This is sad. Oh, my heart breaks listening to her.
It’s true that the messages we receive in magazines, television shows & through movies tend to reflect the ideals that ‘thin is in’. It’s also true that this is a problem that seems to pervasive, and affects everyone; men & women alike.
But 6 year olds? Yup. And it’s more of a problem than you probably think.
Unfortunately we can’t control all the messages that kids are exposed to on a daily basis. That’s why it’s important for parents, teachers & other adults to help their children filter through these messages and make sense of them in a healthy way. Kids need to know about photo-shopping. They need to know that eating healthy is good for you, not something you should do only to lose weight. They need to know that people come in ALL shapes & sizes. They need to know that they’re beautiful the way they are.
We also need to worry about how we communicate our own body image issues. Body love is contagious… but so is body hate. The way you feel about your body, the way you talk about your body, the way you obsess about your body can ALL influence the way the children around you see their body. Indirect messages cause just as much harm as direct ones.
In the study conducted, 50% of 3-6 year old girls were worried about being fat. They also thought that being fat would get them teased, is something to be sad about, and something to avoid. They knew that diets, restriction & going to the gym are things to do to avoid being fat: as opposed to simply healthy life choices. As you’ll see in the video below, even the children aren’t aware of how severely skewed their sense of beauty is.
There are many factors that attribute to eating disorders, but many sufferers have vivid & early recollections of worrying about body image at very young ages. Many start showing symptoms at early ages, as young as 2 and 3, and sadly, for little girls, their mothers own self-image plays a large role.
I remember my mother weighing herself often, constantly unhappy with her body in one way or another. My body image issues are my own, it’s not my mum’s fault. But I do remember weighing myself almost every day from the age of eleven on and weight being a major concern for me. I also was in ballet, fantasized about being a pop star, and watched waaaaay too much Oprah during her weight struggles. All of this had a severe impact on how I viewed my body. Now, I was lucky enough that it never spiraled down the eating disorder path: but like many other issues that’s a matter of luck, timing & lack of opportunity.
Can you relate to this little girl? What do you think we can do differently to help children with body image issues this young?