Body Image & the Young
A couple of weeks ago I turned on Good Morning America while getting ready for work and was struck by a report about Taylor, a 6-year-old girl in Houston who had come home from school and asked her mother why her tummy was so fat. "A girl in the bathroom at school asked me why I was fat," she told her mom. Then at a birthday party, a boy called Taylor "fat girl."
Shocked, Taylor's mother brought her concerns to her daughter's pediatrician who assured her that Taylor is a healthy, active 6-year-old and that her body mass index is normal for her age.
But Taylor told the GMA reporter that she felt she needed to lose weight. Not surprising after being told by peers she was fat. But research sheds more light on the subject. A 2009 University of Central Florida study found that nearly half of the 3- to 6-year-old participants said they worried about being fat.
Additionally, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the number of eating disorder hospitilzations for kids under age 12 more than doubled between 2000 and 2006.
Doing their own research, ABC News gathered a panel of 5- to 8-year-old girls to get their opinion on the subject. The reporter showed them pictures of Taylor and then random photos of other girls their age. They all agreed Taylor didn't need to lose weight, but for some of the other girls whose photos they looked at, they had a different reaction. In fact, one panelist described one of the girls viewed as "really chubby wubby."
It truly saddens me to think girls so young, girls my niece's age, are so concerned about their weight. Growing up in today's society is tough enough as it is. And how does it impact their future? Clearly the NEDA statistics speak volumes.
So what's the solution? I'm a firm believer that children are a product of the environment they grow up in so learning how to make good food choices and understanding the benefits of leading an active, healthy lifestyle should start at home. But it needs to go beyond that and be reinforced in school as well.