It seems as if everyone is always
talking about dieting and weight. We look at images of thin,
attractive people every day on television and in magazines, but
rarely do we see any larger girls and women shown as attractive. We
get exposed to hundreds of diet commercials each year that tell us
that if we want to be pretty, popular, and successful, we have to be
All this gives us some strange, and often wrong, ideas about fat
people. If we are thin, we are afraid to get fat. If we are
"overweight," even by just a little, we feel bad about ourselves and
want to be thin. Even thin girls sometimes diet just because they
The problem is that only two percent of women and girls can really
look like the fashion models that we are told are the "image of
beauty." The rest of us spend our lives looking at the ads and
feeling dissatisfied with our own appearance. Advertisers know this.
That's how they get us to spend money on their products.
The obsession with thinness hurts everyone. It hurts our self-esteem
and makes us risk our health to look like someone else instead of
ourselves. It also hurts larger adults who have to deal with
discrimination, and fat kids who get picked on and left out of
Many doctors now say that dieting doesn't work, and that far too
many people are dieting. They say that almost everyone who loses
weight on a diet will gain it back within a few years. Going up and
down in weight can make you sick. And weighing less than you should
can make you sick, too. Dieting too much can also lead to dangerous
eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
So what can we do? First, we can become media watchers. We can look
at TV and magazine ads and ask ourselves, "What's their motive (to
get my money), and what's their method (making me feel bad about
myself so I'll buy their product)." We can also look for our own
role models of all sizes in our families and neighborhoods instead
of in magazines. We can develop our own images of beauty and feel
good about ourselves.
We can also make healthy choices about food and exercise. We can
learn about nutrition and how to read food labels to make the best
choices. We can stop counting calories, and instead eat more
vegetables and fruits, and eat less junk food. And we can get enough
physical activity to keep us healthy. Fitness is the right of
everybody, regardless of size.
Finally, we can stop size discrimination when we see it, and speak
up when anyone tries to make fun of people about their physical
characteristics. We can get to know kids of all shapes, sizes, and
colors. Not only will that help everyone to feel included, but it
may let us make some new good friends at the same time.