Eating Well & Feeling Good about Yourself
Alison Bell, Nurse Practitioner RN, MSN, CPNP
Cardon Children’s Medical Center
Americans are exposed to anywhere between 500 and 3,000 advertising images each day (Cortese, 1999). Sometimes these images can have a negative impact on the way we feel about our bodies. In a study of female college students, exposure to thin-ideal advertisements increased body dissatisfaction, negative mood, levels of depression, and lowered self esteem (Bessenoff, 2006).
The images seen in TV and magazines can seem like the norm, but most of the time they don’t represent the average person:
• The average model is 5’11” and weighs 117 pounds.
• The average American woman is 5’4” and weighs 140 pounds.
• Fashion models are thinner than 98 percent of American women
Sometimes young kids – mostly girls – look at these images and try to aspire to look the same. Five to 10 million girls and women in the United States experience eating disorders (NEDA, 2002). These disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge-eating disorders.
Conversely, people who are overweight and obese are also represented inaccurately. Overweight and obese characters on TV shows were shown to be less likely to interact with romantic partners and friends about dating, and were more likely to be shown eating. They are also often associated with negative characteristics such as lacking intelligence, strength, depth and were seen as clumsy, dumb, etc. (Greenberg et al., 2003).
To combat these pressures on your child, remind them that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. No one body shape or size is right for everyone. Teach your children to appreciate themselves and others for who you are. You can promote high self esteem by surrounding them with healthy images of bodies, helping them develop talents, and encouraging them to stay active and exercise.
The key message is not about being skinny vs. being fat. It’s about being healthy! Provide a variety of foods to your children, including fruits, vegetables…and even sweets (as an occasional treat).
There are no “good” or “bad” foods. Kids who exercise and stay active are healthier and better able to do what they want to do no matter what they weigh or how they look. Try to avoid criticizing others for being too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, etc.
You can make a positive difference in your child’s self esteem and well being by setting a good example and making healthy choices.
• About Face (Promotes positive self-esteem in girls and women) www.about-face.org
• National Eating Disorders Association http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
Bessenoff, G. (2006, September). Can the media affect us? Social comparison, self-discrepancy, and the thin ideal. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30 (3), 239-251.
Cortese, A.J. (1999). Provocateur: Images of women and minorities in advertising. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Greenberg, B.S., Eastin, M., Hofschire, L., Lachlan, K., & Brownell, K.D. (2003). Portrayals of overweight and obese individuals on commercial television. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 1342-1348.
Pipher, Mary (1995) Hunger Pains: The modern woman’s tragic quest for thinness. New York: Ballantyne Books.
Copyright 2010 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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