Too Young to Worrry About Body Image

I don't have daughters - but instead, two sons - yet I can't help feeling disturbed by a recent study that found half of all girls studied who were between the ages of 3 and 6 worried about being fat. And about one-third of these girls said they'd change a physical attribute such as their hair color or weight. Now, there's nothing wrong with dreaming, and admiring someone else's looks...but at such a young age?

I don't know about you, but when I was 3- or even 6 - I don't remember having weight on my mind. Granted, I was a skinny child who hated to eat, but I don't think most of my friends who might not have been as skinny were concerned with their body image, either. That came later, and by the time we were teenagers, exhibited itself as compulsive overeating, refusing food altogether or sticking your fingers down your throat - all things I incredulously witnessed before there were names like anorexia or bulimia tacked onto them. (I remember girls in my dorm storming into the bathroom stalls together following dinner each night. Naively, I thought their stomachs were just not used to the awful greasy dining hall food...) I worry about being fat now, because it has become a struggle to maintain my weight in the past few years. And I think that concern is appropriate, because after all, we all know that being overweight ups your risks for lots of problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, some cancers and even kidney stones.

And I'm concerned with my hair color, since the ugly shade of gray it would turn if I didn't help boost it with some vibrant red would be just, well, depressing.

But being 3 or 6 is a time when yes, a young girl can dream about being a princess or looking like her favorite teen idol, but not to the point of obsession and unhappiness. (There's plenty of time for that later - and a big market for it, to boot.)

I wonder had they run the same series of tests on us when we were that age if the researchers would have found we had the same degree of physical dissatisfaction with our bodies. After all, we had our beautiful and tiny cartoon princesses and our Barbie dolls with waists the size of a thumbnail to compare ourselves to. Or maybe we just were not paying all that much attention and were instead being too busy with being 3 or 6?

I'd love to hear your comments on this. Or maybe you can think about, or answer these questions: What is the first thing you are drawn to when you see yourself in a mirror or in the reflection of a window? Or what's the thing you'd change - or switch with someone else - if you had the chance?

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