Category Archives: self-esteem


NEDA, or the National Eating Disorders Association, was born in 2001 when two of the biggest organizations dealing with eating disorders and providing support to victims, families, and friends of eating disorders (EDAP – Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, and AABA – American Anorexia and Bulimia Association) merged and became one single organization.  NEDA’s mission statement is to:  “support individuals and families affected by eating disorders, and serve as a catalyst for prevention, cures, and access to quality care.” Recently, NEDA celebrated its 10th anniversary with a benefit dinner to raise money for its various programs.

NEDA defines an eating disorder as “extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.”  The three most commonly recognized eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder.  Anorexia Nervosa is typically characterized by “self-starvation and excessive weight loss.”  Bulimia Nervosa usually includes cycles of binging and then purging to eliminate the calories from the binge.   Binge Eating Disorder is similar to Bulimia Nervosa, but does not include the purging part of the cycle – it is episodic binge eating.  It is easy for people to feel locked into these destructive cycles, and that is what NEDA strives to stop.

Artwork by Gracie Gralike, 19 Missouri

NEDA wants Americans to know that eating disorders do not just affect women and girls−they affect everyone, from all walks of life−people of all colors, genders, and sexual orientations.  Statistics on NEDA’s website claim that “as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life-and-death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimiaMillions more are struggling with binge eating disorder.”  These numbers are extremely high and NEDA is working proactively to reduce and, hopefully one day, eliminate these disorders.  NEDA provides many resources on its website to help people feel good about their bodies.  Check out their “Twenty Ways to Love Your Body” article here!

NEDAwareness Week is one of NEDA’s biggest events to raise awareness about the prevalence of eating disorders in the United States, and to combat them through education.  This year, NEDAwareness week was at the end of February.  It’s not too early to plan an Awareness week at your school and NEDA makes it super easy!  Check out their planning guide here.  You can also read a cool article about what one student at Hamilton College did to celebrate the week and make her friends more aware of the stigmas surrounding eating disorders and unrealistic expectations of ‘the perfect body’ at the Huffington Post.

There are tons of other ways to get involved with NEDA if you feel strongly that eating disorders should be eliminated from society.  You can apply to intern, participate in a NEDA Walk, or get involved with NEDA’s Junior Board!

What do you think about NEDA’s mission?  What can Teen Voices do to better send the message to all girls that they are perfect just the way they are?  Let us know in the comments section below!  To read more about what our teen editors have to say about the pressure to be perfect, check out this article on your website!


The Bride Wore Plastic

By Sarah Binning and Jessica Moore

According to Time‘s pop culture columnist, James Poniewozik, the train wreck reality show known as Bridalplasty is the worst TV show of 2010. We can’t say we’re upset!

If you haven’t read about the show, brace yourself. While bridal reality TV shows are not a new phenomenon, E! has gone to the extreme. Bridalplasty features brides going head to head in a series of wedding-themed challenges. The winner of each challenge earns … a honeymoon? No, that’s been done. A wedding cake? No, too practical. Plastic surgery? Ding ding ding!

That’s right. Women are competing for head-to-toe plastic surgery makeovers. The contestants, who range in age from 20 to 32, create a wish list of procedures they would like to have done before her wedding. Win a challenge, pick a surgery. One by one, contestants are voted out.The last bride standing reveals her new face and body to her fiancé as he  lifts her veil during their wedding ceremony.

One assumes that the groom already loves the woman he is about to marry. He has professed his love. The couple has decided to spend their lives together, come sickness, poverty, or — worst of all, the show suggests — wrinkles and cellulite. Yet these brides show a desperate need to improve their physical appearance. The messages to women and girls: You must continually “improve” your looks to remain competitive in love. You must look a certain way (light-skinned, skinny, and flawless) to be worthy of love. Oh, and you must be willing to undergo dangerous surgery to “perfect” your looks.

As with so many “reality” shows (Rock of Love, Flavor of Love, The Bad Girls Club, The Real Housewives of Name-Your-City), the women fight, backbite, connive, and generally make themselves ugly — on the inside — to win a “prize” they don’t need and shouldn’t want.

Nobody should be shocked the next time they read statistics on girls and women suffering from low self-esteem, bruised self-confidence, and eating disorders.

The good news? Bridalplasty‘s ratings are almost as bad as its premise.

Let’s Make Halloween About the BOO — Not the Boobs

By Michelle Golden and Jessica Moore

Word to the wise: When firefighters put out a house fire, they’re usually wearing pants, not booty shorts. When most of us see a bumblebee or ladybug, we don’t usually think, “Wow, that is one sexy insect!”  So we’re wondering why, when we go shopping for Halloween costumes, the options for girls and women run the gamut from sexy to…sexy, and often involve professions and objects that have nothing to do with sex.  There’s even a sexy candy corn costume floating around out there. Really? ‘Cos candy corn? Not really doing it for us.

Halloween used to be about going trick-or-treating with friends and family, watching Casper the Friendly Ghost, and stuffing your face with witch-shaped sugar cookies.  Costumes included innocently clothed Disney princesses or the usual black cat outfits. But recently, Halloween has made a terrifying transformation into a night where girls  turn into mini-porn stars and sexualized children’s storybook characters.

The kids’ section in your average Halloween store looks OK — the Snow White costume actually looks like Snow White’s outfit in the Disney film. Then  you hit the teen section, and Snow White’s dress gets shorter – much, much shorter. Her top transforms into a corset, her waist is thinner, and the “appropriate” shoes to wear with the outfit are black platforms or pumps. We’re pretty sure Snow White couldn’t have escaped from the evil queen wearing those shoes.

The women’s outfits add a whole other element to the story: Sexy Little Miss Muffet and Alice in Wonderland costumes for grown women are disturbing for the way they reduce women to children, encouraging boys and men to fantasize about images associated with little girls.

Now, we’re not saying everyone should wrap themselves from head to toe in toilet paper or spend Halloween dressed in a sack. What we are saying is that it would be great for girls and women to stop and think about why they want to look like they just jumped out of the pages of Playboy. Is it for male attention? Is it because that’s how the girls on America’s Next Top Model or The Girls Next Door dress? Why are we all so eager to look like cheap fantasies? We should also think about who is selling these pre-packaged sexy fill-in-the-blank costumes at every Halloween store in the country — and why they are all benefiting so well from our nationwide desire to take sexy over the top.

These overly sexual costumes imply that it’s only our physical appearance that matters –and we all know we have more to share than cleavage. We’re open-minded, individual girls who should be wearing creative, innovative costumes – and that doesn’t mean giving the impression that our one goal in life is to become a stripper or Hugh Hefner hanger-on when we grow up.

By all means, we should all go out and have a good time. Be safe and responsible. But before you slip into that corset and booty shorts, think about better ways to get the attention you’re looking for. Think about the 7-year-old you’ll pass on the street, and the way she’ll look up to you in your chosen costume. Why not go against the norm this year? Heck, you might even find an outfit that’s a bit warmer.

What’s your costume, and why did you choose it? Comment below and let us know!

Maura Kelly: Heavy People Shouldn’t Kiss on TV

By editorial intern Lauren Castner

On October 25, Marie Claire posted an entry from blogger Maura Kelly about finding overweight people on TV “aesthetically displeasing.”  Kelly spends a large portion of her post railing on overweight people featured on shows like the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly.  In her mind, heavy people should not be intimate with each other on television.

The blog post has caused such a stir that not only has Kelly updated it to add an apology for the tone, but Marie Claire has started a series of response posts from other editors and bloggers discussing the issue.  One of the responses comes from Fatshionista, a blogger independent from Marie Claire.  The responses bring up many valid points about the lack of full-figured television characters that look like the rest of us.

Many websites and blogs are weighing in too, including Jezebel and the Huffington Post.  The integrity of the editors who allowed the post to be published has been called in to question – people want to know who thought the post was a good idea to publish in the first place.  While I was reading the original post, at least 35 more comments were posted about it on Marie Claire’s site.  Many women have publicly declared that they are cancelling their subscriptions and are calling for others to join them in doing so.

Body image and self-esteem issues run rampant, and fashion magazines such as Marie Claire play a role in perpetuating these issues.  Instead of appreciating our bodies and all that they can do for us, we focus on being too fat or too thin.  Let’s praise the fact that there is some diversity of size and shape on TV, not shove it into a corner. Being healthy, no matter what your size, is much more important than being thin.

What do you think about Maura Kelly’s post?  Does it change the way you think about Marie Claire? Tell us what you think!

The Case for Unaltered Celebrity Photos

By Sarah Binning
As unaltered photographs of Jennifer Aniston hit the Internet, airbrushing has again made headlines. The original photo shows Aniston’s freckled, lined face, while the magazine cover of Australia Madison indicates perfect skin sans freckles and wrinkles.
Most of the viewing public knows media images are edited. A recent study by the Good Surgeon Guide, indicates that nearly 90 percent of teen girls are aware celebrity images are edited. This leads us to an important question: If people know that these photos are unrealistic, why do is there so much interest in Photoshopped images?
Do you think celebrities would be less famous if media portrayed the “unedited” versions of them? The Merrriam-Webster definition of “celebrity” is the “state of being celebrated.”So what are we actually celebrating? Their talents? Accomplishments? Looks? It’s easy to focus on “celebrating” so much that we forget they are human. We all age, get wrinkles, and sport the occasional dreaded pimple!
Maybe if we all saw more unedited photos of these celebs, we could recognize them as “normal” and create a newer, more positive standard of beauty. And isn’t it possible that their flaws would make them more likable to us, not less?
Teens may understand that media images are unrealistic, but that doesn’t mean the images don’t affect their self-esteem. This summer, Teen Voices’ teen editors spent an entire week discussing and analyzing media representations of women. The teen editors also uncovered the types of females who are represented in film and TV, and, more importantly, which types are left out. Our girls discussed how easy it is to feel your self-esteem lowered, and to feel like a failure when you can’t reach impossible beauty. These standards might be unrealistic, but they can still deeply impact the way teens view themselves.
We’re always happy to see groups taking steps toward combating false representations of women., a top plus-sized retailer, will showcase only plus-sized models during their show at New York Fashion Week. The retailer is taking a lot of heat for participating in Fashion Week – but we’re looking forward to seeing these curvy women in the show!

Using Humor and Mannequins to Talk Sex with Teens

By Teen Voices editorial intern Kimya Kavehkar

Navigating the different and sometimes confusing messages about sex from your parents, the media, or friends can be frustrating. Filmmaker Kari Nevil wants to make the process a little easier for teens by giving websites with accurate facts to answer questions and provide guidance.

Nevil, of JuneBug Films Inc., was tongue-tied about how to speak to her own pre-teen daughter about sex, so she decided to get together a group of mothers from California’s Bay Area to create a YouTube PSA called “Mannequins: Teen Sex Education with A Twist.”

“I made a film with twisted humor and a place to take action for responsibility of self. I asked my daughter to help me write and edit the PSA and we had the discussion in an organic way as a result,” Nevil tells Teen Voices. “I still gave her the speech. When it was over she said, ‘Are you done with the lecture now, mom?’ Evidence that lecturing is the last thing teens want.”

“Mannequins” steers away from clichéd sex talk and gives straight facts about what sex is. It also dispels a few rumors in the process. The video is visually appealing, with humorous and historical photographs to accompany the no-nonsense voiceover, which directs viewers to websites for reliable information on sex, STD risks and contraception. These sites include,, and Teen

According to a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), less than half of teen girls and only 35 percent of teen boys get advice on methods of birth control from their parents. Because teens primarily digest information on sex from the media, this media portrayal of sex, including contraception, can deceive and confuse teens.

“Mannequins” emphasizes each person’s right to choose their own sexual path—which includes actively seeking the facts for themselves.

“The media is loaded with sexy images, songs and advertising campaigns. They [media aimed at teens] have a tendency to show that sexy equals cool, but do young people understand that sexy means something different to each of us?” Nevil asks. “You are the one who gets to decide when — or if — it is time to share your definition of sex/sexy, including if it means no sex at all. I just want youth to know what is what. Knowledge is power.”

Girl Scouts Is Ensuring Healthier Media for Girls!

By Teen Voices guest blogger Stephanie Harig

Stephanie Harig is an intern at Girl Scouts of the USA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office.

Every day we are bombarded by unhealthy media images of girls and women.  Even though we know that these depictions are not based in reality, many of us still define our self-worth by how we measure up to them.

A 2010 survey by the Girl Scout Research Institute found that 60 percent of girls compare their bodies to fashion models and 47 percent say fashion models give them a body to strive for. And only 46 percent of girls believe that the fashion industry does a good job of representing people of all races and ethnicities.

The problem is not only what girls think – it’s also what they do. The same survey found that more than half of girls admit to going on a diet to try to lose weight and 31 percent admit to starving themselves or refusing to eat. Moreover, 42 percent of girls say they know someone their age who has forced themselves to throw up after eating, while 37 percent know someone who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder.

We are smart and powerful, but there is no doubt that unhealthy images negatively influence our body image and self-esteem. So is there anything we can do about it?

The answer is YES!

Girl Scouts is taking steps to ensure that healthier media images of girls and women become a reality. First, our newest program, It’s Your Story, Tell It!, will be released this winter.  It will empower girls to use the media as an agent of change and vehicle for self-expression, effectively helping them build their self-esteem.

Girl Scouts also supports The Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925), which was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).  The bill addresses unhealthy media images of girls and women through three avenues:

  • grants to support media literacy programs;
  • research on how depictions of women and girls in the media affect the health of youth;
  • and, the creation of a National Taskforce on Women and Girls in the Media.

Current media images of girls and women set unrealistic standards that distract us from what is important and make it harder to believe in ourselves. This is not the reality in which we should have to live!  The Healthy Media for Youth Act is a step toward a new, girl-positive reality!

Imagine a world full of healthy media images of women and girls. Positive images of girls and women in the media would foster self-esteem, positive body image, and healthy relationships.  Girl Scouts further encourages the media to highlight strong female role models, more women in leadership roles, and body type, racial, and ethnic diversity.

If this is the world you want to see, then TAKE ACTION!  Join Girl Scouts as we advocate for healthier media images.  Visit and send a letter of support for the Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925) to your Member of Congress. By using our GIRL POWER we can change our reality!