Understanding the Causes of a Negative Body Image by Barbara Moe


Billed on the cover as “A Teen Eating Disorder Prevention Book,” it is for a more advanced reader (not necessarily older reader) than the book I read on dating violence and does not have the somewhat dated dorky pictures that would probably be a turn off to some tweens. I found, as a teacher, that if a movie or book was more than a few years old and people’s clothes looked dated, the student felt like the information was not current.

This series also has titles discussing weight loss programs, exercise addiction, understanding bulimia and more. This would be a useful book for students doing a research presentation on eating disorders, but I also found it interesting to read straight through. There are not a lot of statistics, but the author deals with boys and girls, and looks at how the dieting industry makes money off of our fears and unrealistic ideas of how normal people should look. It was interesting after our class discussion on media literacy that Chapter 7, Eye on the World –How to Change the World, talks about taking a critical look at advertising. “Realize that the purpose of advertising is to make consumers want to spend — by any means necessary” (p. 113).

Between experiences with living in a sorority house, excerising for at least 5 hours a day in college, and being a professional model at one time, I know first hand about eating disorders. As a teacher at a private school, our faculty discussed how to deal with upper classwomen teaching the Freshman girls how to purge in the bathrooms. I knew two girls with anorexia in college. One seemed to recover and go to a normal, albeit quite slim, weight, only to commit suicide at about 25. She and I were friends initially from a ballet class we took with members of the Boston Ballet. Most people are already aware of the intense pressure in ballet to both be very strong and very, very thin.

I took away some good reminders about the book, including that genetic makeup greatly influences your shape and eventual weight, that in puberty weight gain and height gain may not be synchronous, and that it is better to enjoy life and develop a healthy lifestyle rather than obsessing over dieting and weight. Moe also reminds her reader that most people who go on strict diets eventually gain the weight back, and more.

Two ideas that were somewhat distressing, as the mother of a 9 year old daughter, was that girls are starting to obsess over how they look and what they weigh earlier and earlier, commonly in elementary school. Secondly, comments family members may make about baby fat or a few extra pounds may contribute to eating disorders later on. Anorexia nervosa sufferers are often perfectionists with controlling parents. They may feel that their intake of food is one of the few things they can control in their lives.

As you can probably tell, I thought this was a very well done book, interesting also to adults working with young people, and I highly recommend it.

ISBN 0-8239-2865-9, 136 pages, including glossary, index, books for further reading, U.S. organizations for help with eating disorders.

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About KLevenson

I am Teacher Librarian at Piedmont High School in the San Francisco East Bay. I am a part time reference Librarian I for the San Francisco Public Library. I have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from San Jose State and a Teacher Librarian credential in addition to my teaching credential in Science. My first MA was from Harvard in Archaeology. My students teach me something new every time I am with them!
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