Youth workers know all too often the issues of eating disorders that start at the teenage years (and unfortunately, a lot sooner than that). If you are new to youth ministry or have not yet experienced it, I pray that your teens remain safe and that it does not become an issue.
Before we get to the Seventeen magazine controversy, here are some statistics about eating disorders with adolescents:
- Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents
- 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25
- 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight
- 80% of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight
(HT Department of Mental Health SC)
It goes beyond the actual life-ending actions and into the mental, emotional, and “less severe” side of it. As youth workers, we need to be advocates for youth and constantly be discussing things like this with teens. That leads me into the story, a perfect illustration to use in your next sermon.
Change.org is an online advocacy organizational website designed to give power and a voice to those who need it. You submit a cause to their website and ask for digital signatures, much like you would do through lobbyists for Congress. The power of this website has been amazing, creating some serious changes in America. The latest is a petition that is catching fire that Seventeen magazine should post a photo spread that is unPhotoshopped in their magazine once a month.
Here is the basis for this petition from their Change.org page:
Girls want to be accepted, appreciated, and liked. And when they don’t fit the criteria, some girls try to “fix” themselves. This can lead to eating disorders, dieting, depression, and low self esteem.
Here’s what lots of girls don’t know. Those “pretty women” that we see in magazines are fake. They’re often photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner, and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life.
That’s why I’m asking Seventeen Magazine to commit to printing one unaltered — real — photo spread per month. I want to see regular girls that look like me in a magazine that’s supposed to be for me.
For the sake of all the struggling girls all over America, who read Seventeen and think these fake images are what they should be, I’m stepping up. I know how hurtful these photoshopped images can be. I’m a teenage girl, and I don’t like what I see. None of us do. Will you join us by signing this petition and asking Seventeen to take a stand as well and commit to one unaltered photo spread a month?
How amazing! How freeing! How can we get behind it?!
- Go to the Change.org website linked above and add your name to the petition. Let us help be a voice to those who see themselves as ugly, but God sees as beautiful.
- Talk about it with teens at youth group. Do not let this be an issue that you sweep under the rug “because you do not see it.”
- Tell the parents of your teens about this issue and what signs they can look for with eating disorders.
- Create a safe place for teens to tell you this dark secret. The last thing they need is a place to judge them even more.
Will you join the cause?