Teen girls are, as we know, the group most likely to develop eating disorders and especially to develop anorexia nervosa. This is certainly nothing new, as this has been an issue for young women for several years. This is a particularly relevant issue this month, though, because February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month. I believe that we should be on the alert for the development of eating disorders constantly because the earlier they are caught and treated the easier they are to treat effectively. Once eating disorders become deeply entrenched, they are more resistant to treatment and the prognosis is worse. Watch how your daughters are eating. If they suddenly start to:
1. cut out specific food groups
2. develop odd food rituals like cutting their food up into tiny pieces
3. make up excuses for why they can't eat, such as complaining about stomach problems
4. leave the table often during dinner perhaps to spit up their food
5. are wearing excessively baggy clothing to cover up their weight loss
then take note and consider getting your daughter to the pediatrician and perhaps to a therapist for a good evaluation as soon as possible.
Young women are inclined to judge their bodies harshly, particularly when they compare their bodies to those of emaciated models in magazines and to celebrities who they admire who are often rail thin. Many female teens set up impossible standards for themselves, which are incredibly hard to meet unless they are willing to put their health at risk by engaging in severely restrictive dieting. This is sometimes also accompanied by dangerous behaviors such as excessive exercising and sometimes even purging and the use of laxatives.
Today, I am concerned about a new trend that is quickly spreading among our teen girls. I am referring to something referred to on websites, tumbler and among girl talk that is called the thigh gap." One needs only to look at various websites to see that this is a far-reaching concern. The thigh gap refers to the space between the thighs that teen girls are striving for. Apparently, this started trending after the Victoria Secret fashion show in December. The teen girls just don't want their thighs to touch. This odd obsession is certainly being fueled by social media like many other teen trends both positive and negative.
I am concerned that our girls should be focusing on the things of childhood and the teenage years including having fun, developing meaningful friendships, passions and hobbies instead of sadly focusing on the space between their thighs. To me, as a mother and a clinical psychologist, this focus on the space between the thighs also seems to have a sexual flavor. As parents, we not only should but we must talk to our daughters about this new trend and how it is at odds with the development of good and healthy self-esteem. And that is what we all want for our teen daughters, right?
Please talk to your daughters about this new trend and share your thoughts and listen to theirs. As we know a little talk can go a long way.