The Courier-Mail - QWeekend

HELPING GIRLS TO

Poor body image can affect girls’ mental and physical health, self-esteem, relationsh­ips and finances. What can be done to make them thrive?

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every time they switch on the TV, or get onto social media, or leave the house. From the time they open their eyes in the morning to the time they go to sleep at night, girls will learn that their body is flawed.

Unless we intervene.

Imagine for a moment how much better life would be for the women you know, and perhaps yourself, if they could sail through their day without constant body hatred clogging their thoughts and dragging them down. Now imagine if you could give that freedom to your daughter. In many cases, it would be life-changing.

We need to make a conscious decision to do everything we can to stop our girls learning to hate and mistrust their bodies. We need to help them develop the foundation and skills to reject the constant messages of body hatred when we are not around to protect them.

It’s tempting to write off body issues as little more than yet another obsession of the Instagram generation. It’s just vanity. Or it’s shallownes­s. The seemingly timeless focus on body and weight can be rationalis­ed as just “girls’ stuff”. It’s “girls being girls”, something that girls do, and we can’t do anything about it.

But body hatred is not trivial. More than 55 per cent of Australian girls between the ages of 8 and 9 are dissatisfi­ed with their body. By the ages of 10 and 11, 56 per cent of girls are trying to control their weight. The

National Eating Disorders Collaborat­ion advises that “the act of starting any diet increases the risk of eating disorders”.

Sadly, eating disorders are not well understood. The seriousnes­s of diseases such as anorexia are downplayed as nothing more than extreme dieting or taking dieting too far. In some cases, people even express envy about anorexia, joking that they wish they had an eating disorder so they could lose a few kilos. They’re kidding, of course, but imagine saying that you wanted another serious mental illness, such as depression.

The bottom line is that eating disorders are life-threatenin­g illnesses. Eating disorders kill people. In fact, your daughter has a greater chance of dying from an eating disorder than of being abducted by a stranger

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