Unhealthy diet messages disguised as harmless entertainment. That is how “dietainment” is defined on the Multi-grain Cheerio website devoted to gathering signatures to make a statement to stop these unhealthy messages from getting to our children (especially young girls).
If you watch the videos on the website, they will move you. The sad thing is they actually stop short of showing what the consequences are. Yes, all of those magazine covers at the grocery line check-out do affect us all. You’ve heard it a million times, how those perfect faces, bodies, hair and clothes make us all feel inferior to a point. You probably also have seen those articles and videos on how those photos are doctored by the experts to make them look even more “perfect”. How cellulite is erased, how tummies are flattened, frizzy hair is removed, veins, wrinkles and freckles magically made invisible. We know that.
The problem also lies in the actual words, the words most eight year old girls can read. Words like “diet” and “lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks” and “5 steps to a flat belly!” What happens next?
I can share what I have seen. I have seen little girls “body checking” in my office. In case you never heard that term, it describes what some people do when they become somewhat focused on a particular body part (or parts) and continuously (almost habitually sometimes) “check” it. As if it may change in the next ten minutes. For instance, a person may feel their arms are too fat, so they are constantly squeezing them. Or more typically, they feel their tummies are too big, and they can’t pass a mirror without looking sideways at themselves. In my office I have seen little girls and boys alike grabbing at their tummies (yes, because they feel they are too fat). Many have actually told me they wanted to know how to make their stomachs flat. Or have a “six pack”. When this statement comes out of a boy who has not even entered puberty yet, it is very sad (to me) and I often ask myself “where is this coming from?”
The other part of this sad story is what these kids often do. They actually do try to “diet”. They try to lose weight, they eat less, they cut out foods and sometimes stop growing. The good news is that sometimes, with a little education, the ones who are doing this just because they read it or saw it on TV will start eating again just because a dietitian told them to! The bad news is some go on to develop eating disorders.
So what can YOU do? As the website says, we can’t change this overnight. But we can at least try to stop it. Do something. Anything, even if it means talking to your child about how stupid it is. Or recognizing if YOU talk about losing weight or how much you hate your body in front of them. At least you can start there, and stop.
Instead, can we all get back to focusing on feeling good and being healthy? and what about all the other wonderful, great things about people? Talents, humor, accomplishments, kindness, generosity…..so check it out….if we all do our little part…