Starving Yourself to Achieve the Impossible Figure of Barbie

With these fears starting so young, it is not surprising that by the time they reach high school, 11% of students have a diagnosed eating disorder. However, young girls are displaying signs of disordered eating long before they enter high school, with those as young as seven following diet and exercise plans passed around the playground, often before they can even spell “diet” or the foods included in the regimens.

Just one example is a fourth grade student who started to develop a more natural figure after quitting a grueling gymnastic schedule. What started off as cutting out high fat and sugar snack foods developed into a highly restrictive diet over the next six months, which in the end consisted only of salad and was combined with obsessive exercising, resulting in the loss of a quarter of her body weight in just a six week period and clinical signs of starvation.

So what is driving this anxiety around body image that now develops at an increasingly young age? Girls are bombarded with images in the media of ultra slim women and society expects women to be thin.

Even though such a small proportion of women naturally possess this figure, teens and tweens are in pursuit of this unobtainable goal, placing their physical and mental well-being at risk in the process. At a time when some of them should still be playing with toys, they are literally starving themselves to death, but it may be the likes of their Barbie dolls that are triggering their eating disorders.

Research published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders showed that to achieve Barbie’s figure, on average women would need to gain 24″ in height, 5″ to their bust and 3″ to the length of their neck, while losing 6″ from their waist.
Research published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders showed that to achieve Barbie’s figure, on average women would need to gain 24″ in height, 5″ to their bust and 3″ to the length of their neck, while losing 6″ from their waist.

Barbie as a Dangerous Role Model

If Barbie was transformed into a real-life model she would be 5’9″, have a 36″ chest, 18″ waist, 33″ hips and her percentage body fat would be under that needed for menstruation to occur.

Although Mattel claimed that the bulky elements of Barbie’s clothing gave her a more natural figure, stripped bare this is a very dangerous figure girls are trying to emulate. More worrying still was the Slumber Party Barbie from the 1960s that came complete with scales displaying the permanent value of 110lb and a book entitled “How to lose weight,” which only contained the phrase “Don’t eat”. Barbie remains the most popular doll for girls, so from a very young age this means they are shown an unrealistic image of a woman’s body.

While such dimensions are obviously unachievable, young girls are still trying to attain this figure and it seems that their exposure to Barbie really does drive their desire to be slim, as demonstrated by an article in Developmental Psychology. Researchers found that girls aged 5 to 8 who were shown a Barbie doll were more likely to have lower self-esteem and want to be thin than girls shown a more realistic size 16 doll.

To read the full article click here.

2 Comments

  1. Tania Verma

    As one of the best Yoga teachers in Mumbai, I have seen children of some of the mothers whom I teach fall prey to fitness disorders. Somehow the word ‘fat’ seems like the worst abuse that one can heap on a young girl! I guess it is about time Barbie’s real age is revealed and a Barbie doll was created keeping in mind her real age which I guess would be somewhere in the 80’s or 90’s. That would be enough to put off girls off this doll and make them look somewhere else for role models.

    Like

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