DOES MY MUM LOOK BIG IN THIS! Do Teenage Girls Really Inherit Their Mother's Body Image Anxieties?

Daily Mail (London), January 7, 2004 | Go to article overview

DOES MY MUM LOOK BIG IN THIS! Do Teenage Girls Really Inherit Their Mother's Body Image Anxieties?


Byline: STEPHANIE YOUNG

TEENAGE girls are becoming ever more obsessed with losing weight - and they're inheriting this preoccupation with body image from their mothers, according to a new survey. Bliss magazine revealed yesterday that nine out of ten teenagers wanted to be thinner as a direct result of the example set for them in their early teens. But just how much do girls inherit from their mothers in terms of eating habits? STEPHANIE YOUNG spoke to five mothers and their daughters, with fascinating results . . .

LYNNE FRANKS AND JESS HOWIE

LYNNE FRANKS is a PR guru who teaches women's workshops on personal development and self-esteem.

Daughter Jess Howie, 25, is author of Sisters Unlimited: A Guide To Life, Love, Bodies And Being You, a self-help book for troubled teens.

LYNNE SAYS: My own mother was obsessed about weight, and this greatly affected me for many years. In the Sixties she often took my sister and I up to Harley Street to visit a diet doctor, who prescribed us little pink pills - actually amphetamines - to give us the slender Twiggy-esque frames that were the fashion.

I resolved not to make the same mistakes with my daughter, and I made sure I always put the emphasis on health rather than weight. I encouraged Jess to eat healthily and to be active.

I think teenagers' growing obsession with weight is down to more than parental influence.

It's celebrity linked and media propagated. We live in a society where video is the main reference point for teenagers. They're bombarded with images of Kylie's bottom, and that can only mean they end up feeling bad about themselves.

Women have to stop this obsessiveness with the body - and mothers, above all, have to show their daughters the way.

JESS SAYS: Your mum's relationship with food is a huge influence on you when you're growing up. I was lucky in that respect - my mum made a big effort not to offload her anxieties about weight onto me.

Crucially, during my chubby phase in my early teens she never mentioned my weight, which would have made me feel terrible about myself.

My stepdaughter is nine, and recently she put on a small amount of weight.

It was amazing how many people remarked on it, and my husband and I finally spoke to all our friends and family to tell them not to draw attention to it - that could trigger self-loathing and all sorts of related problems.

Girls start obsessing about their weight at a younger and younger age. When I was eight or nine I didn't know or care that I was chubby, but now kids are aware of every ounce.

INGRID AND FIA TARRANT

INGRID TARRANT, 49, is a writer and broadcaster who lives in Esher, Surrey, with her husband, Chris. Her daughter Fia, 19, is a researcher for radio station Holiday FM.

INGRID SAYS: I'VE never worried about my weight and it's certainly not an obsession. I was a little chunky as a teenager, but that puppy fat went with no effort and since then my weight has hovered around the eight-and a half to nine-stone mark.

In general, though, I don't believe in diets. I think they cause more problems than they solve and as a result my kids have never been subjected to the sight of me constantly weighing myself or fussing over portion sizes.

Fia was a healthy, chubby baby and then a slim child, but suddenly she became a rather rotund 11-year-old.

I was slightly anxious about this as she was eating the same as before. I worried there might be some underlying health problem, but a visit to the doctor ruled this out and we just decided she had a tendency to be curvier.

We never had a conversation about it as I didn't want it to become an issue and Fia herself never brought it up. It might have been different had she been bullied at school, but she's such a happy character that she never had any problems with friends or boys. …

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