Myths from The Body Image Book for Girls:
Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless
by Charlotte Markey
The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless by Charlotte Markey is a book that tweens and teens have needed for decades. With easy-to-read sections, illustrations, letters from real teens who have been there already, this book focuses on inspiring young girls to be their best selves. We break down a few of the myths in the book about food and diet culture below.
Editor’s note: CW: This article discusses eating and weight and may be upsetting to some readers.
MYTH: Eating chocolate can cause you to break out.
It seems pretty unfair that something as delicious as chocolate could make you break out in spots or pimples. Fortunately, this is mostly a myth. Scientists have found that what you eat can affect your skin. Eating healthy foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, can help your skin look healthier and prevent breakouts. Avoid eating a lot of sugar and simple carbohydrates (“carbs,” found in white bread and other processed foods like chips or crisps) because these foods can increase the risk of getting acne. Acne is caused by the many changes occurring in the body during adolescence, so a healthy diet may not prevent acne.
MYTH: Instead of eating fruit, it’s just as healthy to drink fruit juice.
In recent years, juicing has become popular. This is just another way of saying “drinking juice” instead of eating solid foods. “Juicing” also refers to blending up fruits and veggies in a blender and drinking them.
It’s true that drinking nutrients can be faster and easier than eating them. If you’re blending up fruits and veggies at home, this may be a great way to drink nutrients. However, most store-bought juice isn’t as healthy as the fruit (or vegetable) it comes from. For one thing, most juice contains added sugars to make it taste sweeter. Although there is nothing wrong with consuming some, it’s healthier to eat the whole fruit without the sugar. Sometimes a lot of sugar is added to juice. In fact, some juices contain relatively little in the way of fruits or vegetables and as much sugar as a soda. In these cases, actual fruits and vegetables are much healthier than juice. Fruits and vegetables also typically contain some fiber, which is extracted when juice is made. Fiber has health benefits that make solid fruits and vegetables a better choice than juice.
In summary, it’s not true that drinking juice is typically as healthy as eating fruits or vegetables, and it may be worth checking the labels of the juices that you may want to drink regularly. Juice can be a healthy option, if you make good choices that don’t contain a lot of sugar or other additives and preservatives.
MYTH: When your doctor tells you that you need to lose weight, you should go on a diet.
Most doctors become doctors because they want to help people achieve good health and recover from illness or injury. They make recommendations that they believe will be helpful. However, most doctors receive very little (if any) training about nutrition, diet, body image, and weight. They can document where you fall on a height–weight chart, but they may not know much about how to educate and support their patients concerning weight. In other words, although a doctor is a good person to turn to with questions about health and well-being, sometimes doctors offer bad advice when it comes to weight.
If you’re ever told by a doctor that you need to lose weight, it’s worth getting a second opinion from another medical professional. It may be most useful to talk with an expert who has been trained specifically to help people eat well. A registered dietician, nutritionist, or even a psychologist with this specialty would be good options for people to consult. If you live near a university, check to see if they have a center or clinic that helps people with healthy weight management. Universities tend to be on top of the latest science, and sometimes even offer free health services to people interested in trying out new medical regimens.
Most importantly, if you believe—because a doctor told you so, or your own research leads you to believe this—that you need to lose weight, a diet is not the answer. It may be a good idea to change your regular habits to eat more healthy foods or to be more physically active, but only make changes that you plan to keep for the long term. If you go on a short-term diet of any kind, it’s unlikely to lead to weight loss, over time. It’s also likely to be a miserable experience.
It is worrying to think that most girls feel dissatisfied with their bodies, and that this can lead to serious problems including depression and eating disorders. Can some of those body image worries be eased? Body image expert and psychology professor Dr. Charlotte Markey helps girls aged 9-15 to understand, accept, and appreciate their bodies. She provides all the facts on puberty, mental health, self-care, why diets are bad news, dealing with social media, and everything in-between. Girls will find answers to questions they always wanted to ask, the truth behind many body image myths, and real-life stories from girls who share their own experiences. Through this easy-to-read and beautifully illustrated guide, Dr. Markey teaches girls how to nurture both mental and physical health to improve their own body image, shows the positive impact they can have on others, and enables them to go out into the world feeling fearless!
About Charlotte Markey, Ph.D.
Charlotte Markey, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and founding director of the Health Sciences Center at Rutgers University and has been a leading author, spokesperson, researcher, and clinician in the field of body image for more than two decades.
Her first book written for pre-teens, THE BODY IMAGE BOOK FOR GIRLS: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless, will be published by Cambridge University Press in September 2020.
Dr. Markey received her doctorate from the University of California (Riverside) in health and developmental psychology, with a focus on eating behaviors and body image. She has published nearly 100 book chapters and journal articles in peer-reviewed journals. She also has hundreds of presentations to her name at universities across the U.S. and at national and international conferences. Each year, she teaches her Psychology of Eating course at Rutgers University, spending a great deal of time discussing body image.
Dr. Markey has long been involved in community efforts to educate parents and children about healthy eating, body image, weight management, and obesity risk, speaking in school districts and serving on task forces charged with improving school nutrition programs.
She enjoys running and swimming and has participated in numerous half marathons, triathlons and even one marathon. She lives with her husband, son, daughter, and a disobedient Bichon Frisé in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.