 8-10 years old, 50% are dissatisfied with their body size

Among 10 year olds, 81% are afraid of becoming fat

Among 9-11 year olds, 46% are on diets “sometimes” or “very often”

82% of these 9-11 year olds families are on diets “sometimes” or “very often”

Among 13 year olds, 80% have tried to lose weight

Among 9-15 year old girls, 50% exercise to lose weight, 50% restrict their calories, and 5% steal laxatives or diet pills from their parents

35% of people on a diet develop some sort of pathology around food

Of this 35%, 20-25% develop a full-blown eating disorder

Why do our kids have such low self-esteem and body-image? Similar to the rest of us women, they are exposed to the endless stream of media images depicting unrealistic depictions of women. Children are likely even more susceptible to these images because they are less likely to be able to appreciate the discrepancy between the women in the media and real women. Young children may not realize the extent of the retouching, plastic surgery, makeup, dieting, personal training etc. that goes into making the models look like they do. Children and teens are also highly influenced by their peer group. Often groups of kids will engage in fat-talk which only feeds into their low self-esteem. They may feel pressured into dieting along with groups of friends, or forced to “compete” with smaller friends.

Parents cannot control the media or peer pressure. However, the influence of parents and home environment on children’s behavior and attitude towards food cannot be overlooked. It is well established that how parents, especially mothers, feel about themselves and their approach to weight issues will influence their daughter’s self-image and tendency towards disordered eating. Statistically, young girls who report they have dieted or are dieting are more likely to report that members of their families are also dieting or have dieted.  A study in the European Journal of Child Adolescent Psychiatry in 2009 called Influence of Parent’s Eating Attitudes on Eating Disorders In School Adolescents examined 258 boys and girls with a mean age of 11.37 being either at risk of an eating disorder or a control. The study looked at disordered eating attitudes, body dissatisfaction, BMI and eating disorder diagnoses in the children at beginning and 2 years later. The parents were also examined for disordered eating attitudes. The results showed that mother’s drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, and father’s drive for thinness and perfectionism were related to long-term eating disorders. Predictors were being female, mothers drive for thinness, social insecurity and adolescent body dissatisfaction, and father’s perfectionism. BMI was not a predictor.

So ladies, remember when you were a teenager and you screamed at your mother that you were going to be a better parent than her? I know at the time you meant you were going to let your daughter stay out late and date all the boys she wanted and have her own phone in her room, but now you have the chance to do something better. You can shut up about how fat you feel today or how many calories were in the grande chocolate macchiato extra whip you just drank and how disgusting you feel, or how you need to go on a diet. It’s no good for you, and it’s toxic for your daughters. Both of you deserve better.