Population considerations

  • Prevalence of dieting. Dissatisfaction with body weight and shape is strongly associated with dieting. More females are unhappy with their body size than men (Hill, 2005). 
  • Media influence.  Television and magazine images expose females to the idealized image of thinness. Positive self body image feelings are decreased after watching thin media images and looking at thin models in magazines (Golan, 2004).  Media outlets provide conflicting messages by portraying the idea of thinness and advertising energy-dense foods (Derenne, 2006).
  • Increased rates of eating disorders. Rates of eating disorders, namely anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are rising among women.  Eating disorders are also being diagnosed at younger ages (Derenne, 2006). 
  • Maternal influence.  Studies suggest that children’s food preferences and meal patterns correlate with their mothers’ (Golan, 2004).  In addition, research shows negative feedback from one’s mother, mother's disapproval of her daughter's figure, and mothers’ eating behaviors and attitudes as perceived by daughters can impact her daughter’s body image and eating habits (Cooley, 2008). 
  • Child-bearing years. Good health and nutrition before a pregnancy is as important as during pregnancy. A woman’s nutritional status affects her own health as well as her infant’s short and long term health outcomes (Laraia, 2004).  Few women successfully comply with nutrition and lifestyle recommendations for planning a pregnancy.  Many pregnancies are unplanned, which can ultimately affect the future health of both mother and baby (Inskip, 2009). 
  • Breast feeding.  Breast feeding rates are on the rise; however, Missouri has yet to meet all the Healthy People 2010 objectives established for breast feeding (Sullentrop, 2006).  Breast feeding has a major role to promote health and prevent disease in both the short and long term for infants and mothers (Dyson, 2006).

  Strategies to address these considerations

  • Promote healthy body image.  Parents, teachers, and health care providers can encourage children to adopt hobbies to foster healthy self-esteem.  The same individuals can also discuss images children see and teach them how to criticize media messages (Derenne, 2006).
  • Make use of the power of media. Media has great potential to play a persuasive role on food and nutrition choices, and ultimately habits. Creating healthy eating and positive body image messages to share through a variety of media channels, such as radio, online, television or print can help combat some of the negative media messages (Golan, 2004).
  • Family Support. Effective interventions for anorexia include family support systems in their design. Counseling that involves parents can help parents communicate effectively and offer support to anorexic children (le Grange, 2009).
  • Promote healthy lifestyle.  Medical professionals, media, and social support programs can help increase communication about the importance of an overall healthy lifestyle for women of child-bearing years (Inskip, 2009).

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