The Toronto Sun published an alarming article last week about the harm young girls are subjecting themselves to in order to meet the new ideal. The author, Joanne Richards, explains that girls are starving themselves in order to have a “happy gap” – a space between their upper thighs big enough so that thighs do not touch.
Peer pressure is a harsh reality for many young people, and sadly many girls are falling victim to the pressures of ‘thinspiration’ because they lack the self-confidence to believe that they are beautiful just the way they are. As a youth organization that works to help kids build their self-esteem, and acquire the skills to overcome these challenges, Kids Now is speaking up on the ‘thinspriation’ craze in hopes to overcome it together with mentors and parents.
According to the site The controversial lifestyle of thinspiration, they describe thinspiration as following: Thinspiration, also known as thinspo, is multimedia transferred over the internet that helps ‘inspire’ girls (and some guys) to be thin. It has characteristics of a religion in which thinness is considered pure and good, while food and the act of eating are considered sins. Most thinspo is Pro-Anorexia (Pro-Ana) or Pro-Bulimia (Pro-Mia) and condones practices as starvation, purging and excessive exercise.
Where is it?
There are blogs, tumblr accounts and instagram feeds dedicated to promoting thinspo ideals. There are many online sources and support groups for thinspo followers, so how do we deal with this expanding problem?
5 Tips to tackle ‘Thinspiration’
1. Be multimedia literate
Get to know the facts. Be aware of the sites, pages and messages that ‘thinspiration’ shares, so that you can recognize any behaviours in your teens.
2. Watch for signs
- Shifts in eating habits – have they cut out their favorite snacks? Are portions drastically different? Are they obsessing over calories?
- Exercise routine – an active lifestyle is necessary but in moderation. Note if they are exercising multiple times a day.
- Mood swings – this can be tricky because mood swings are a natural part of being an adolescent, but hunger can make anyone very grumpy.
- Washroom breaks - if right after they finish eating they go straight to the washroom you may want to pay close attention.
Make it a point to have daily conversations with your kids. It may take a while to get things flowing, but be patient and get ready to listen. You are aware of the pressures youth deal with, so let your child know that you understand and you are there to support them.
4. Encourage and empower
What are your kids good at? Encourage them to explore their talents and abilities. This will help them build their skills and confidence. Kids Now believes that with your support, kids will feel empowered to realize their full potential. Self-confidence and self-esteem are vital for kids not to fall into peer pressures and negative behaviours. Empower your child to be a leader and not a follower. Remember that the best example of what a healthy lifestyle looks like comes from you.
Let your child know how beautiful they are. Highlight their individuality and let them know how much you care.