FITNESS Magazine polled 2,400 women, ages 18 and over, to get the lowdown on how they slim down in their March issue. The results were somewhat surprising, as 51% of women polled would skip sex for a year if it meant they’d be skinny.
In addition to that disturbing statistic, women in the “Diet Confessions Survey” also revealed:
- Nearly 40% of women went on their first diet when they were in middle school or high school
- 25% have detagged their own photo on Facebook or asked a friend to remove it because they thought they looked fat
- 65% of women say the size they wear is a bigger deal than the number on the scale
- To stay skinny, 71% of women would rather exercise every day and eat anything they want
- Wacky celeb diets like Gwyneth’s Juice Cleanse, and the Baby Food Diet inspired 30% of women polled to try a trendy detox diet
- About 47% of women admit dieting to their family and close friends, 32% don’t tell anyone
- 25% of women say a pal has tried to sabotage their weight loss efforts, 86% prefer to get slim solo
- Pig-outs make many women feel satisfied (40%), but make others feel guilty (26%), depressed (17%), and even sick (10%)
- Only 7% of women say they never allow themselves to eat junk food
- 22% of women say the hardest part about being on a diet is regularly following a workout plan
- To drop stubborn pounds, 43% of women have skipped meals regularly, 39% have popped diet pills, 23% have gone on a crash diet, and 20% have exercised daily for two or more hours at a time
What does this say about women and their need for “body perfection?” Firstly, I have to ask myself what exactly constitutes skinny for these women? What is the ideal that most women are trying to achieve? Is it a very fit body or just skinny? The message often sent out to women is that in order to “have everything” skinny is the way to go. We are surrounded by media images with thin women who look like they have it all. Even celebrities who appeared to be comfortable in their bodies as larger women have recently lost a lot of weight and claim that life is “better” (eg: Jennifer Hudson). To me, one of the important questions to consider is how we, as women, find our sense of meaning and self esteem. Sadly, it still is, very often, based on appearance.
In fact, women start their dieting behaviors young, often beginning in middle or high school. Truth is, body image issues are being noticed in younger and younger girls every day. Tweens and Teens are bombarded with information about being fit, being thin, and how that is the ideal, when in fact, the average size of a woman in the United States is a 10 or a 12. Some research shows that models today weigh 23% less than the average woman. Teenagers, unfortunately, do not have the ability to filter out what is realistic as easily as adults. And, let’s face it, appearance REALLY matters for teenagers. The message that appearance matters starts early…often teens learn at an early age that the prettier they are, the more attention they get and on and on. Clearly, we as a culture need to start working with girls to find other ways to build self-esteem in healthier ways: getting them involved in things that can promote their intelligence, their artisitic abilities, their athleticism. There are some wonderful programs that work to address these things, so that appearance is not the primary area in which we have to find meaning and self-esteem.
However, since we are a culture driven by looks and appearance, and especially because people do need to be fit to be healthy, it is important to think about the “best” way to do it. The truth is, despite a lot of the advertising, fad diets, quick fixes, etc., don’t work. You have to go back to the basics and make lifestyle changs, which primarily means changing diet and exercise. Many women in the study kept their efforts a secret. Research has shown that if you can find support for yourself, Weight Watchers is a great example of this, you actually have a greater likelihood of success. Finding a buddy to work out with can help you to keep to a work out schedule. Focus on WHY you want to lose weight. Define what SKINNY is to you. If you know what your goals are, and really do it for yourself and to feel good in your own skin, you will be more successful. Additionally, don’t focus solely on appearance. Find other things you feel good about and can engage in to promote positive mental health as a whole.
And we cannot forget men. Although the study focused on women, is it possible that men have the same potential issues? I would say: Definitely. We don’t know that men would give up sex to be skinny, but we do know that men can suffer from eating disorders and significant appearance issues, and that these issues are on the rise. Men can get very focused on the gym and their appearance in much the same way, and it’s important that they figure out what it is they want out of fitness and diet as well, in order to make healthy choices.
What do you think? Would you give up something you love just to be skinny? What has worked and not worked for you?
Here’s the link to The Early Show segment I did on this topic with Rebecca Jarvis: