We are failing young people through body shaming

Is the media pressuring young people to "look perfect" rather than be healthy?

We are failing young people through body shaming

Recently, I've taken the plunge and followed the footsteps of many people who have an office job - I have joined the gym.

I have always been someone who prefers to be active; dancing, hockey etc. Since beginning a desk job, the inability to move around as much had started to get to me. Luckily, I have the funds and a gym nearby to help me out.

Now attending the leisure centre on a regular basis, I have noticed several young people (between the ages of 9/10 and 14) all at the gym. Now of course there is no age limit to working out and I thought it quite interesting that children of that age were so interested in their fitness, I know when I was there age I was more interested in boys and hanging out with my friends.

The boys seemed to be enjoying weight training together, the girls seemed to be enjoying their group time on the treadmills or cycling, gossiping away whilst they ran (a skill I envy since I can barely remember to breath on those devil machines). However, it was an event that took place last night that changed my perception and brought me to a crashing halt.

Whilst changing to head home, I overheard the most distressing conversation taking place between two young girls in the changing rooms. These young ladies could be no more than 13 years old and their conversation went something like this.

Girl 1: I'm so tired, I wish this gym stayed open longer

Girl 2: Me too, I haven't had a chance to do homework all week, Miss teacher is going to be really angry tomorrow

Girl 1: Yeah I only worry that if I go home after school and then try come to the gym later I will be too tired and have no motivation

Girl 2: I can't miss a day though, I don't want to end up getting fat...

Now at this point I was frozen in place, trying very hard not to put in my two cents. These young women were beautiful and healthy looking girls. But their fear of being one of the obese children of this country is taking over their lives.

I remember at school having the news, the media, even some teachers constantly remind us that we were part of the most obese generation ever. Constantly body shaming girls into throwing up in the bathroom and boys drinking protein shakes in the strive to bulk up.

It sickens me that although we are supposedly living in a time when people are more sensitive to others and we as a society are trying to talk more about important subjects, young people are still feeling such pressures to "look perfect" at this age.

These girls should be spending their time with their friends, with their family, doing what they love and focusing at their school work to give them the best chance they can for a happy and successful life. Instead they are pushing themselves to go to the gym, missing parties and homework to stay skinny in fear that they will become obese.

There is nothing wrong with being fit and wanting to be healthy, but it was their use of the word fat which really got to me. These young people were not at the gym to be better at running or to increase their stamina, they were at the gym to stay skinny. I already have a problem with adults thinking about fitness in this way, but young women, this hurt.

We need to stop body shaming.Instead of telling our younger generations that they are fat, overweight, "going to die early" (yes I heard that one on the news this morning), we should talk to them about healthy bodies and minds.

STOP shaming people. Let's replace shaming with support, negativity with positivity and disappointment with motivation. These young people are the future of our world, let's teach them to be kind and work together for a better world instead of making them feel worthless at the age of thirteen!


Grace McCabe

Grace McCabe Contributor

Arts Award Voice - Local JournalistGrace is a Theatre and Drama graduate currently working in London. She loves writing, the arts and is a musician in her spare time.

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  • Luke Taylor

    On 17 October 2017, 10:05 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    I completely agree with you Grace - it's unfair to make children and young people feel so worthless. Also, I found it completely shocking that these two girls were at the gym at 13!

  • Grace McCabe

    On 17 October 2017, 10:20 Grace McCabe Contributor commented:

    Yeah I mean don't get me wrong, I went to the gym a little at that age but it was because I was playing hockey and dancing and needed to work on my stamina. It was in support of getting better at an activity I enjoyed, not because I was scared people thought I was fat at that age.

    Thing is females often don't reach full physical maturity until they are 17 - 19 years old. Until then your body retains "baby fat" etc whilst you finish growing. Often boys are a little chubbier in youth and then they shoot upwards, get very tall and very skinny. Where girls don't often get as tall, they do have the same effect. However, by pushing yourself to have no body fat at the age of 13, you could potentially be causing some serious physical problems for yourself later.

    It should be about health and fitness, not about how skinny one can be... :(

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