With spring upon us, eating disorder experts warn that we should not be dieting in a bid to lose that ‘winter weight’. This issue is timely with the commencement of spring & national Body Image & Eating Disorder Awareness week occurring simultaneously this week.
“Last year our practice treated many teenager girls who dieted for a ‘thigh gap’ or ‘box gap’ and ended up developing serious, life threatening eating disorders”, says Sarah McMahon, Psychologist at BodyMatters Australasia. The thigh gap is a dangerous body image obsession that has developed in teenage girls over the past two years. “Essentially if you can stand up straight with your knees together without the top part of your legs joining you have succeeded in achieving what thousands of teenage girls around Sydney are starving themselves for”, says Sarah. This dangerous phenomenon is normalised and even glorified on social networking sites such as instagram and tumblr. Originating from thinsipiration images that would be ordinarily be used to maintain clinical eating disorders, the thing gap is now a mainstream ideal that exists in every girls school in Sydney. “One of the most concerning things is that most people actually need to be very very malnourished to develop a thigh gap” says Sarah. “It is a phenomenon that idealises sickness”.
Alerting parents to disturbing social trends such as the thigh gap is important, however it leaves parents in a vulnerable position about how they should manage it. “Parents are at a loss as to how to manage body image issues in teens, often oscillating between terror that if they don’t address body image issues correctly their child will becoming ‘fat’, but simultaneously feeling afraid that if they ‘do something’ their child will develop an develop an eating disorder”, says Sarah. Parents, and especially mums should work on promoting their own positive body image to their daughters, encouraging size and shape diversity. “Heritability accounts for about 70% of body shape and size. Chances are, if you naturally have a big bottom or big breasts, your daughter will have that too” says Sarah. “If she hears you complaining about the features you hate about yourself, how can she possibly celebrate those same features in herself?”. Rather than dieting- and encouraging dieting for weight loss as summer approaches, a far more appropriate action is to reengage a healthy relationship with food and exercise. Modelling these behaviours as parents is paramount and protective of developing eating disorders. “Eat for health and exercise for pleasure and your weight will take care of itself”.
About BodyMatters Australasia
BodyMatters Australiasia is a private psychological practice on Sydneys lower north shore that specialises in treating people experiencing disordered eating & body shame. More information on BodyMatters is available here: www.bodymatters.com.au
Sarah McMahon is available for media interviews regarding the dangers of dieting for summer. She can be contacted directly on 0414 768 575 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information contact:
0414 768 575