Cultural Influences

• 5,000 advertising messages a day
• 60 percent of Caucasian middle school girls read at least one fashion magazine regularly
• Women’s magazines had 10.5 times more advertisements and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines
• 74 percent cited “to become more attractive” as a reason to start exercising
• Average adolescent watches 3-4 hours of TV per day
• 1 of every 3.8 commercials send some sort of “attractiveness message”
• 5,260 “attractiveness messages” per year


• 80 percent of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance
• 42 percent of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner
• 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat
• Average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 140 lbs.
• Average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 lbs.
• Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women
• 51 percent of 9- and 10-year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet
• 46 percent of 9-11-yearolds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets
• 91 percent of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting
• 95 percent of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years
• 35 percent of “normal dieters” progress on to pathological dieting – of those, 20-25 percent progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders
• Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year

What Parents Can Do to Prevent Eating Disorders
Consider your thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors toward your own body and the way that these beliefs have been shaped by the forces of weightism and sexism.

Educate your children about:
• The genetic basis for the natural diversity of human body shapes and sizes
• The nature and ugliness of prejudice
• Examine closely your dreams and goals for your children and other loved ones – are you over-emphasizing beauty and body shape, particularly for girls?
• Avoid conveying an attitude which says in effect, “I will like you more if you lose weight, don’t eat so much, look more like the slender models in ads, fit into smaller clothes, etc.”
• Decide what you can do and what you can stop doing to reduce teasing, criticism, blaming, staring, etc. that reinforce the idea that larger or fatter is “bad” and smaller or thinner is “good”

Learn about and discuss with your children:
• The dangers of trying to alter one’s body shape through dieting
• The value of moderate exercise for health
• The importance of eating a variety of foods in well-balanced meals consumed at least three times a day.

Avoid categorizing foods into “good/safe/no fat” vs. “bad/ dangerous/fattening”

Be a good role model in regards to sensible eating , exercise, and self-acceptance.

Make a commitment not to avoid activities (such as swimming, sunbathing, dancing, etc.) simply because they call attention to your weight and shape. Refuse to wear clothes that are uncomfortable or that you don’t like but wear simply because they divert attention from your weight and shape.

Make a commitment to exercise for the joy of feeling your body move and grow stronger, not to purge fat from your body or to compensate for calories eaten.

Help children appreciate and resist the ways in which television, magazines, and other media distort the true diversity of human body types and imply that a slender body means power, excitement, popularity, or perfection.