What may surprise you is that this is not a new phenomenon.
Is the rail thin appearance of runway and magazine models a newobsession which has started young girls and women on a pathtowards starvation, malnutrition and disorders such as anorexiaand bulimia?
The western world created a popular culture of 'you can never beto thin' as early as the 20's when flapper styles caused women tostarve and over exercise their bodies to attain the flat chested,androgynous look that was popular at that time.
The fuller figure did make a comeback during the depression, butquickly reverted in the 60's with thinness being equated withphysical beauty.
Studies on self image indicate that women tend to considerthemselves heavier than they really are. This distorted bodyimage is linked to unhealthy dietary practices like anorexia andbulimia.
Although distorted body image affects men and women of all ageranges, it is middle and upper class women who are most commonlyaffected in thinking they are too heavy and need to loose weight.Girls as young as nine are following the paths set down bymothers, sisters and others.
On the other hand, men with body image problems often feel theyare too thin and use of steroids by youths trying to build musclemass shows that they are also adversely affected by mediaportrayals of the body.
Bad self image is learned. This can be clearly illustrated by astudy conducted by WHO with Canadian students. The study showedthat the confidence of children dropped dramatically through thepre-teen years. The percentage of 11 year old boys and girls whofelt confident all of the time was 47% and 35% respectively. Byage 15 the percentage dropped to 30% for boys and a disappointing14% for girls.
What are we teaching our children?
In a quote from Health Canada based on a research program forVITALITY the following report was made: "Slimness in westerncultures is associated not only with success and sophistication,but with character virtues. Conversely, obesity is the oppositeof all these things and, particularly in the case of women, isassociated with failure and a collapse of self-discipline."
Self image is tied to several factors, only one of which is bodyimage. Self image is part of self awareness and starts early inchildhood, even before speech. As we become adults many tie theirself image to such factors as job success, relationships andabilities. Body image - if a person has a negative view ofthemselves physically - can be one of the most dramaticinfluences.
Health Canada's findings show that although self image may besubject to change throughout our life, our "fundamental sense offeeling worthy or unworthy (self-esteem) remains relativelystable". This means that it is while children are still youngthat the most impact is made on their future self image. Creatinga safe, nurturing and loving environment can be the greatestprotection against negative body image and low self-esteem.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to medically diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Consult a health care practitioner before beginning any health care program.