A Kiwi nutritionist says the dangers of body image pressure have skyrocketed with new technologies, meaning children as young as eight have been left trying to lose weight.
A University of Colorado study found that 50 percent of US women are on a diet at any given time. Up to 90 percent of teenagers diet regularly, and up to 50 percent of younger children have tried a diet at some point. The study found that since 1990, "the average age of dieting for girls was eight years old".
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Kiwi naturopath and nutritionist Jess Blair from Wellness by Blair says while the issue has been around for a while, it has skyrocketed with the rise of technology. Young women having round-the-clock access to media and 24/7 images of ever-shrinking body size and the obsession with achieving unrealistic beauty and body standards, she says.
"It is shocking that girls as young as eight have been dieting since the 90's," Blair says. "While there is a growing trend towards body positivity and acceptance of bigger-than-size-6 models, it is a still big problem."
"With iphones and ipads and non-stop access to pop culture and the music, movie and modeling industries, children are more exposed to messaged intended for adults than ever before in history," she warns.
In her line of work, Blair says many of her adult clients experience prolonged stress and unhappiness due to real or perceived weight-related issues.
"There are countless diets that pop up all over the internet and celebrities are a big part of that. Often people will listen to a movie star talk about how they lost between five and ten kilos for a red carpet event using a crash diet, and then adopt the same approach to lose the same amount of fat," Blair says.
"But not only isn't it sustainable, it's unhealthy, dangerous and detrimental to a balanced physical and emotional state."
Blair says even the word 'diet' is negative. “It immediately takes you to a place of deprivation and sacrifice. But being healthy or living a balanced life should not feel like that," she says.
"Instead, create a lifestyle plan, rather than a diet, which includes nutrient dense foods, occasional treats, moderate exercise, adequate rest and more importantly now than ever before, with the rise and stress factors of modern life such as social media, 'switching off' and yoga or some sort of meditation.
"This could be a long device-free walk on the beach or in a park, sitting on your porch with a cup of tea, or even spending 10 minutes cuddling your pet. The key is, no devices!"