According to a recent study published, preschool aged girls- as young as 3!!- indicate a preference towards thinness. How is that even possible??! I was actually skeptical when I saw this headline! But as I read this study (here!), it all started sounding way too believable. I obviously get that media has an impact upon how we define beauty, and I also am all too familiar with the ways in which modeling can influence us. I'm not talking about supermodels walking the runway... but about behaviors and attitudes that we pick up on by observing those around us. Anyways, in this study, the researchers tried to determine the childrens attitudes about weight by watching them choose game pieces (for board games like Candyland- my favorite!) that they had specifically constructed- a thin girl, an average girl, and an overweight girl. They watched the girls choose the pieces and interact with them, and asked them about the pieces as well. While it is very difficult to study body issues and perceptions in 3 year olds, there were some pretty strong reactions among the children to the game pieces. Some of them were very reluctant to play the game using the overweight girl game piece, and the majority would have rather been the average girl if they could not be the thin girl. To read more of the findings regarding the study, follow the link above- or here!
So what can we do in the face of some discouraging news about innocent little girls picking up on the thin ideal at the age of 3 years old?! Well, I think that regardless of whether or not we have children, nieces/nephews, interact with children daily, etc.. there are things that we can do. First, emphasize health over weight. Helping children (and ourselves, really!) to place the focus on our bodies being strong and able to engage in activities that we enjoy takes the focus off of a number. Second, avoid fat talk! What is fat talk?? Anything that reinforces unhealthy beliefs and attitudes about our bodies. ("I look SO fat in this!" "Oh, wow, you look great, have you lost weight?" "I need to lose ten pounds" "She's too fat to be wearing that") I have written a lot about fat talk before- check out this link or this one for more info! Lastly, if you do have children or if you are ever around kids, encourage and affirm them for who they are- their personalities, their character traits, positive things that they have done, their interests- rather than how they look! This extends to us grown-ups as well:) I think that if we can start to redefine beauty (and the thin ideal) by focusing on beauty as more than just our looks (by focusing on our hearts, our minds, our faith), then we might begin to know our true worth and value.