Teenage girls and eating disorders

"Today, young girls in our society are being bombarded with messages from the media that women should be unrealistically skinny."

Today, young girls in our society are being bombarded with messages from the media that women should be unrealistically skinny.

Twenty years ago, models weighed about eight percent less than the average woman, and today models weigh about 23 percent less than the average woman.

Many girls aren’t aware that these models will go through extreme dieting, get “taped” up for photo shoots, and even have plastic surgery, and then to top it off, the photos are airbrushed to “perfection.” These body images are not the norm and they are unrealistic and unhealthy.

Over 50 percent of teenage girls between the ages 11 to 15 read and are influenced by fashion and beauty magazines, and studies have shown that 40 percent of nine-year-old girls have tried dieting.

Of course we should all be healthy and fit, but that doesn’t mean super-model thin.

Being too thin for young, growing girls is very unhealthy and can lead to dangerous health issues, including eating disorders like anorexia (eating very little or refusing to eat at all), and bulimia (binge eating followed by self induced vomiting and purging), which will cause health problems like anemia – that can lead to hair loss – dry, brittle skin, hair, and nails, fatigue, dizziness or fainting, dehydration, irregular heart rhythms, low blood pressure, organ damage, bone loss, and eroded tooth enamel, tears in the esophagus and stomach ulcers, just to name a few.

The good news is that young girls don’t have to go through all that to have a fit and healthy body and body image. As long as they take care of their bodies by staying active, (finding an activity or sport that they enjoy that they will participate in regularly as a means of cardiovascular exercise), and eating healthy foods that actually feed and nourish their growing bodies.

As they reach their late teens they can begin a basic weight training program designed for growing girls, to build some muscle tone which will ensure a healthy metabolism, better posture, increased bone density, and a very fit and healthy appearance, including healthy skin, hair, and nails, all of which will set the foundation of their physical health for their future, making it easier to maintain and manage their weight as they age.

When performed properly, weight training builds lean muscle tissue, which will give  a healthy lean model look, without extreme dieting.

Setting this foundation for girls at a young age has many benefits. It creates a positive self image and self esteem, and healthy eating patterns that will give them a great start into their young-adult lives.

Diana Howard is a Certified Elite Personal Trainer, a specialist in exercise therapy and performance nutrition, and specializes in women’s weight loss and fitness, from teens to seniors. To book an appointment call 512-2295, or contact the Trail Aquatic Centre at 364-0888.