It’s New Year and every single magazine aimed at women and girls will inevitably be full of the latest crash diet. Whether it’s claiming you’ll lose a stone in seven days, or banning carbs or suggesting you base your diet on cabbage soup or eggs, we are told that we should get rid of the excesses of the Festive Season as soon as possible with often drastic measures.
Jo Swinson recently wrote an open letter to magazine editors urging them not to promote irresponsible crash diets that simply don’t work and can have negative health consequences. The link shows a BBC News interview with her and is worth watching.
Former Special Adviser Christine Jardine, herself the mother of a teenage daughter, wrote for the Scotsman about why these images of perfection in weight and appearance are so damaging to kids. She outlines the pressures that they face:
Just at the point when their bodies are changing, their hormones are running riot and they desire nothing more than to look right and fit in, they are presented everywhere with a fashion and make-up industry-created ideal of what they should aspire to.
In the run-up to Christmas, they faced a deluge of “must haves” to help them become the perfect reflection of that ideal. In the new year, another onslaught, this time with ways to undo the damage the festive season might have done to that perfect figure.
And it’s all about that word: perfect. The perfectly slim, perfectly presented, perfectly perfect image. It’s an uncompromising, often airbrushed, picture of what our daughters should aim for, and how they should see themselves.
She goes on to talk about the recruitment process and X Factor like audition process for teenage staff in a fashion retailer in Glasgow. What messages did that send out?
For the girls who were successful, there is probably no problem. But what about the ones who were not? What impact could that perceived rejection have on their self-image, and should we expect the retailers who depend on our children’s patronage to take more account of their wellbeing?
The consequences of the continued pressure to conform to the often unachievable appearance and size can be serious:
For some girls, that message becomes translated into the need to skip meals to lose weight, and evidence to Ms Swinson’s parliamentary committee showed extreme dieting could often be the trigger for eating disorders.
You can read the whole article here. And if you are looking for ways to combat this media pressure on your child, then there is a handy Parent Information Pack from Media Smart which will help you understand some of the issues and help promote a healthy body image.
One New Year’s Resolution we could all make would be to do what we can to call out instances of media manipulation of young children whenever we see it and be very careful in our own actions not to perpetuate it.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings