Recently, Cheryl Cole held an event in which she auctioned off several of her most popular dresses, trouble was, she is such a small size that practically none of them would fit the average women who were lucky enough to win them. But who are Cheryl’s most loyal fans? Young teenagers and even younger girls who idolise the popstar. So what sort of message is this sending out to young girls who want to be like Cheryl, or any other female popstar in the media today? You have got be super skinny to get on TV and large people just don’t make it. And it seems that our very younger children are taking this to heart, literally.
Worrying statistics from the NHS, have revealed that children as young as five are being treated in hospital for severe anorexia as they become obsessed with their own body image. No longer the disease of teenagers, now it has been revealed that a total of 98 youngsters aged between five and seven have been admitted during the last three years due to an eating disorder. There now seems to be, more than ever, a growing trend to be ultra thin in an attempt to emulate a favourite popstar or model and younger children are obsessing with fat contents, the clothes they wear and calorie counting at the age of 5 years. This leads to an unhealthy attitude to food which can progress throughout their teens and into adulthood. Not getting enough nutrition at an early age can lead to all sorts of problems such as brittle bones and fertility issues later on in life. So who exactly is to blame here?
There can be a sense of competition as in who loses the most weight at school and some children take their cues from their mothers who are constantly flitting from one diet to another or bemoaning the fact that they themselves are too fat. The main cause however would appear to be the pressure these young girls, in particular, have from the media around them. Constantly bombarded by unrealistic images of what a woman should look like leads to unhealthy body issues and promotes eating disorders. As models attain a ‘child-like’ figure, when girls reach puberty this can cause much anxiety as they become afraid of their natural growing curves. Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the eating disorders charity Beat, said “The ideal figure promoted for women these days is that of a girl, not an adult women. Girls see the pictures in magazines of extremely thin women and think that is how they should be. That can leave them fearful of puberty, and almost trying to stave it off.”
Eating disorders are not only the result however of size zero celebrities. Many other factors such as divorce, stress, exams, or depression can lead to a person not eating. It is also seen as a form of control used by some people who feel their life is out of control and this is the only way they can exert control, by not eating. It is often a cry for help when an underlying problem is not being dealt with properly. But without the cultural pressure on youngsters to stay as slim as possible, I doubt if we would be seeing 5 year olds being admitted to hospital with an eating disorder.