FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Girls as Young as Five Think They Need to Lose Weight

Women of all ages are under intense societal pressure to lose weight and stay thin. Although few would argue with the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight, this pressure may be worse and more widespread than anyone thought.

A disturbing study published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology found that girls as young as five years old expressed unhappiness with their bodies and want to lose weight. The survey of UK girls aged five to eight found that most would be willing to go on a diet, and many felt "paranoid" about being overweight.

According to the study, nearly 27% of the five-year-olds and more than 70% of the seven-year-olds wanted to be thinner. Most believed that thinner people were more likeable, and that their friends' attitudes about weight loss strongly influenced their own thinking. The study coincides with a rising trend toward preteen girls wanting cosmetic surgery.

The study has called into question not only media images equating thinness with success, beauty and happiness (particularly evident in the popularity of "makeover" TV shows), but also a national health campaign against obesity in the UK. Experts in eating disorders expressed "concern but not surprise" at the results of the study, and noted that topics such as weight and dieting need to be handled very carefully, especially among children. Says Dr. Andrew Hill of Leeds University Medical School, "Children are picking up on the anti-fat culture expounded by the media and health professionals at a very early age. Being fat was once an appearance issue. Now we are saying that being fat is bad for you."

The study also illustrates the fine line that health professionals are going to have to walk in the coming years as they combat a growing trend toward obesity in the developed world while discouraging the onset of eating disorders. If girls as young as five are this worried about their appearance, we are running a grave risk of cultivating a generation with an unhealthy obsession with their bodies.

Source: The Telegraph