When I was a teenager, I was absolutely in love with women’s magazines. I started out reading magazines like Seventeen, with its stories about young celebrities, makeup tips for teens and articles about getting “him” to like you. But I soon graduated to the more mature women’s magazines: Cosmopolitan, Elle and Glamour, to name a few.
While I enjoyed the fun, lightly-presented content and some of the hilarious or heartwarming articles, I have to admit that part of what appealed to me about magazines like these was their promise that with a few simple changes, I would be prettier, sexier and, of course, thinner. At 5’7” and around 155 lbs, I was certainly wasn’t fat. But I was convinced that I was huge and though I didn’t realize it at the time, magazines like the ones I was reading were only making that worse.
Back then, there was no term for the endless ads and articles promoting a thinner, prettier, “better” you. This year, Multi-Grain Cheerios started calling it Dietainment…and went on a mission to educate parents about just how damaging it can be to our children. With my first-hand experience of the destructive power of Dietainment, I couldn’t wait to join in the movement to stop Dietainment messages from reaching our children.
Since the launch of the campaign, more than 16,000 people have signed the petition to stop Dietainment. Multi-Grain Cheerios then took that petition to Canadian media companies and urged them to consider the potential damage caused by dieting messages disguised as entertainment. And already, two popular content producers are taking action! Faze magazine and Divine.ca have committed to keeping their magazines and websites Dietainment-free!
With change already happening, I can’t help but want to do even more to end children’s exposure to harmful dieting messages in the media. And it’s not just my three beautiful nieces that motivate me. I know that boys are exposed to just as many harmful messages about their bodies, from the idolization of super-strong sports heroes to the fake muscles built into their superhero costumes. When looking like a “real” superhero involves fake muscles, what kind of message is that sending to my kids?
I’m very excited that Multi-Grain Cheerios is raising awareness of the damage that can be done by Dietainment, but true change is going to take more than just awareness. Show your support by signing the petition and then start a conversation with your kids about the way the entertainment industry manipulates what they see. Even as an adult, I sometimes forget how much makeup, hair styling and Photoshop talent goes into the average magazine cover. It’s even worse to think that children are looking at those images as reality. And they do…take it from a woman that once did so herself as a child.
Personally, I’m going to be keeping an eye on just how much Dietainment messaging my boys encounter in a day. My oldest is almost ten and I know that the teenage years are just around the corner. I don’t want him entering those years with distorted views, whether they’re of how he should look or of how girls he meets should look. And I’ll also be showing my support for organizations that embrace the message of stopping Dietainment from reaching our children. With parental influence and plenty of positive messaging, all kids will be able to grow into healthy, happy and secure adults!