Yesterday, a 16 year old was sitting in my reception area minding her own business. She was doing what she always does when she has some spare time…looking at “thinspiration”.
“Thinspriation” is pictures and slogans that are designed to motivate women to lose weight. My client has a range of them stored on her iPhone and follows blogs, Instagram and Tumblr sites to get her daily fix.
Here are some images she was looking at…
When I asked her why she wanted to look at photos of skinny girls, she said, “It reminds me I need to keep losing weight. It helps me not get complacent.” My eyebrows raised. I try to pull them down and appear non judgemental. I don’t think I faked it very well.
“Seriously?” I said. “So you are telling me that you spend your spare time comparing yourself to thinner women in order to stay thin yourself?”
“Yeah that’s about it. I don’t know how else to stay motivated,” she smiles.
My client is a size 6 with a tiny frame. She believes that “ribs should stick out” and “you have to have a box (an inner thigh gap) in order to be happy in life”. I wonder where she gets that idea from? She also believes that skinny is never skinny enough.
I remember what it was like to be a teenager. I was self conscious and insecure. My world did revolve around what I looked like. Every pimple and bad hair day was exaggerated and out of perspective.
But here is the thing; I don’t think my diet and exercise program mattered as much as I thought it did. I am not saying healthy eating and exercise is not important but I am saying that my body was young and my metabolism strong. My diet had to be reasonably good but not perfect. A healthy weight was something I thought I had to work hard to keep, but in reality,I didn’t. All I had to do was eat in moderation.
This is not the message that “thinspiration” is selling to our girls. “Thinspriration” tells our girls that they have to work REALLY hard to keep thin and that beauty is earned through constant self-loathing and denial of one’s basic needs. It also tells them that being thin is the ultimate achievement for a woman, which thank GOD isn’t the case!
Every time a teenager looks at “thinspiration” it provides them with a strong visual message about body image, diet or exercise. These messages are usually unhealthy, extreme and unsustainable. In reality they are counterproductive to weight loss. (Example: Skip dinner tonight and feel thin tomorrow should read, skip dinner tonight and pig out tomorrow because you are so hungry). They can only leave our girls feeling inadequate and disillusioned.
“Thinspiration” cripples teenagers’ self esteem. That is why my plea to teens is this – If you feel bad about yourself when you look at “thinspiration”, don’t continue to look at it! It isn’t inspiring you!!! Crash diets are no substitute for routine, diet and exercise. ALL women need to remind themselves of this from time to time. It is good to set goals but they have to be realistic, healthy and authentic to who you are.
My 16 year old client is on a 2 week “thinspiration” fast and I guarantee her weight will be no heavier at the end of those two weeks. I thank her for being open minded enough to give old fashioned healthy eating, exercise and self acceptance a go.
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