Big Fat Deal already wrote about this last week, but I wanted to cover it here, also. A new study out suggests that the peer groups teenage girls identify with determine how they view themselves and the measures they’ll take to control their weight.
The authors tested 236 girls between the ages of 13 – 18 and found that:
…Girls identifying with athletic peers (‘Jocks’) were less concerned about their own weight and seemed less likely to be trying to control their weight. Girls identifying with non-conformist peers (‘Alternatives’) were more concerned about their weight and appearance and more likely to be actively trying to lose weight. The girls who identified with those who skip school and often get into trouble (‘Burnouts’) believed their peers valued thinness and dieting. Finally, girls who did not belong to any particular peer group were the most likely to use slimming strategies.
At first blush, the findings seem ironic: You’d think athletes would be more critical of their bodies since the sports they’re involved in put so much scrutiny on them. But anytime a person feels like the “other” or different from the mainstream, accepted group, there’s bound to be degrees of self-insecurity. Eating disorders and disordered behaviors, as many of us know, are rarely about weight or food and more about the ways in which we cope with emotional issues in our lives. And weight and more specifically weight-loss is a perfect object for insecure girls to fixate on because it’s so often promoted, validated and rewarded in our current culture.
Myself, I was a non-committed band geek in high school, meaning I was labeled a band geek because I was in marching band, but that I wasn’t an uber band geek who watched drill shows in my spare time and joined the pep band — nor did I ever own a band-related t-shirt. I was more so an academic nerd (captain of the Academic Team, yay!), as well as the quintessential fat girl — when I went through school, fat kid was a status deserving of its own peer group classification.. In retrospect, the latter status clashed with the former in that while I liked school, I hated the social atmosphere there. I think I would have done even better academically if I wasn’t subjected to near-daily harassment from my peers for my weight. How about you? Where did you rank in the school hierarchy? Do you think your high school status influenced your eating disorder or other relationships with food and your body today?