With a new year approaching, resolutions are not far behind. Women especially tend to make resolutions focused on becoming thinner, particularly after watching the parade of diet commercials reassuring them that being skinnier will make them happier.
Caitlin Boyle, author of “Operation Beautiful: One Note at a Time,” ($9.99, Amazon.com) said these messages of unhealthy body image are not only directed at women, but also indirectly aimed at young girls. Her latest book focuses on not just maintaining a positive body image, but also the dangers of unhealthy dieting, finding your passion, cliques and bullying.
“I saw a statistic that said the average American girl goes on her first diet at age 8,” said Boyle. “And 30 percent of girls ages eight to 18 want to change something about their body. They are learning this from an adult role model in their life, whether it be in their personal life or on TV; dieting is something that grown-up women do, and they want to be grown up.”
While she understands maintaining a certain image is a part of our society, she said she hopes the book will help mothers and daughters focus on weight as a health issue, not a beauty issue.
“We would be naïve as adults to say that image doesn’t matter,” said Boyle. “Kids know that it does. They can see it in the way their peers treat each other every day. But if you’re a mother who needs to lose weight, eat healthy and exercise, frame it not in terms of appearance but in terms of health.”
Boyle said the beginning of the book focuses on liking yourself and on positive body image. The second part talks about liking others and healthy relationships, and the third part discusses what it really means to be healthy.
One of her goals for the book is to help launch a conversation between mothers and daughters about what beauty and health truly are.
Boyle writes the popular healthytippingpoint.com blog. This year, along with Girls on the Run founder Molly Barker, she went 60 days without using makeup or hair products, shaving body hair, wearing deodorant or perfume, primping or wearing jewelry or uncomfortable feminine clothing (Naked Face Project) to see how they felt.
“I think unfortunately, our society has convinced young girls, and even women, that skinnyness equals healthiness,” said Boyle. “Health does not come in one size. If a mother and daughter are watching TV together and see a diet commercial, hopefully the book will have created a foundation for a discussion about how it makes them feel.”
This is the hope of Kara Judd, mother of Lauren, who is 10. She said although her daughter has confidence, the years ahead could be difficult and she hopes the book will help.
“Growing up as a girl in today’s world is getting harder and harder,” she said. “Lauren is a confident girl and even though I don’t worry about her, this book could help reinforce the positive outlooks she already has.”
Lauren met Boyle when she participated in Girls on the Run two years ago. She said that she went back every year because Boyle was one of the coaches.
“She made us feel good about ourselves and we had so much fun together,” said Lauren. “She taught us about plucking the positive chord and not the negative one and how to treat each other better.”
Lauren said she read Boyle’s first book, “Operation Beautiful,” and was excited by what she read and what she was learning in Girls on the Run. In the book, Boyle encourages women to pay it forward by leaving sticky notes in public places with messages like “You are beautiful,” hoping women will believe it. The notes also have Boyle’s website written on them to help create a sense of community.
“Once, I left one in a bathroom while my mom was shopping and when we were standing in the check-out line, I heard a woman talk about it,” said Lauren. “She found the note and said it was so sweet that she was going to go to the website. It felt really cool to know that someone actually read it.”
Lauren’s mom said she hopes after reading the book, her daughter will be able to reinforce positive messages with her friends.
“It’s hard to talk to your friends about image (and) what others think of you,” said Judd. “It’s even harder to talk about it with your parents. I think the book will be good for young girls and give them a starting point for those conversations.”