Why Girls Are Confused about Body Size: Body Image Messages

Why Girls are Confused…again: Body Size Messages

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Friday Musings…

With so many pictures in the press indirectly suggesting to girls that “this very thin body is what is beautiful,” and messages telling them 101 ways to lose weight, tone up the flab, and be attractive to boys, it’s easy to figure out why so many girls (and boys) suffer from poor body image, eating disorders, scary eating practices, too much pressure, and low self confidence.

Positive role models might be available from time to time, and yet, they must be sought out since they are often sandwiched between the one celebrity who has lost another 14 pounds and another diet plan.

Just one more reason why our girls (and their Mothers) can get confused:

On the beach as compared to her Hanes Ad

On the beach as compared to her Hanes Ad

(1) Jennifer Love Hewitt made quite a statement on behalf of curvy women everywhere last December when she was criticized for “less than perfect body” while away with her fiancé in Hawaii. She was only a size 2.

“This is the last time I will address this subject. “I’ve sat by in silence for a long time now about the way women’s bodies are constantly scrutinized. “To set the record straight, I’m not upset for me, but for all of the girls out there that are struggling with their body image. “A size 2 is not fat! Nor will it ever be. And being a size 0 doesn’t make you beautiful. I know what I look like, and so do my friends and family. “And like all women out there should, I love my body.”To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini – put it on and stay strong

However, what was the headline on the latest Us Weekly?

Jennifer Love Hewitt Exclusive: Her Exact Diet and Workout Plan 18 Pounds in Ten Weeks!

Hmmmm. What are we telling our daughters?

Us Weekly "Weight Winner"

Us Weekly "Weight Winner" feels great now that she's lost 18 pounds off her 5'3" frame.

Message 1 says: People are critical of girls who are not a size 0, even if they’re just a size 2. If you put on any weight at all, people will take pictures of you, make fun of you, talk about you, and criticize your self control and appearance. But Jennifer Love Hewitt is lashing out and telling these nasty people what she thinks of them…so girls who deviate from the perceived “ideal” size 0 are OK but…

Message #2 says: Not so fast. Maybe a size 2 was too big? If a size 2 woman “needs to” lose 18 pounds…how much do other girls and women need to lose?

Parents, please use this story as a jumping off point to talk about body image and body confidence with your children and teens. In addition, in order to keep them from getting confused:

  1. Let them know that children come in all shapes and sizes: What’s important is that we make healthy choices, not that we’re a size 0.

  1. Don’t allow Hollywood to dictate what’s beautiful and acceptable: Help your children redefine attractiveness in your home. Expose them to role models of all shapes and sizes.

  2. Watch what media comes into your home: Turn on the TV, open a magazine, put connect to the internet , your family will be bombarded with images of impossible thin girls and women. Filter some of the negative stuff out as best you can and be sure to talk about what you see when it finds it’s way into your living room. It’s not about “blocking” everything out but rather, teaching your children how to process the information responsibly and with perspective.

  3. Rule out comparisons with celebrities and models: What you and your family sees on TV or in the magazines is not the “real world” and often is simply…”not real.” To compare your body type and size with Paris Hilton is about as scientific as comparing it with Strawberry Shortcake.

  4. Ground your children with values and activities: Be sure that your children know your that your values have more to do with respect, tolerance, gratitude, and citizenship than surface looks and liposuction. Surround your children with like-minded individuals and have them engage in activities that help them see the fun of moving a healthy body not obsessing with how it looks in a pair of jeans.

  5. Give them a healthy example of positive body image: As parents, we can’t just talk about the importance of a healthy body image, we must have on ourselves. Catch yourself when you start to berate your own body or make comments about your spouse or friends. Your children are listening and always affected by how you perceive yourself and your body.

Have a Powerful Weekend!



7 Responses

  1. […] 67% of women (excluding those with bulimia or anorexia) are trying to lose weight […]

  2. […] Says No To Dig…No Wonder Girls Are … on What kind of media makes an im…Why Girls Are Confus… on What kind of media makes an […]

  3. What struck me immediately was that JLH’s reaction to her size 2 (and maybe to the media, too big) body was a defensive measure. What looks stronger and sassier:
    *saying, “yes, I feel big and think I need to lose weight, but I’m struggling with that right now…and people might think I’m crazy for wanting to lose weight”


    *saying, “lay off! A size 2 is perfectly fine. And let’s fight this one together women!”

    Unfortunately for our children, today’s Hollywood “Hotties” aren’t known for their resolve, self determination, or set in stone beliefs. So, she may have actually meant what she said when she told them to back off. But then her mind changed and she decided to diet.

    Whatever the case may be, you’re so right–the whole Hollywood scene is a breeding ground for body image issues.

  4. Great to see you, Vicki.

    No doubt that it’s difficult to be in the spotlight and scutinized for every move you make. She has every right to change her mind and yet, it sends such a strange message to our young people. Can you imagine the girls who felt so supported and gratified when JLH said, “let’s band together and say enough!” and how disappointed and, let’s just say it, “ugly, gross, too big, not good enough” they felt when she took off all that weight and said she feels better about herself now. It’s like a slap in the face that says, “well, actually, we all really do need to lose weight to be acceptable and happy.” We all want people to be healthy– we just don’t want to send the message that diet= healthy and happy.

    Well, that’s why we do what we do– right, Vicki?

    Dr. Robyn

  5. […] weight controversy aside, we all know it’s not really healthy for kids to sit in their room with a plastic pumpkin […]

  6. […] of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty that teaches girls not to get sucked into the media hype about thinness as well as the importance of loving “the skin you’re in?” They do films, […]

  7. […] weight controversy aside, we all know it’s not really healthy for kids to sit in their room with a plastic pumpkin […]

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