It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I’m passionate about supporting this one as a woman and as a mother. We’re surrounded by unrealistic images of “perfection” – in the media, in advertising, in movies, even in shops – it seems there’s no escape. And our children are exposed to it young. I was horrified at the cinema recently to be sat there with Kaya and Akira waiting for a movie when a WeightWatchers advert came on, and because we were in the cinema it was HUGE and LOUD. Like being in a nightmare, there was no escaping the “I knew she wasn’t happy with her weight” message. I just wanted to cover there ears and hide their eyes. I realise it was aimed at the parents in the audience but really?!
And it doesn’t end there.
As an adult, seeing super skinny mannequins in shops, often with bulldog clips cinching ridiculously tiny clothes even smaller is just something I’ve come to accept. But worryingly I’ve discovered these distorted body images start young, without us even clocking it.
I was shopping with 4 year old Akira and spotted a super cool jacket on a mannequin in a shop window. Like Charlie Bucket searching for the golden ticket I rushed instore but the object of desire in the window was the only one left. Of course! Golden ticket DENIED! But all was not lost as the assistant assured me I could have THAT one when they changed the windows. Result! Resisting the urge to kiss her, I duly gave my details confident the sizing would be cool since the mannequin towered over Akira. As we left the store I thought I should just check the size and wow. Just wow. Age 2/3. On a mannequin the height of a 7 year old? ARE YOU ACTUALLY SERIOUS?
It’s SO subtle. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. We see unrealistic images all the time. I guess it’s just starting younger than I’d realised and I’m passionate about equipping my kids to cope with it.
I came across this info-graphic, put out this week by the amazing website A Mighty Girl.
And there are some scary facts on there:
- Ten years ago, plus-size models averaged between size 12 and 18. The majority of plus-size models on agency boards today are between size 6 and 14 (UK Size 10 and 18 but are you serious? I’m a UK 12 so does that make me plus-size?)
- Average hip measurement is 37” but 31 on mannequins
- Most catwalk models fit the BMI criteria for anorexia
- 69% of girls said girls in magazines influenced their idea of the perfect body shape
- Each year the average adolescent sees over 5,260 adverts mentioning attractiveness
We’re inundated with visions of “beauty” in ads and other media that are unattainable and often photoshopped. But photoshopping isn’t about to stop anytime soon. I guess it’s an exaggerated equivalent of wearing a padded bra, wearing Spanx or putting make-up on – it’s trickery to improve how someone looks. Everyone does it – it’s prolific.
The flip-side of photoshopping is that, when it’s done to you, it’s actually a harsh reminder of what needs to be changed to make you more “attractive”! Which is a weird one! I remember once being photoshopped to such a degree that they removed the mole from my cheek ( I actually LOVE my mole! ) and they made my green eyes brown. BIZARRE! But rather than wish it would go away, it’s good to be aware of the extent to which it happens – for adults AND kids. A brilliant book to check out, showing the effects of photoshopping and other techniques used in the media is: All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype to Celebrate Real Beauty http://www.amightygirl.com/all-made-up
Although these issues don’t only affect women and I feel equally as protective over my son as my daughter, it has to be said the majority of images are aimed at the female audience. The study found that 50% of commercials aimed at teenage girls mentioned physical attractiveness. while not many of those aimed at boys did. That said, 25% of those with anorexia or bulimia are male. So ALL of our children need to be equipped to cope with the pressures.
I guess the awareness week is helpful as an excellent opportunity to talk about these types of media messages and body image issues. In an ideal world we wouldn’t need to. But because society isn’t about to change anytime soon, we need to equip our kids to cope with what’s around them.
I have rules in our house. I don’t even own weighing scales, I have no idea what I weigh and I truly don’t care. For me it’s all about being healthy. Also, the word “diet” is never mentioned in a weight loss way, purely in an “it’s important to have a healthy diet” way. Although Kaya once came home with a reading book called “Mummy’s on a Diet” #fail. I guess there’s only so much you can do!
Here are some other great titles:
101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body http://www.amightygirl.com/parenting/body-image-self-esteem
Talking with Tweens and Teens About Eating Disorders http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=1597
So thanks to A Mighty Girl for putting out that image to get us all talking about such an important issue. And no – this post isn’t in connection with them in any way. I just love what they’re trying to do. For all of us.
Huge love and hugs