Feb 062014

Wrapping up this week on body image, I present a “Throwback Thursday” re-run on the topic. For the record, the comments largely support the idea that people carry their early body image with them through life, although most believe it is probably established in the early teen years, not by age ten. 

Shop Lingerie for Valentine’s Day at NORDSTROM. Free shipping and returns on every order.

Christine brought up this provocative question, during our conversation on apparent body size:

One interesting thing I did read was that your body image is set at age 10 for girls. So, if you were a heavy ten year old you could be a very slim adult and still “see” yourself as heavy. In reverse, you could be slim as a ten year old (me) and always see yourself as slimmer than you are (I’m always looking for belts and fitted dresses that don’t work with my expanded waist.

Does anyone else find that to be true?

My own random observations:

  • I must have been a pretty normal sized 10 year old.  Mom?
  • This theory might explain some things.  Slim girls who complain about being fat are the ones who get the attention, but I’ve wondered why it seems there are some who are overweight and don’t seem to realize it.
  • OTOH, there are some ladies who I think might be packing around an extra roll or two, who are actually quite slim.
  • Most importantly, I advise highly against introducing fashion magazines until a young lady’s body image is well established, say in the later teen years.

How does your current body image compare with your size as a ten year old?

  14 Responses to “At What Age is Body Image Set?”

  1. Interesting – I’ve never thought about this. I was a very slim 10 year old – but around 15 I packed on a few pounds – most people see me as bigger than I am – I’m often getting comments when I see someone that I haven’t seen in a while that I’m looking like I’ve lost some weight, yet, I am still wearing some of the same clothes I bought 13 years ago (great jackets that don’t date so quick) – so I’m the same size!

    Sometimes I think I’m slimmer than I am, sometimes I think I’m bigger than I am – just depends on setting.

    I think 10 is too young – it would more likely be mid-teens if this is true I think.

  2. That’s interesting. I too was ultra-slim through early high school (the description “string bean” comes to mind) and then started getting curvy and after the kiddos, the curves have made me where I hover at a higher weight than I’d actually prefer. I’ve always joked with my husband that I have too great of a self-image. I have a hard time staying motivated to lose weight because I look in the mirror and think I look great! Even post-partum, this little mind game plays itself out– I look at myself that first day and think, “WOW, I look pretty good for just having had a baby”– even though months later, I look at those pictures and think “YUCK!” : ) This is the first time I’ve seen anything other than my own kooky sense of humor to confirm this idea in my head.

  3. I kind of realised this when I noticed that I was bumping my hip bones everywhere… I hadn’t realised that they have grown wider. Although I’m not sure if 10 is the age, maybe 15 ?

    Now my body shape is changing so quickly with the pragnancies and post-pregnancy that I have a hard time keeping up with it… and I always get surprised when I see photos of myself.

    Jess, you crack me up.
    I also realise that the downside of having a great self-image is lack of motivation to work out / loose wieght.

  4. I was a very skinny kid (my grandpa called me “Toothpick”) and I never thought that I would get heavy. Then, in my mid 20s I gained quite a bit of weight because I had continued eating like a growing girl long after I’d quit growing. I wish someone would have told me about that in advance. I could have avoided some years of chubbiness. Since then, I’ve gotten back down to an appropriate weight for my height and build, and have learned to maintain it. Regarding whether I think of myself as skinnier than I am or chubbier than I am, I can’t really say. I guess I feel more like “myself” when I’m thinner like I am now, because it matches what I was when I was young.

  5. I was a heavy child from 2nd grade on and by 7th grade I was bulimic (vomiting several times a day) and have struggled with it ever since so… I’m gonna say you may have hit it right on.

  6. hmm I actually can’t remember what I looked like at 10 but I feel like I was probably pretty normal.

    Though I can never figure out if I think I am fat or not! I rationally know what I weigh and whether that is good or bad but somehow I can’t ever decide if I am cool with it or not.

  7. Rebecca, that is so true. Even when I was a size 10 (old sizing chart) about 40 years ago, I thought of myself as I did when I was a chubby 10 yr old!! The years have brought that image to fruition however, I’m working hard to get back to that smaller size now & actually having a modicum of success!!

  8. Jess – I can totally relate to that after baby “weigh” of thinking. lol. It’s probably not a bad thing, though. 🙂

    One other thought I just had: I remember as a child of less than 10 having my thighs pointed out to my mother (in my presence) as somewhat of a handicap to the activity I was engaged in. I wonder if that is the root of my thinking that everything about me is fine except my thighs? OTOH, I wonder if my thinking that everything about me is fine except my thighs is rooted in the truth of it! LOL

  9. I was always one of the smallest girls in school … I actually grew an inch taller during my senior year of high school. I was probably just 105 pounds when I was 18. After babies, and now in my 30s, my weight is now just considered average. I wish I was smaller, and I think I see myself as smaller than I am. I’m always surprised when the size I used to be doesn’t fit now.

    And like Jess, I always see myself as looking pretty good immediately after having a baby too. Must be that adrenaline. 🙂

  10. Remember in maybe 2nd or 3d grade dressed in a cowgirl outfit my parents brought back from a trip. The boys called me “girlcow”- definitely a formative experience. Was always tall for my age, but normal weight. My sister was 13 yrs older and she and my mother were always on some kind of diet- that “horror” of overweight was pervasive. Such a powerful message that sets women up for self-loathing.

  11. Rebecca: I’m sure you will understand that the problem with trying to answer a question like the one you posed to me is: I always thought my children (and grandchildren, in fact) were just right, perfect even. I just always hoped they were happy and healthy!

    I have some other ideas, tho, regarding body-image: I was tall for my age til high school and always had an under-endowed chest; so I was/am always waiting for my front to catch up with the rest of me.

    Something to do with never liking my body-image???

  12. It is so interesting to see how other women feel. I guess the age 10 was picked as it was the age most girls were self confident, before adolescence set in. One of my sisters was a bit chubby at that age (though in the normal range) but always feels fat, even at her current size zero. Again, I was very skinny and still feel that I am slimmer than I am, though I know I am definitely not slim nor a size zero!

    I agree fashion magazines are definitely not something worth keeping around when young girls are in the house. I read a few and one of my teenage nieces saw one once, read it, and that the models looked like aliens. She did however, start to feel she is too short (she’s 5’6″ and still growing) and heavy (she has a 21″ waist). Fortunately, she quickly forgot the magazines.

  13. I’d say mid-teens too. I was never a skinny kid, but neither was I fat around age 10. I started putting on weight when I hit my teens. Thinness was highly valued in my family and at least one family member ended up with an eating disorder. Most of the older women in my family have been dieting for most of the past 50 years. NO JOKE! One of them told me constantly, “You struggle with your weight just like me.” I’m sure it was meant to express solidarity, but it just imprinted on my mind that I would always “struggle.” Turns out it was some combination of not being active enough (sports weren’t allowed) and a thyroid disorder.

    I was a tiny 114 lb when I returned from my honeymoon and still thought I was fat. If I could just get down to 110 I thought I would be happy! LOL Now I am not an unhealthy weight for my height, but a bit more than I like…Bought running shoes last night. I do try not to talk about it in front of my daughters, and we don’t keep movies or magazines in the house that emphasize being super skinny. Rather, I’m trying to encourage them to stop eating when they are full and to be active, healthy people. I think the rest will take care of itself.

  14. I agree with your approach. Wonder if the age thing is connected to the amount of pop culture influence?

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>