CREDIT: New York Times
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) is launching at least one more public health crusade before he leaves office: a city-wide campaign to boost young girls’ self-esteem by promoting them to accept their bodies and avoid developing unhealthy body image issues that can lead to an eating disorder or other mental health problems.
The campaign is called the NYC Girls Project and has over $300,000 in funding. According to the New York Times, it mostly consists of ads on buses and subways that feature diverse groups of girls between ages seven and 12 who appear happy and confident, no matter their body types.
“I’m a girl. I’m funny, playful, daring, strong, curious, smart, brave, healthy, friendly and caring,” reads one ad (pictured above). All of the ads center around the the common tagline, “I’m beautiful the way I am.”
Marketing campaigns by the fashion industry and glamorized depictions of women’s bodies in everything from magazines to cartoons has contributed to a burgeoning body image crisis among young American girls. In fact, a staggering eighty percent of 10-year-old girls have said that they’ve been on a diet.
That leads to even bigger physical and mental health problems later on in life. A staggering 95 percent of the Americans who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25, and 86 percent of the people in that group reports that their eating problem began before age 20.
The NYC Girls Project’s positive messaging also sets up a contrast with other public health campaigns that are tailored towards cutting down on American childhood obesity. One such campaign in Minnesota was criticized for perpetuating body shaming among young children — the exact sort of stigmatization that may eventually lead to an eating disorder.
A far more effective tool is combining the sort of esteem-boosting message that the New York campaign is spreading with good school nutrition policies and parents having conversations with their kids about healthy eating habits rather than weight. In fact, fat-shaming has actually been found to make overweight people gain even more weight.