Last week was an important one in the world of positive body image promotion and eating disorder awareness. Tri Delta’s Fat Talk Free Week (Oct. 18-22) interjected with the NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body Day (Oct. 20) created some much needed opportunities for public discussion around our country’s deeply rooted body image struggles. On an individual level, these national campaigns provided people of all ages with a platform on which they could freely verbalize or begin to feel love for their bodies and hopefully offered an extra incentive not to engage in the destructive day-to-day “fat chat” that is so common among friends and family.
On a national and even international level, these campaigns garner a lot of well-deserved attention, stimulate some incredible events (especially on college campuses nationwide) and provide much needed education and awareness about body image health, media literacy and self-acceptance. This year, media attention for Fat Talk Free Week seemed to grow, even catching mentions on MSNBC, Rosie O’donnell’s radio talk show and many online sources including Time magazine , Marie Claire and Glamour.
Today, however, is a new week and these great campaigns are officially behind us until October of 2011. So what happens now that the event fliers are coming down and press outlets have stopped paying attention? What happens to our ability to appreciate our bodies today, next week or next month? And how can we make sure that the messages of Love Your Body Day and Fat Talk Free Week stick with us even after these campaigns come to a close? Consider for a moment that we celebrated “Love Your Best Friend Day” once a year… surely we wouldn’t have much trouble remembering to feel gratitude for our bff a month later, and we certainly wouldn’t let his or her pant size determine their worth in our lives. Yet, sadly it continues to be difficult to bestow this same respect on ourselves and our own bodies after the public attention to the cause dies down.
When people feel badly about their bodies it can affect their core sense of self, inhibit interpersonal relationships, impact school/work performance, deter participation in sports and social activities, and it is the most reliably observed risk factor for the development of serious eating disorders. Despite our increasing knowledge about these consequences, there’s expanding normative discontent with our bodies across all ages and gender:
- Nearly one-third of 3 to 6 year-old girls would change something about their physical appearance and nearly half of them worry about being fat.
- At age 13, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies” – this grows to 78% by the time girls reach age 17.
- 67% of women over 30 were dissatisfied with their body weight
- 62% of women over age 65 want to lose weight
- In the past two decades the number of men who openly report dissatisfaction with their physical appearance has tripled — and today, nearly as many men as women say they are unhappy with how they look. (Males & Body Image)
Certainly, the goal of national body image campaigns are not to reverse these trends overnight but instead, they provide a jumping off point and help to plant seeds for ongoing change and steady progress. Now it’s up to each of us to take the small steps necessary to make sure they grow into something that is long-lasting and, hopefully, contagious.
Check out our follow up to this post about daily, monthly and seasonal steps you can take to make long-term improvements to your body image… Positive Body Image is Always In Season: 7 Tips for Year Round Body Image Boosting. You can also click on the photos above to find out more about how the NOW Foundation and Tri Delta are continuing to spread important education and messages about body image all year round.
Questions about treatment for eating disorders and body image? Visit The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt homepage or call us at (410) 938-5252.