Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Size Zero

size zeroWeight is definitely a tricky subject. There is a never an ideal weight—either we weigh a pound more or an ounce less from the perfect figure that we aspire to attain. The weight imbroglio has new entrants and they are children—particularly young girls who are becoming obsessed with their reed-thin frame. Shweta Seth, mother of nine-year-old girl quips, “It is hard to raise girls with healthy body image, when media is beaming unrealistic body images all the time. My daughter revels in her petite frame, which has become synonymous with beauty for her”. Shweta is not alone; this tribe of girls is growing. Girls as young as four have deciphered their body image and there is absolute clarity on the subject. Thin is what they want and will strive to be, and thin has a name now—it is size zero, the size Paris Hilton is and closer home Kareena Kapoor has reduced herself to.

No denying the fact that obesity invites several health complications and there is a greater likelihood for obese children to grow in obese adults, yet this degree of fanaticism with weight scares parents and has reasons to do so. Size zero has been linked to anorexia nervosa and bulimia, which involves extreme steps like starvation and throwing up after having food to lose weight.


  • If a growing body is starved of calories, it leads to frequent attacks of giddiness and hypogly-caemia (a sinking feeling due to low blood sugar level).
  • These children become more prone to infection, as their immunity takes a nosedive. We have seen a rise in cases of tuberculosis in young adults even in well-to-do families.
  • Fewer calories create a hormonal imbalance and cases of irregular periods are common among teenage girls. They appear tense and frequently complain of headaches.
  • Among boys, inadequate calorie intake may result in delayed growth pattern.
  • The body becomes more prone to hypocalcaemia (low level of calcium in the blood) thus becoming vulnerable to fractures.
    ‘Parents have a sensitive task before them. They have to maintain a very delicate balance between promoting a healthy weight and placing too much importance on body weight’, says Evelyn Tribole in her book Intuitive Eating anti-diet and self-help book.

Ten tips to instill a healthy body image

  1. Educate your child about the genetic differences in body types and the nature of prejudice.
  2. Avoid placing judgments upon people who do not meet your standards for beauty. Refrain from giving critical comments like, “You”ll look more beautiful if you lose some pounds,” or “Don’t eat so much. It will make you fat.”
  3. Discuss with your child the dangers of trying to alter body shape through dieting. Emphasize the value of choosing the right kinds of food and moderate exercise for stamina and cardiovascular fitness.
  4. Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad” and “low-fat” or “fattening”.
  5. Be a good role model in regard to sensible eating, sensible exercising and self-acceptance.
  6. Help your child develop appreciation for others – especially women – for who they are and what they do and not for what they look like or how they dress up.
  7. Do not limit your child’s calorie intake unless a physician has instructed you to do so. Children need a variety of foods including fats, protein and carbohydrates for their growth and body maintenance.
  8. Allow your child to be active and to enjoy what they do and feel. Encourage them to exercise for their health rather than their weight.
  9. Give them a lesson in metabolism. It is a known fact that our metabolism slows down when we cut down our intake of calories.
  10. Promote your child’s self-esteem and self-respect in every aspect of their being, including intellectual, athletic and social endeavors.
    With your support, your child will overcome her fixation with body image. This is the time when children should feel secure in the growth of their body and that’s the way to be.
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