Young girls and body image

  1. Social media.

Remember that: –

  • Internet images are carefully posed or photoshopped. Hundreds of images will have been taken and the best two or three selected. 
  • Looking at firm and toned female bodies on social media sites does not always inspire, but rather make girls feel inadequate by promoting a body image that is unachievable for the average individual. 
  • Most women’s magazines will include ‘naughty, but nice’ recipes, followed immediately by articles about keeping fit and dieting. This is the way food companies develop business.
  • Switching off social media occasionally and enjoying real life activities in the company of others is a positive choice.
  1. Dieting.

Remember that: –

  • Healthy eating is not associated with low calories, but moderation. All things, puddings, chips, chocolate and cake included, are fine in moderation. No food is ever off limits. Healthy nutrition pans out over years, rather than days. 
  • Diets are designed with older people in mind. Adolescents need more calories than older people or young children because they are growing and developing at a rapid rate. 
  • Eating is a basic human drive. Dieting will increase your appetite and make you obsess about food to the exclusion of other more interesting activities.
  • The feeling of too many things happening all at once, may lead the individual to try to impose structure on their life. Strict dieting and fitness regimes may form part of this structure.
  • Human willpower is limited, not limitless. You may start the day deciding not to eat biscuits at break, but every time you engage your willpower in a situation, (not arguing with a friend, not answering a teacher back), your supply of willpower dwindles. Willpower is reduced by tiredness and hunger, so if you are tired or upset, you are more likely to fancy sweet and sugary food. 
  1. Self-respect.

Remember that: –

  • Even beautiful women fret about their physical appearance: – 

‘I’d like to be not so flat-chested, not to have such angular shoulders, such big feet and such a big nose.’ (Audrey Hepburn.)

Unfortunately, as a result of evolution, humans are programmed to focus on negatives rather than positives. In early human history, paying attention to things that were going wrong was a matter of life and death. Modern society has maintained this prehistoric inclination, worrying about our hairy arms, rather than focussing on our glowing skin.

  • Exercise does not have to be stressful, challenging or extreme to be beneficial. Yoga, for example, provides enjoyable exercise, developing flexibility and strength, whilst allowing time for meditation, relaxation and personal reflection. 
  • We choose our friends because they are thoughtful, funny and loyal, not because they are tall, have long hair or short legs. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend.
  • Women and girls should treat each other with respect. Avoid commenting negatively on anyone’s appearance. Women come in all shapes and sizes – end of.
  1. Many things are beyond women’s control.

Remember that: –

  • What is judged as female beauty changes over time. In the 18th century, voluptuous women were admired as an ideal. There was a prevalence of eating disorders among women in the 1920s when slender, boyish figures became the trend. The 1950s saw more curvaceous women with ample breasts being viewed as attractive, before the image of the ideal female body reversed again in the late 20th century towards a slimmer look. Judgements about the perfect female body depend on many factors beyond women’s control.
  • It is normal for girls to lay down fat in puberty and adolescence.
  • Body shape and size is largely down to genetics. 
  • You can never see your body properly; even from a photo or from the image in a mirror. You will never see yourself as others see you.
  • If you lose weight, your body will retain its proportions. You will still be tall, have stocky legs or skinny arms.
  • Everyone develops at different rates. Adolescence can be particularly difficult if you are the first or last person amongst your peers to go through puberty: you may be the tallest, or the shortest, or retain a childlike figure when everyone else is developing curves. This situation will not be permanent.

‘You’re a pretty girl. What’s in your head it doesn’t matter. Brush your hair, fix your teeth. What you wear is all that matters.’

(Pretty Hurts – Beyoncé – 2013)

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