Alarming statistics

In her exceptional book,  I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), Brene Brown, Ph.D. shares some alarming statistics. As she explores the role of social-community expectations of appearance on women today, she lays out these facts like a string of firecrackers ready to explode…

  • Approximately seven million girls and women suffer from an eating disorder.
  • Up to nineteen percent of college-aged women are bulimic.
  • Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness among females.
  • The latest surveys show very young girls are going on diets because they think they are fat and unattractive. In one American survey, 80% of ten-year-old girls had already dieted at least once.
  • A research survey found that the single largest group of high school students considering or attempting suicide are girls who feel they are overweight.
  • Among women over eighteen looking at themselves in the mirror, research indicates that at least 80% are unhappy with what they see. Many will not even be seeing an accurate reflection; up to 80% of women overestimate their size. Increasing numbers of women with no weight problems or clinical psychological disorders look at themselves in the mirror and see ugliness and fat.
  • Since 1997 there has been a 465% increase in the total number of cosmetic procedures. Women had 10.7 million procedures, 90% of the total. The top 5 were: liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, tummy tuck, and facelift. Americans spent just under $12.5 BILLION on cosmetic procedures in 2004.


Take  a minute to soak all of that in. Go back and read those facts again, because they are FACTS, not propaganda, not distorted truths. The FACTS say that AT LEAST 80% OF US are unhappy with how we look when we look in the mirror. It starts young, with our 10-year-olds already on diets, and it spirals out of control quickly with our college students prone to anorexia and bulimia. It continues for too long with young adults, mothers and grandmothers still experiencing the effects of body hatred, disordered eating, and relentless self-criticism.

Chances are, you haven’t been spared from these issues. Statistically speaking, you are likely to recognize yourself in one or more of the alarming facts highlighted above. I certainly do.

I’m angry about the years I’ve wasted and watched others waste diverting energy from truly important contributions we could be making to focus instead on the size of our thighs or the roundness of our bellies. I’m tired of every magazine headline on the news stand promising the secret to thinner thighs or a flatter belly or a tighter rear end. I’m frustrated by the ads flooding the internet for diet pills and miracle cleanses and gimmicky exercise equipment. I KNOW we’re smarter than all of this, but I also know that we’re incredibly tempted by it in our desperation to “fix” ourselves once and for all.

I’d like to write more about this over the upcoming weeks and months….we need to break this cycle of madness that is driving our children into this dark hole right with us, and I’ll need your help. But for today, can you do just one thing? Can you listen for that voice of self-criticism that tells you that you’re not enough…and when she speaks, politely ask her to shut up? We have important things to do, and she’s in our way.


4 thoughts on “Alarming statistics

  1. Stephanie Griffin

    Amen. And, well said!

    It affects boys, too… but the pressure on women is unbelievable. The magazines and TV just add fuel to a fire that pornography and other “marketing” materials create.

    I (in fact) dealt with an eating disorder in college. I spent a year in on-campus therapy and got to the point where my parents wanted me to come home.

    Fortunately, I was able to overcome that/those feelings… but I’m amazed at how often those ‘voices’ still creep into my almost-40 year old head!

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Cherylanne Post author

    Thank you for your honesty (and your encouragement). I hope others will join you…and I’m glad to hear from someone else who has emerged on “the other side” ready to turn and pull others out.

  3. Nancy

    This message was very thought provoking. I’m almost 65 and was VERY thin until I reached my mid 40’s. Then the pounds crept on until I’m very over weight. When I was a kid, people made fun of me for being “Skinny”. I would estimate that only 2 or 5 girls in my school, through high school were overweight. When I go to the mall or church or, wherever, I can’t help but notice the substantial difference in the size of young girls. I don’t know what happened, but something important has caused girls to become very over weight during the past 40 years. I think it is the presence of convenience foods and fast food. I believe with all my heart that we have to take responsibility for our own selves, in a most things. But I also know that our moms cooked all of our meals and even though it wasn’t what we think of as “Health Food” today, obesity wasn’t an issue. The other thing was that no one sat at their computers all day and night. Kids were outside, playing, walking, running and riding bikes. Of course, we all worried about our looks and compared ourselves to others, but in our whole high school, there was only one anorexic girl.

    I share your frustrations about the magazine ads, articles and self criticism. However, the facts seem to prove that healthy nutrition and weight are real factors! We can’t just ignore this and teach our children that it’s ok to be unfit at 10. It is the parents responsibility to feed their kids healthy food and make sure they aren’t couch potatoes!

    You may think I’m crazy and just an old lady, but I think it started when Mom’s went to work and Twiggy went on the front cover of Good Housekeeping, right next to a big piece of Chocolate Cake!

  4. Cherylanne Post author

    @Nancy – Thanks for sharing your perspective! I agree that we have a real problem with childhood obesity in this country (and beyond). It’s indisputable. In this post I was really trying to write about the girls and women who are already at a healthy weight yet FEEL like they aren’t because of the messages they see every day. We’re striving for a nearly unattainable standard and that’s what breaks my heart – even the people who are doing WELL don’t think they are doing enough! I wake up every morning energized to be a part of the solution by helping busy women and their families eat well – it will take all of us doing our part to change the trajectory we’re on!


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