The Heartbreaking Stats Of Body Dissatisfaction & How We Can Start Changing It
More than 75% (some estimates are as high as 97%) of women report experiencing unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors towards their bodies daily. 80% of ten year old girls report having been on at least one diet already in their life and more than HALF of girls as young as 6 report wanting to have thinner bodies. Those numbers are true regardless of body size (which proves it's never actually been about body size) and they should horrify every single one of us. My mother has always, in my mind, had the perfect body. She’s tall (well, taller than me), thin, and has that perfect hourglass shape that’s so celebrated in our culture. Me, not so much. I was thin growing up but even when I was thin I didn’t like my body. I kept waiting to grow up so my shape would change. I thought hormones and whatnot would give me that hourglass I so desperately wanted. It never happened. Then, in my late teens and early twenties, I also started putting on weight – and ended up *gasp, shock, horror* fat. If I ever managed to lose a few pounds or knew someone who did, everyone raved about how amazing I (or they) looked – as though weight loss was the only thing that mattered in terms of praising someone or made them look good. I grew up, like most people, hearing pretty much all the people around me use words like “Gross, flabby, disgusting, fat, ugly, huge, wrinkles, hate…” to describe either their own or other people’s bodies. That taught me everything I needed to know about bodies and weight – the things I heard from the people around me taught me WAY more than any magazine or diet ad ever could have. The thing is, I know it’s really easy to blame the media for the struggles we (and our young girls) have with our bodies and they certainly don’t help but unless we start owning and getting real about our part it’s never going to change. None of this is meant to sound like I’m placing blame. I’m only trying to acknowledge how we’ve been conditioned so we can actually start making real change. We cannot change what we don’t acknowledge and sitting around blaming the media and feeling like we don’t have any control over any of it is unbelievably disempowering. We cannot directly control the media but we can indirectly control them. The media uses what sells. If we weren’t buying all their crap fixes and the magazines with “perfect” people on the front, they wouldn’t be selling it. And more importantly, we definitely control our own thoughts, beliefs, and words – and those things are powerful enough to change everything. Have you ever paid attention to the things that are said BY US about our bodies and other people’s bodies – either alone or with other people? You should start. Especially this time of year when we’re naturally not as covered up. It’s not only become accepted; it’s EXPECTED that we trash our bodies and judge not only ourselves but everyone else. Children are particularly affected. A child's perception of their mother's body dissatisfaction predicts dissatisfaction with their own bodies. And we say, “I know I say terrible things about my body but I never do it in front of my young daughter” but yes, you do -- because it’s become so common, so naturally, and deeply ingrained in our brains as habit that we often don’t even notice we’re doing it. And even if you don't, there's a very good chance you've said something, in passing, about someone else's at least once or twice. How often have you talked about someone else's weight loss or how amazing they look? Those comments get internalized by anyone within earshot. EIGHTY percent of 10 year old girls have already dieted at least once. And more than half of SIX YEAR OLDS wish they were thinner. I know I said that already, I really want it to sink because we have GOT to do better. Studies have shown that the younger a girl is when she starts her first diet, the more likely she is to engage in extreme weight control behaviors (get an eating disorder), struggle with her weight her whole life, and even abuse things like drugs and alcohol by the time she’s in her 30’s. That’s a LOT of girls being VERY at risk and they are not just learning it from magazines or social media. How often have you made a joke about hiding your belly behind something? Or hidden behind other people in a photo? Or put off doing things you really wanted to do until you “lose weight”? Or celebrated those around you for losing weight? Or talked about someone for gaining weight? We’re doing it all day, every day with our words and with our actions -- in front of our daughters, our friends, our co-workers, our family, strangers… everyone. Don’t believe me? Start paying really close attention to your thoughts and words everyday re: bodies, weight and food. In a society that looks to the people around us for belonging and acceptance, what we do and say affects the people around us -- SO much more than we even realize because we often get our behavior cues from the people around us. If everyone around us is trashing and judging their own bodies, or other people’s – that’s what we’re taught to believe is expected. If your daughter, sister, mother, friend is feeling like her body is inadequate next to yours or bigger than you and you start complaining about your fat, gross stomach or how much you need to lose weight -- how do you think that makes her feel about her own? If your mother, sister, friend, etc, is raving and praising someone for weight loss after you’ve heard them talk poorly about weight gain, what message does that send to you? YOU have the power to start turning it around by doing two things: You can decide not to adopt the opinions of the people around you. Just because someone else is judging weight or bodies (either their own or someone else’s) you don’t need to believe the words they’re saying are true or fair. We can all just stop doing it. If each and every one of us had the courage to start loving, accepting, being grateful for, and talking kindly about our bodies, we would give everyone around us permission to do the same. For more tips on how to change the way you feel about your body, check out this post. Can you imagine what an enormous shift that would make for our entire world? The thing is, we think hating our bodies is the key to having the motivation to change them – but never in the history of ever have people treated things they hated with kindness – and if you’re not treating your body with kindness, how can you ever expect to be healthy or live fully? We learned it from the generation before us but I firmly believe we can be the generation that ends it.