Body Image: Teen girls increasingly obsessed with the quest for perfection.

Does any of this sound familiar?

“I’m too tall.”, “I’m too short.”, “I’m too fat.”, “If only I was shorter/taller/had curly hair/straight hair/weighed less/a smaller nose/longer legs, I’d be happy.”

From 2011 to 2012 the amount of hospital admissions for eating disorders rose by 16% in England.  More and more teenagers are becoming unhealthily obsessed with the way they look, but why?

One of the reasons for this could be the influence of the media. Psychologists found that the size of models in photos has a powerful influence on attitudes to body size. Magazines have been criticised for repeatedly using incredibly thin models for their fashion pages and exploiting celebrities for being too fat. The worry is that teenagers are being constantly exposed to images of people with ‘perfect’ figures thus distorting their understanding of a realistic healthy body size.

In a recent questionnaire, 100% of the teenage girls asked, said they would change something about the way they looked if they could; the most frequent things mentioned being height and weight.

It seems that social networking sites are also contributing to the problem, with many young girls using them as a way to promote the unhealthy loss of weight and encourage others to do the same. The latest craze is the quest for the ‘thigh gap’ meaning that your thighs don’t touch even when standing with your feet together. Many girls said that they would be willing to starve themselves in order to achieve this look even though it is actually genetic and impossible for some people to achieve. When asked why, some girls said that they felt they needed a gap as proof they were thin enough and it made them feel more attractive. Ironically most boys said that it didn’t bother them whether girls had a ‘thigh gap’ or not.

Many argue that restrictions should be put on ‘pro-ana’(pro anorexic), ‘thinspiration’(pictures of thin people to inspire others to be the same) and ‘thigh-gap’ posts on social networking sites as it would be an easy way to make a dramatic impact on this unhealthy encouragement. In extreme cases this striving for perfection can lead to eating disorders which can ruin lives and many people never properly recover from them.

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