Teens and Body Image

October 27, 2010
By , Uniontown, OH
The teenage girl looks in the mirror. This mirror is not one to say something back like, “You are the fairest of them all.” No, this mirror is the enemy. What this mirror shows is repulsive. The girl refuses to look at herself because she is horrified to see what the mirror shows. If you could rewind six months and stared into that mirror with the girl, you would have seen a stunning young women. Now, all you see is a gaunt, sickly toothpick. The girl has a serious eating disorder. She is not the only teen to have an eating disorder. Many teens these days have eating disorders, and many of their eating disorders could lead to deaths, unless someone intervenes with the troubled person. Of all mental illnesses, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate, and 20% of anorexics die prematurely from suicide or health problems related to their eating disorder. Most disturbing of all, 80% of 13 year olds have been on a diet! Teens should be less critical towards their peers because countless teens have damaged their physical and mental health from terrible body image causing eating disorders.

If you are unfamiliar with issues involving body image, you might wonder where the thoughts of “ugly” and “overweight” originate. ELLE girl took a survey in 1995 and 2007 to see how teenage girls’ thoughts have changed on their weight. In 1995, 24% of teenage girls thought they were overweight. In 2007, 90% of teenage girls think they were overweight (Martin). How did dissatisfaction with ones body image increase so rapidly? A suggestion is that teenagers are seeing skeletal models in magazines. For some reason, they believe that is the only kind of beautiful. In fact, people from the magazines edit the pictures to make the models look thinner in their thighs and stomach. Another reason girls feel insecure about themselves is other girls and guys. Your peers relentlessly judge you based on your looks. You as a teen know that girls can be very vicious. They do not care about anyone’s feelings but their own. Having an eating disorder can have an effect on your physical as well as your mental health.

Having a poor body image can seriously degrade your self-esteem. If you are constantly thinking about what your body looks like and what other people think your body looks like, you are not going to be able to enjoy yourself. If you are bulimic and you throw up, it can affect more than your weight. Throwing up also brings acid up causing you to have nasty breath, and throwing up can rot your teeth. Sometimes eating disorders start with having mental issues from heredity. Teens with eating issues may benefit from a visit to their family doctor or a psychologist to determine the cause of the problem. Statistics show that only 1 in 10 teens with eating disorders actually seek help. Maybe more awareness and education will help teens and families take actions to prevent the serious symptoms of this disease. If teens would choose to accept their bodies as they are and accept other teen’s bodies, then fewer of your peers would have eating disorders.

You might feel helpless. You might feel like there is nothing that you can do. There are ways that you can help your friends with their self-esteem. You can compliment others instead of putting them down. You can compliment on their clothes or hair or even as simple as saying you think they are pretty. To prevent yourself or others from developing a poor self-image, you can be comfortable in your own skin first. I understand that it is not a simple task. Instead of listening to all the people judging you, try to block it out; say to yourself, I am beautiful in my own skin and do not have to be different for anyone else. As long as you are healthy, what does it matter if you do not look how someone wants you to? Many times, girls judge others girls because they are insecure of themselves, or someone else intimidates them. To have a good body image, work on your own sense of worth first. That might stop the cycle of having low self-esteem because of your physical appearance or weight.

The same girl looks in the mirror, but this time it is ten years later. She is past all the high school drama now. After she figured out she had a problem, she went and got help. If you could see her looking into the mirror now, you would know that she is a healthy adult. Her mirror now tells her that she is the most beautiful girl in the world. But most importantly, she tells herself that. If teens would understand that being less judgmental could change someone’s life for the better, maybe there would be fewer teens with deathly eating disorders. So today, help someone by doing something like giving another teen a effortless compliment. Who knows, it could save their life.

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