In Brief...World News Review: 5-Year-Olds Dieting

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In Brief...World News Review

5-Year-Olds Dieting

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In a related story, London's Telegraph (online edition) reported in March that girls as young as 5 do not like their body shape and want to be thinner. The British government is making a concerted effort to put the word out that obesity is harmful. And some children are getting the message. Researchers report that British children feel paranoid about their weight.

But it's not only the government's antiobesity campaign that is affecting little girls' view of themselves. Also contributing is the powerful media image of superslim supermodels.

Flinders University conducted a study of 81 girls. "Almost half (46.9 percent) wanted to be thinner, and 45.7 percent said that they would go on a diet if they gained weight... About 71 percent of girls aged seven said they wanted to be thinner" (Sarah Womack, "Now Girls as Young as This Five-Year-Old Think They Have to Be Slim to Be Popular," March 8, 2005).

The same report found that youngsters formed their opinions on dieting and dissatisfaction with their bodies in their first two years of school. They thought that they'd be more likable if they were thin.

Strangely, the girls in the study had not discussed their body size openly with friends, leading the researchers to conclude that the children were picking up their impressions from casual comments made when trying on clothes, as well as from watching popular television characters.

So, another discussion parents need to have with their daughters is about weight and dieting. Parents need to counteract the powerful negative self-impressions that their children are assuming from media and peers. WNP