October 2002
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"I'm Too Fat" - Body Image and Eating Disorders in Teenage Girls
By Erin Penney, St. Marks School, King's Cove, NF

"I'm too fat." Sadly, it's one of the sentences uttered most often by girls my age these days. I feel like a minority because I accept my body as it is and have even learned to appreciate it, with all its flaws. But sadly, most girls are not as secure and have not had supportive family and friends to deliver positive opinions on body image. This therefore leaves them open to the message that media constantly delivers to teenage girls. The message being, "Yes, you are too fat."

The media in no way projects the healthy, normal female body image. A good friend of mine, Drew Brown, agrees with me when I blame the media and pop culture. He says that today's society projects the image that "Guys are supposed to wear baggy clothes and girls are expected to wear tight, revealing clothes."

It's no coincidence that as this idea enforced by the media became more apparent, levels of anorexia and bulimia rose with it. Anorexia is an eating disorder in which the person does not eat because he or she believes they're too fat, even after they've become dangerously underweight. Bulimia is another common eating disorder where the person binges on food, then regurgitates to lose weight. Both of these are obviously very unhealthy and the fact that these are diseases and not just crazy diets should not be ignored. If untreated, both could be fatal. This is all in the name of thinness.

Thinness. Unfortunately, it became the most sought-after quality of the latter part of the 20th century. It all started with the rise of super-models like Twiggy in the 1960s and '70s. In the 1950s, just 20 years earlier, things were better and more realistic in the body-image sense. This was the era when the hourglass figure was in. The time when it was OK to have curves. They were even sought after! How things change. This age we live in, obsessed with liposuction and the stick-like unfeminine figure, has to change. It's going against nature and things need to be better for the generation of girls growing up now. If not, they'll grow up not knowing what it is to love themselves and not knowing what self esteem or confidence is. Come on! It's the 21st century and that is not how it should be. Hate to sound too Dr. Phil, but it's time to get real!

People talk about how women were liberated in the '70s with Gloria Steinem and bra-burnings. Not so. We are still very much prisoners of our own self-criticism. And as long as we continue on our quest for self-alteration and continue thinking we're unworthy, we'll never be liberated. Women have sadly become prisoners of their own warped body image and slaves to Cosmopolitan and other self-esteem-killing magazines. The bottom line is that you're perfect as you are as long as you're healthy. That is the most precious gift we have. You don't want to kill that by starving yourself or messing up your diet.

Because in the end, who are you doing it for? You're certainly not helping yourself, and if you think that you're going to be more attractive, you have a lot to learn. You should never ever change yourself to gain someone else's approval. If you do, it's not actually you that the person would like, is it? All my guy friends find it to be an absolute turn-off when girls are obsessing about their weight. Trust me, you don't want anyone who's with you just because you're a size six. Do you really think you're going to find your Mr. Right because of how much you weigh? Nope. I'd like to know when the female sex decided that humour, personality and intelligence went out of style. Because it hasn't.

"Looks are not what a relationship is supposed to be based on," says Ashton Watton, another good friend of mine. "Some girls are so focused on looking good that they don't understand why they never get intelligent, respectful guys."

So before you start skipping meals, tell yourself every morning that you're awesome the way you are. Confidence and a good smile are the best things any girl can have. Follow those two rules and the rest will fall in place!

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