Anorexia and the Media: How to Influence Your Teen
Anorexia is one of the most common disorders among young women today. The disease can be fatal. The media is having a powerful and unfortunate influence on the teens in the United States by sending messages that an unhealthy body type is desirable.
According to Ensign.ftl.com, a website devoted to eating disorders, anorexia kills approximately 1,000 women every year. Anorexia affects families in all social strata - from upper class to lower income families.
The Media's Relentless Display of Unhealthy Body Images
If you are exposed to any advertising at all in this country, then you will be see the glorification of super skinny models. Skinny models are on TV, billboards, and the magazines teenage girls read every day.
The media use pictures of skinny models to sell products that appeal to young girls. Many parents tell their children that the average woman does not look like that, but models are presented in a way that indicates a happy and exciting life. So, regardless of what you say as a parent, teenage girls want to look like these women.
Many teenage girls believe that starving themselves is the only way to become that thin. Others will exercise too much. Teenagers will exercise to the point that they’re exhausted while not consuming enough food to fuel and nourish their bodies. Regardless of how thin they get, teenagers with anorexia feel fat.
Unfortunately, we can not count on the media to change, so we must take matters into our own hands as parents of impressionable young women.
Influencing Your Teenage Daughter
Below are 3 things you can do as a parent to reduce your daughter’s chances of developing anorexia.
1. Monitor What They Watch
Teenagers are watching more TV today than they have at any other time in history. This, in many cases, keeps them from experiencing life outside the house. It also markets beauty products that lead many to become obsessed with body image. The media plays a huge role in how teenagers live and see themselves. One of the best ways to keep your daughter from being exposed to these images is to monitor what they watch. Sit with your daughter, and see what she’s watching. If you find that the shows she watches distort her body image, turn it off. On some cable and satellite TV systems, you can password protect certain television channels (or the TV as a whole).
2. Nutritional Education About Caloric Intake
Today’s teenage girls need to be educated on how many calories they should consume each day to maintain a healthy body. While children learn about nutrition in school, they don’t get the real picture of how many calories they should consume on a daily basis. As a parent, you need to take that initiative. Talk to your daughter about calories. Teach her what they are, and show her how many she should consume each day. If she is eating too few calories, discuss what she can do to increase her intake.
Also teach your child about the negative consequences of not eating enough. Based upon her age and body type, give her a rough estimate of how many calories she should consume. Once you have educated your child about nutrition and what nutrients to put in her body, she may be more willing to change.
Help your child learn how many calories are in the foods they eat. One way to do this is to have your daughter keep track of how many calories she’s consumed by keeping a list of what she's eaten for a day or a few days.. Share this number with your child, and make recommendations to increase her caloric intake.
3. Building Self Esteem Through Means other than Body Image
There are many ways for teenagers to build self esteem, other than focusing on an unattainable body image. To help your teen build self esteem, get her involved in social activities with others. Social interaction is a great self esteem booster for people of all ages, but it is especially beneficial for children and teens.
Anorexia is a solitary activity, one that closes teens off from social interaction. That’s why extracurricular activities are so beneficial.