Low of self-esteem can develop very early on and with young girls in particular this can centre around the image they have of their own body.
In October,on World Osteoporosis Day, a celebrity-packed cast took to the West End stage to warn young people of the dangers of excessive dieting, fad diets and eating disorders.
The campaign started as a result of surveys in both Bliss Magazine and Girl Guiding UK Bliss said that:
71% of young people feel adversely affected by the unrealistic thin ideal promoted in the media.
Half of 11 to 16-year-old girls and 66% of 16 to 21-year-olds have cut down on their food intake.
More than one in ten 11- to 16-year-olds said they were ‘not at all happy’ with their appearance, and among 16- to 21-year-olds, 50 % would consider surgery to change their appearance.
The ‘Body Gossip’ performance at the Cochrane Theatre saw poems, readings and monologues about body image being performed to an audience of schools and colleges to help boost body confidence amongst teens and young adults. The event launched new online resources which contain hundreds of video clips and hand written notes from young people about their body image to help support others.
Celebrities on stage for this special World Osteoporosis Day performance included Craig Revel Horwood (Strictly Come Dancing), Cerrie Burnell (Children’s BBC), Zaraah Abrahams (Waterloo Road), Ewen Macintosh (The Office) and Nikki Grahame (Big Brother).
The pressure to become a size zero doesn’t only have an impact of confidence and self-esteem. The ‘Body Gossip’ event was organised by the National Osteoporosis Society after studies showed a link between pressure to be thin and poor bone health. The study, called the Children of the 90s study, said that teenagers who are too thin may be putting their bones at risk, and highlighted the importance of fat mass in building strong bone.
“We want people to have a healthy body and a healthy body image,” explained Rob Dawson, spokesman for the National Osteoporosis Society. “There’s a lot of pressure to be slim, but by trying to stay too thin, bone health can be compromised. Only 21% of people know that being underweight increases the risk for osteoporosis.”
“It’s vitally important that our message reaches young people in particular. We build our peak bone strength up to the age of 25, and we need to build bone to last a lifetime in order to avoid osteoporosis in later life. Fad diets and a low body weight mean that we don’t get all the nutrients we need and this can have a lasting effect on bones.” The celebrity performers were also joined by drama students from Strode College, near Glastonbury. They had devised their own performance to express young people’s views on the body image pressures that they face.
“We wanted to mix celebrity performers with young people to show that everyone can be affected by body image worries. We want young people to know that they are not alone and help to boost their body confidence. It’s great to have so many big names behind the campaign. Craig Revel Horwood read about his own experience with eating disorders while Nikki Grahame’s performance was particularly poignant, following her struggle with anorexia and osteoporosis.” The event launched a range of internet based resources: there are video clips of people talking about body image, positive body image role models, peer support through messages of encouragement and letters and stories from people discussing body image. The resources are hosted on:
The photo albums of the facebook page contain hundreds of handwritten notes from young people about body image.
The Body Gossip resources aim to get people talking about body image issues and to share their experiences. There are also school resources which guide teachers and students to put on their own Body Gossip theatre performance.
“Sharing stories can make you feel empowered and less isolated, and that’s what Body Gossip is all about,” explains Rob. “We want to boost people’s body confidence and help them to love their bodies.”