Sadly in the society we live in, our physical appearance places a large weight (pun not intended) on how we are perceived. Both by our peers and by ourselves.
This is not just something that as adults we deal with, this is trickling downstream to our children.
So what does this mean for their future?
Only last week, I was at our local pizza restaurant where I overhead a table of young girls aged perhaps seven or eight, exclaim that they were dieting. I turned around shocked. The supervising adult didn’t even flinch. Trying not to stare or pass judgement, I quickly turned back to my table.
We’ve heard about the statistics at university.
- 70% of adolescent girls have body dissatisfaction
- In a study conducted in 2015, 50% of 5 year old girls displayed an internalisation of the ‘thin ideal’ and a further 34% showed a moderate level of dietary restraint.
- Between the ages of 12 and 17 years, 90% of females and 68% of males have been engaged in dieting behaviours.
- 28% of males and 35% of females in Australia aged 11-24 years are dissatisfied with their appearance.
- Women who have engaged in dieting on more than 5 occasions are 75% more likely to suffer from depression.
- Early dieting and frequent dieting are associated with poorer health outcomes. This includes physical health, mental health, disordered eating patterns, body dissatisfaction and general health complications.
Now as a mother, this absolutely terrifies me.
My father-in-law said tongue in cheek, that this type of conversation is great for my future business. Sure, he has a point, but I would prefer to be out of business.
Nothing would make me happier than a society free from body image dissatisfaction, stigma and labels. A society where we embrace our bodies. Where we respect what they do for us on a daily basis. Where we don’t need to weigh ourselves. Where we eat to nourish and move our body to feel good. Not because we should.
But sadly, this goal seems out of reach.
I feel as though I will always be seeing patients. But hopefully one step at a time I can help them start to heal and build a positive relationship with themselves and their bodies.
Not only that, I promise to do everything in my power at home to ensure we create an environment for Emilia filled with self-compassion and self-love not dissatisfaction. In order to do this, I know I have to practice what I preach. Young minds are so impressionable. Since the day she was born, Emilia has been watching my every move and listening intently. She hears the way I speak about myself, my body and the food I eat. These behaviours will inherently shape the way she speaks to herself, about her body and the food she eats.
It’s a large weight (again pun not intended) to bare. I want to protect Emilia from this unrealistic expectation of society. I want to tell her that she can be whatever she wants to be and that her health is the most important thing. That she can love whomever she wishes. That her body shape and size does not determine her self worth. That no food she eats makes her ‘good’ or ‘bad’. That she is worthy of love, compassion and success irrespective of what others say.
I want her to know that I will always be there to guide her, support her and hold her hand. I want her to know I will always be her number one supporter (with her daddy) and that together, we can accomplish anything.
Gosh I have a big task ahead of me.
It starts now.
It starts at home.
To help build positive relationships for our children with their body and their mind.