Picture this. A boy and a girl are sat a table for dinner with their parents. When serving, the girl is told not to fill her plate too high – her parents assure her she does not want to feel bloated in the morning or put on too much weight. No comment is made while the boy serves. They sit down, and enjoy dinner. Following, when the boy is done, his dad exclaims that he did not eat much, and encourages him to have seconds or thirds – he is a ‘growing man’ after all. The girl watches this with confusion – she is growing too, so why is it that even one plate is apparently ‘too much food’ for her? The meal commences; the girl may still be hungry, and the boy may be stuffed; yet the happy faces of their parents confirm that they have done the right thing.
So what’s going on here?
The girl is left feeling anxious – she could easily take the comment as a criticism, and starts to feel that way towards herself; why was she eating so much? How stupid was she to go up for seconds – of course she was just going to put on weight! From a young age, girls are told that to be healthy is to be skinny. Comments at meals are always, ‘eat less’; never eat what feels right to them at the time. This can make a girl feel significantly self-conscious, and when told to ‘avoid the meats’ and ‘head to the salad table’ (which is not said quite that bluntly but is very commonly hinted at), it can put you into an awful lot of doubt – ‘are they saying that because I’m fat?’ An ‘ideal woman’ is to be thin, and this belief is pressed upon girls from a lot of different directions. Not only is it comments at mealtimes that make girls feel this way – magazines always advertise ‘healthier’, ‘lighter’ diets for women –salads, low-calorie breakfast cereals or biscuits, non-fat butters and no carb diets are glamourised in the food section of every issue.
For boys it is quite the opposite – they are told that they aren’t good enough until they reach a bigger size or body, they are encouraged to eat more and grow taller and musclier. I have seen Dad’s go as far as putting more food onto their sons plate during a meal to ensure they fill their stomach to the brim. In magazines and movies men are baby-oiled and photo enhanced so their biceps are bulging out of the page, all arrows point to the message –
‘GET BIG OR GO HOME’.
We continue asking the question – ‘Why are teenagers so self conscious?’, but when girls are constantly being told to loose weight, and boys told to put it on… It kind of adds up.
All of the blogs on From Our Eyes have been written by young people. They are about the kind of issues and problems teenagers face on a constant basis, as well as worldwide epidemics that not only youth, but EVERYONE experiences day to day.