NOT ONE MORE x The Emily Program
As children, our minds are like sponges, soaking up all we see and hear around us. No one enters this world hating their body. We don’t start life with food rules and restrictions. We simply arrive as we are. And with our collective efforts, it is possible that not one more child will learn that they need to look a specific way to be considered worthy of the space they take up.
Eating disorders are complex brain-based illnesses influenced by a variety of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. According to the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, the best-known environmental contributor to the development of an eating disorder is the sociocultural idealization of thinness. We cannot control our genes or the chemical makeup of our brains, but we can collectively change the way we define worth and beauty.
Too many children of all genders, and especially young girls, have grown up in a culture that tells them that their worth is based on their looks. The standard of beauty for women in the United States includes being light-skinned, blonde, blue-eyed, and thin. This impossible standard can cause so much damage to children as they grow, and oftentimes, this damaged view of their beauty and worth as human beings follows them into adulthood.
What we see and hear as we grow up has an immense impact on our view of ourselves and the world around us. We might see our mothers constantly going on diets or our fathers patting their bellies, their self-deprecating humor hiding their insecurities. We may hear comments about our own bodies or the food we eat—things like, “Are you sure you need another piece of pizza?” or “Have you lost weight?” These comments signal to us that what we eat and what we weigh are being monitored. We may receive praise for weight loss and receive criticism for weight gain, signaling that thin is good and a larger body is bad. Even harsher things may be said by bullies, suggesting that not only is being larger bad, it also brings with it unwarranted negative attention. Not one more child should experience any kind of unsolicited comments on the food they eat or the bodies they inhabit.
According to Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention, Second Edition, 40–60% of elementary school girls (ages 6–12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming “too fat.” This is further proof that children are watching how society speaks about bodies and that they are following suit.
The Emily Program joins with The Alliance to say “Not One More,” because we believe that not one more child should grow up in a culture that makes them feel like they need to change their bodies to be worthy of love and acceptance. Not one more child should grow up believing that thin equals pretty, successful, happy, or popular and that a larger body equals failure. The more we reflect positive or neutral beliefs about food and our bodies, the more we can disrupt the toxic messages that diet culture pushes on all of us, including the belief that we should make our bodies smaller to be more desirable, worthy, and good. If we can do the work ourselves to unlearn that thin is the only way to be “good,” then we can prevent the next generation from forming these harmful and untrue beliefs themselves.
The Emily Program’s vision is a world of peaceful relationships with food, weight, and body image, where everyone with an eating disorder can experience recovery. The Emily Program was founded in 1993 by Dirk Miller, PhD, LP, after his sister Emily recovered from an eating disorder. Recognizing that one size does not fit all, The Emily Program provides exceptional, individualized care leading to recovery from eating disorders, incorporating individual, group, and family therapy, nutrition, psychiatry, medical care, yoga, and more. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call 1-888-EMILY-77 or visit emilyprogram.com.