Beauty Redefined:
The Future of Girls’
Body Image, Health
and Media
National Collaboration for Youth
Girl Scouts of the USA
Girl Scout Research Institute
June 9th, 2010
2:00-3:00 p.m. EST
1) Voices of girls – research findings
2) External influences – media environment
3) Program solutions – It’s Your Story – Tell It!
4) Policy impact – Healthy Media for Youth Act
Major Findings
 Studies brings voices of girls to forefront of conversation on
childhood obesity, body image and adolescent health.
 Girls today are defining health on their own termsusing a
complex & varied set of norms.
 Efforts to address the problem among girls focused soley on
nutrition or physical activity will miss the mark.
Setting the Stage: The Environment
-- Society idealizes thinness/stigmatizes overweight
-- Unhealthy food marketed at record highs
-- Physical activity levels at record low
--TV/Computers dominate recreation
-- Communities lack safe space to play
Eating Disorders & Obesity: Girls
caught in the middle
• Obesity is now the most chronic health problem among
American children.
• The strongest correlation for overweight girls is between
weight and income.
• Research suggests that eating disorders and overweight tend
to co-occur.
• There are benefits of collaborative efforts to curb all eating
related disturbances.
What percentage of girls report
significant stress about their body
a) 65%
b) 25%
c) 15%
Body Image & Eating Disorders
• One quarter of girls report significant distress about their
body size and shape.
• Body dissatisfaction increases risk for disordered eating,
depressed mood, and low self-esteem.
• Up to 10% of girls and young women might suffer from
disordered eating.
Holistic Health
• Being healthy is emotional and physical well-being.
• More than just eating right and exercising.
• About feeling good about oneself, being supported and
appearing “normal.”
Health zealots
“Nobody wants to be that healthy.”
 Girls aspire to be “normal healthy” or “healthy enough.” 65% of girls said their
lifestyle was “healthy enough for my age”.
 While most girls want to look normal, what that means can vary depending on a
girls’ age, race, household income, peer group, adult role models and selfperception.
 African American and Latina girls who have higher rates of overweight, tend
to be more satisfied with their bodies than White and Asian girls who have
lower obesity rates. Older girls also tend to be less satisfied with their weight
than younger girls.
What percentage of girls who are
overweight believe they are normal weight?
a) 25%
b) 45%
c) 10%
Striving for “Normal”— At Odds
With Reality
While most girls have an accurate perception of their own weight, as
many as one-third of girls ages 8 to 17 have a distorted perception
of their weight:
 45% of girls who are overweight by BMI standards
believe they are normal weight
 14% of normal weight girls believe they are overweight
 30% of normal weight girls ages 16-17 are trying to
lose weight
Self-esteem, body image, and
stress are core components of
emotional health.
• Girls are more worried than boys about everything, especially
• Being teased or made fun of it top worry for girls, especially
for overweight girls.
• More than 1/3 of girls ages 11-17 reported eating more
when stressed out.
“Active Identities”
• The more physically active girls are, the greater their selfesteem and the more satisfied they are with their weight,
regardless of how much they weigh.
• 83% of very active girls say that physical activity makes them
feel good about themselves.
• Many girls do not play sports because:
--They do not feel competent (40%)
--They do not think their bodies look good (23%)
The Mother-Daughter Connection
A mother’s weight, body image, and health habits are strong
predictors of whether her daughter:
• Is overweight
• Is satisfied with her body
• Is physically active
• Looks to her mother for advice on healthy living
What can mothers/parents
do to promote positive body
image among girls?
External Influences
• “Girl-Power” media market culture
• Sexualization of girls in the media
• Ideal-body internalization
“Girl Image Crisis” In The Media
• Value centers on sexual & physical attractiveness rather
than ability even at younger ages
• Lack of female role models
• Link between sexualization of girls in media and impact on
self-esteem, sexual identity, eating disorders, depression,
anxiety and shame
Body Image & The Fashion Industry
• Girls have a very conflicted relationship with the
fashion industry.
Nine in ten girls say the fashion industry (89%) and/or the media (88%) place a
lot of pressure on teenage girls to be thin.
65% of girls think that the body image represented by the fashion industry is too
skinny; 63% think it is unrealistic; and 47% think it is unhealthy.
More than a quarter (28%) say the fashion industry body image looks sick.
What percentage of girls say fashion
is really important to them?
a) 30%
b) 50%
c) 75%
Body Image & The Fashion Industry
• 75% of girls say that fashion is really important to them.
• 48% wish they were as skinny as the models in fashion
• 47% say fashion magazines give them a body image to strive for.
Many girls think that extreme
weight loss strategies are
• 25% of girls think that it is acceptable for girls their age to take
appetite suppressants or weight loss pills and 19% think that
plastic surgery and/or weight loss surgery is acceptable.
• More than half (55%) of girls admit to going on a diet to try to
lose weight and 31% admit to starving themselves or refusing
to eat.
For girls who have negative body
image, the effects and influences of
fashion are especially pronounced.
• 73% of girls with negative body image (versus 40% of those with positive body
image) wish they were as skinny as the models in the fashion magazines.
• This group of girls is more likely than their positive body image peers to:
Resort to drastic weight loss measures like starving themselves/refusing to eat
(50% vs. 25%); and
• Force themselves to throw up after eating (18% vs. 10%).
• Almost one in five (19%) girls with negative body image have taken
appetite suppressants or weight loss pills and 15% have taken
a laxative to stay thin.
Girls’ Call to Action
for the Fashion Industry
• 81% of girls would rather see “real” or “natural” photos of
models than touched-up, airbrushed versions.
• 75% would be more likely to buy clothes they see on “realsize models” than on super-skinny ones. This is particularly
important to African American girls (82%).
Recommendations for Policy Makers
• Policy solutions should embrace a holistic definition of health.
• Community-based organizations that serve youth should be
seen as vital partners.
The Healthy Media for Youth Act
(H.R. 4925)
• This research prompted Girl Scouts, along with the American
Psychological Association, to work with Reps. Tammy Baldwin
(D-WI) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) to introduce the Healthy
Media for Youth Act, H.R. 4925
• This bill focuses on improving youth’s media literacy and promoting
healthy media messages about girls and women
The Healthy Media for Youth Act
(H.R. 4925)
1) Competitive grants for media literacy programs and youth
empowerment groups
2) Research on how depictions of women and girls in media
affect youth’s physical, emotional, and social health
3) Creates a National Task Force on Women and Girls in the
Media to identify voluntary standards for promoting healthier
media messages about girls and women.
The Healthy Media for Youth Act
(H.R. 4925)
We need your help to increase support!
How your organization can get involved:
– Sign onto the support letter
– Start letter writing campaign among your members and
– Download advocacy web sticker to web site
Current Supporters
Girl Scouts of the USA,
The American Psychological Association,
Alliance for Women in Media,
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.,
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
Black Women’s Health Imperative,
Children Now,
Common Sense Media,
Eating Disorders Coalition,
Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media,
Girls Inc.,
Kappa Delta Sorority/The Confidence Coalition
Lifetime Networks,
National Collaboration for Youth,
National Eating Disorders Association,
National Council of Negro Women,
National Council of Women’s Organizations,
National Women’s Law Center,
New Moon Girl Media,
Parents Television Council,
Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out,
Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes,
Jess Weiner, author, self-esteem expert, founder of the Actionist Network(r)
Women’s Media Center, and
Wider Opportunities for Women.
Co-sponsors: 39 in the House
The Girl Scout Leadership Experience
It’s Your Story – Tell It!
Journey goal: get girls active to build their skills and accomplish
goals, whether personal or project-related.
Key Journey Elements :
Ceremonies and Traditions
Healthy Living
Active, Outdoor Pursuits
Global Ideas
Take Action Projects
Profiles of Inspiring Women and Girls
It’s Your Story – Tell It!
Connections to Self Esteem:
• Holistic Health
• Diversity
Leadership through Taking Action
Why Storytelling?
Stories are a great way for girls to understand themselves and their potential,
and that leads to a stronger sense of self - the key intended leadership benefit of
this journey series
Storytelling is more than just the written word!
Creative Expression and the Arts are integrated into each session plan:
Performing arts
Visual arts
New media
Culinary arts
It’s Your Story—Tell It!
• 5 Flowers, 4 Stories, 3 Cheers for Animals!
• A World of Girls
• MEdia
• BLISS: Live It! Give It!
The Girl Scout Leadership Experience
It’s Your Story – Tell It!
for more information on It’s Your Story – Tell It! and download
activities to try with girls!
Please send additional program questions to:
Sabrina Lee Sanchez, Project Coordinator
uniquely ME! The Girl Scouts/Dove Self-Esteem Program
[email protected]
Conclusions and Recommendations
• Give “health” social relevance to girls
• Embrace a holistic definition of health
• Emphasize physical activity
• Focuses on ability not just appearance
• Demonstrate positive outcomes that result from healthy behavior
• Incorporate media literacy into programs
• Advocate for policy changes to promote healthy media images
• Target adult role models – especially mothers
Questions for Discussion
1) What did you find most interesting/surprising about the research?
2) What are the challenges you face working with girls/youth on this issue?
3) What approaches have worked well? What do you think needs to be changed?
4) What is one thing you are going to carry forward into your thinking about
girls, body image and health as a result of this webinar?
5) What is one piece of advice you have for girls who struggle with body image?
What advice can you give to yourself?
For more information contact
Judy Schoenberg,
Director, Research & Outreach
(212) 852-6545 or at
The Girl Scout Research Institute
[email protected]

Beauty Redefined: The Future of Girls