The Wall Street Journal recently ran a very interesting article that examined how girls’ dieting habits have changed over the past 20-odd years.  “Girls and Dieting:  Then and Now” took a look back at the opinions of 100 fourth graders in 1986, and touched base with some of them to discuss their opinions of the dieting craze now.  Not surprisingly, these women agree that girls now have it worse than they did in 1986.

Although, things in 1986 don’t seem too great to me either.  In that year, the University of California released a study saying that 80% of 4th grade girls were dietings.  80%?  Are you kidding me?  In the fourth grade?  That’s just sick.

But I guess it really should come as no surprise to us.  Fourth grade boys in 1986 reportedly noted that “Fat girls aren’t like regular girls-they aren’t attractive.”  Knowing the way kids are, this young boy’s opinion probably made the rounds.  When kids are that age, they really have no sense for what is inappropriate when it comes to discussing a person’s body.  Particularly if they hear their parents comment on another person’s size.  What fourth grade girl is going to want to eat lunch in front of boys who have such strong opinions of their body?  At a time when self-esteem is starting to dip based on hormonal factors and other growing pains, the negative comments from peers certainly begin to hit home in a dangerous fashion.

The article touched on images in the media as having an impact on children regarding size.  I honestly can’t remember if I felt the same way in fourth grade.  Sure, I was aware of celebrities and teen idols, but I’m not sure their weight ever had too much of an effect on me.  I guess I always considered them to be in a different league when it came to beauty and weight.  Don’t you wish we could feel the same way now?

The comments for this article kind of made me sick.  There’s always one person in the bunch that has to remind all of us that obesity is a problem.  No kidding.  I’m not denying that there aren’t young children that are obese, but come on.  There are several comments here that basically dismiss the disturbing phenomenon of fourth grade girls being on a diet with the universal, “well, these girls were probably obese”.  We’re talking here about healthy young girls that cannot get a firm grasp on a healthy body image.  No one is advocating obesity.  It’s comments like that that make it difficult to discuss female body image candidly without fearing an attack.

I hope if I am ever a mother that I am able to instill in my children a strong sense of self-worth and healthy living that does not include standing in front of a mirror putting down their bodies or the bodies of other children.  I hope that as parents continue to bring up children in our society, they begin to teach them the ways to talk to other children that may not look like them, ensuring that no one is isolated or takes drastic measures as a result of their weight.

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