Ditch the Diet, and the Dietainment

Forty-two percent of girls in grades one, two and three wish they were skinnier.  This means six to nine year olds, who are still developing their muscles, bone structure, brains, and yes, even hips and breasts, wish they could weigh less.  This statistic was released in a study completed in 1991, 24 years ago.  Think about the advances in technology (e.g. Photoshop) we have seen in the past 10 years alone.  Today, young girls are exposed to media and advertising on every platform – magazines, television, billboards, smart phones, tablets, computers, etc.

Dietainmentis a growing buzz-word describing the effects of beauty advertisements on young girls and boys, and it needs to stop.

Maybe I’m hypersensitive because I’m a nutritionist and a little more aware of the needs of a growing body than the average individual, or maybe I just know all too well the detrimental effects of calorie restriction on a growing child and the lasting effects it has into adulthood…

To find out the parent’s perspective, I went to the experts, the moms. My sisters, who have three children each, agree that you cannot put your kids in a bubble. They will see, experience and be influenced by advertising, whether parents like it or not. How parents communicate what constitutes as “beautiful” to their children will be critical for how they grow up viewing themselves, and their physical appearance.  As a mom to young girls, my sister is “definitely more aware of how [she] looks at and talks about [her] body because [she] knows the words and actions [she] chooses will affect [her daughters].”

When it comes to the influence of Dietainment, it is the parent’s job to shape their child’s view on beauty and have a stronger voice than the media.

Thankfully, society is catching on to this. Companies and individuals are calling to stop the “Dietainment” influence on our younger (and older) generations. Several companies are jumping on board to ditch Photoshop and show “real” people:

  • Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign launched a couple of years ago, highlighting “real” women in their commercials
  • American Eagle’s underwear line, Aerie, has committed to stop photo-shopping their models (although they admit they still cast slender women for their photo shoots)
  • Magazines Seventeen and Darling promote ‘Real Not Retouched’ women
  • Cheerio’s has launched as massive campaign, complete with a petition, to end Dietainment

It’s not that we don’t want young girls and boys to be healthy, fit and strong. Of course we do. Teaching and exemplifying good habits about a healthy lifestyle early on is very important. It is the real expectations of health and beauty that need to be communicated strong and clear. My oldest sister’s thoughts on Dietainment and Photoshop perfectly sum up how I feel, and how others should feel, when it comes to images in the media, she explains: “That person on the magazine cover looks good, that makes me feel bad. Then I remember they’ve been fixed up with computers, and I feel better.”