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Girls and body image: one size does not fit all

These days my girls are drooling over Brandy Melville clothes…have you heard of this brand? It’s one of the hottest lines of teen clothing right now, but I think their styles and marketing are contributing to such an unhealthy and unrealistic body image for our daughters.

 When you enter the store, the sign states “One size fits most.” That’s right…they only sell ONE SIZE!! Doesn’t that seem crazy? The size is marketed as a small/medium, but in the world of fashion, what does that really mean? Their stuff is tiny and, to me, it really seems to be more of an XS/S. 

The styles are young and fun, but it’s clearly aimed at very thin girls – lots of crop tops, short shorts and skirts. In fairness, they do sell some oversized sweaters and flannels that most normal teens can fit into.

One size fits “most”…what does that even mean?

In this Buzzfeed article, girls who didn’t fit into Brandy Melville admitted to feeling sad and ashamed of their bodies.

It frustrates me that young impressionable girls, who are still trying to get comfortable in their own skin, are leaving this store feeling bad about themselves.

Brandy Melville is just one, of course. Abercrombie and Fitch also caters to a certain size range. Remember in 2013 when A and F took some heat for not stocking XL or XXL sizes? The company’s CEO was quoted as saying the brand was exclusionary and really only aimed at “cool kids.” 

Let’s face it. The fashion industry is unlikely to change and brand marketing works by targeting certain segments of the population (whether that be size, age, income, etc.).  So, I think it’s really up to us – as moms – to model healthy body image behaviors and counteract some of the unrealistic images our kids are seeing. 

Mothers can have a huge influence on their daughter’s body image

We can’t shield them from the crazy things they see online – from the #fitspo hashtag to the thigh gap and this weird obsession with Kim Kardashian’s butt! However, we can help them understand that what they’re seeing is not real. We can help take the focus off of the “perfect” body (or body part) and put it back on a healthy, fit and strong body that can accomplish wonderful things.

As mothers, we have the biggest influence on our daughters and how they will grow up to feel about their bodies. Remember, they hear everything we say or critique about ourselves.

Here are some statistics that may surprise you from Dr. Wendy Spettigue of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:

  • 61% of Canadian girls in grades 7 and 8 are trying to lose weight
  • of 700 Edmonton students in grades 5-7, 15% were purging or over-exercising
  • 16% of the 700 students were binge eating
  • 19% of the 700 students were restricting their food to one meal a day or less

Eating disorders and distorted body image are complex illnesses and I’m not going to say that societal messaging is the cause, but I do believe it can play a huge role in reinforcing self-doubt and insecurities.

So, what can we do to help our girls?

  • encourage critical thinking and watch TV and movies together. Peek into their social media feeds occasionally and let them know what they’re seeing is not reality
  • discourage use of filters on pictures — adding a tan, skinny app, editing out blemishes, etc. Natural IS beautiful!
  • promote participation in sports or physical activity of any kind – we know that adolescent girls experience a big drop in self-confidence right around the same time they begin to drop out of organized sports. Be cognizant of sports that are prone to eating disorders such as gymnastics, dance, swimming and ice skating
  • don’t make comments about their weight and size, even if it’s a well-intended joke or compliment
  • help them focus on being healthy, fit and strong. Pursuing athletic endeavors for the fun and the challenge, not the muscles, abs or physique
  • watch what you say – do not critique your weight or appearance – or that of others – in front of your kids.
  • encourage healthy eating – promote a wide variety of foods including protein, fats and carbohydrates. Don’t ban sweets or junk food; moderation is key.

Check out the new documentary Embrace

When I told my daughters I was going to write this post, I think they were afraid I was going to call for a ban on Brandy Melville! It’s not about that…it’s more about teaching our girls their sense of self-worth comes from inside, their hearts and their minds, and not from the weight on the scale or the clothes in their closet.

It’s also about being kind to ourselves – all of us! I try to follow and teach the “love what you got” philosophy. I always tell my girls to make the most of what God gave you! We do enjoy shopping together and I hope I can teach them to buy outfits that are flattering, yes, but that make them feel good, happy and confident.

I recently found out about a new documentary, called Embrace, made by an Australian mom, photographer and body image activist. Taryn Brumfitt was so unhappy with her body that she was considering plastic surgery – and then she had an epiphany! It looks fantastic and I would love to watch it with my daughters. Here’s the trailer:

There is a special screening night in Canada Feb. 18th and you can learn more about it here and watch it from the comfort of your own home with your daughters and girlfriends.

If you would like more resources,  there are a couple of organizations doing great things to promote positive body image and self-confidence. Here are some of my favorites:

Girlology

Fast and Female

Sole Girls

Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta

Michelle
 

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