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When I was 12 and again when I was 18, in the process of losing a significant amount of weight, I’d hear it a lot. “Wow, you’re so thin!” – “Your belly is so flat.” – “Your thighs got so much slimmer!” I’d beam upon hearing those words, but I didn’t know how to respond. I wondered how the person delivering the “compliment” expected me to respond. But I would quickly translate the comment to mean, “You look better / prettier / hotter / more worthy of my attention or affection.” Given that, the only way I could think to reply was with a genuine “Thank you so much!!!”
Every day, interactions like these have young girls and women on the fast-track to associating their weight with their worth. But at least now, there’s a growing conversation about the problem … specifically in Good Girls Don’t Get Fat by Robyn J.A. Silverman, Ph.D. Based on the dissertation she did at Tufts University, the book looks at the various forces that chip away at girls’ body image and explains to adults how they can best influence daughters, nieces, sisters, cousins, students to embrace varied body types and “thrive at any size.” While the book seems to primarily focus on the body image challenges facing adolescent girls and young women aged 16 to 21, I bet — for better or for worse — women of all ages can relate to the “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat” myth.
Below, a powerful trailer for the book that really drives that message home …
I love that Dr. Silverman doesn’t seem to think it’s fair to place the blame solely on anorexic actresses on primetime teen soaps and reality shows; damaging “Be/look/act skinny!” cover lines on magazine covers; Hollywood or even the fashion industry. As she notes, we’re also to blame for our daughters’ and our mothers’, friends’, our sisters’, our daughter-in-laws’ poor body image and low self-esteem. So what can we do?
Today, tell a woman you love why she’s beautiful … inside. Tell her that she’s witty, she’s brave, she’s charming, she’s brilliant. She might just start to feel like a rock star.
“Girls who see themselves in terms of strengths, who feel supported by those they love and have come to a place of acceptance about their bodies, are the ones who flourish,” writes Dr. Silverman.
Are you flourishing?