The theme of the month is longitudinal studies.
Here's a short breakdown of some reeeeeaally interesting ones involving the current trend for obesity. (These studies have been going on for over 50 years...tracking some several hundred thousand girls in Europe.)
- ALL girls "chub up" for 6-18 months in the beginning of puberty.
- Girls who are "allowed" to...melt the fat off without trying (aka diet or exercise) during an approximate 3-6 month period
- Those same girls experience little to NO difficulty maintaing a healthy weight throughout their childbearing years (the studies only have a fraction of their participants past menopause at this time...in another 20 years we'll know about post menopausal weight). Little to no difficulty translates into no conscious dieting, or an exercise routine designed to lose weight...some exercise, some do not...but a healthy body weight is maintained, none the less.
- Girls who are "not allowed" to chub up (dieting, overexercising...to maintain a prepubescent figure) struggle with their weight for their entire pubescent period.
- Those same girls experience a GREAT deal of difficulty maintaining a healthy weight throughout their childbearng years (aka dieting, exercising for weight loss). The majority of these women are overweight, although some keep their weight in a healthy range by consistent hard work, or by physically demanding jobs...but if they lose the job, or quit working...almost immediately become overweight.
If you look at literature from approximately 70-100 years ago and longer (when women typically had MUCH smaller figures than they do today), you will notice 3 trends:
1) Children were not considered sexy (this is inclusive of the *early* teen years...and extended to dress...children tended to be dressed in 'boxy' clothes...until aproximately age 16...when girls first started wearing 'women's fashions'...which highlighted waist and bosom.
2) Girls were discouraged from activity during their pubescence (although certainly worked/played hard before and after)...during early pubescence they were transitioned away from the rough and tumble play of childhood...but were not yet allowed to go to the exercise-type activities of older girls/women (essentially hours long dances, social engagements, horseback riding, paying jobs, etc.)
3) Skinny was not considered attractive...so girls transitioning to womanhood were "fed up", to try and gain roundness to their arms/shoulders/hips/etc.
The whole irony of this situation, is readily apparant. the old way of doing things pretty much guaranteed skinny/healthy body weight...even though it was NOT what was desired...and the "new" way of doing things (diet and exercise) nearly always guarantees that women will struggle with the tendancy to be overweight their entire lives.
Anyhow...food for thought. I think most mum's given the choice between an "overweight" (aka PERFECT weight for pubescence) daughter for a year, or an overweight daughter for 40 years...would let their little girls get 'fed up' that year to have it all melt off and stay off for the rest of their lives. But that choice isn't often presented unless you run in certain academic circles. After all, it's not sexy, & can't be sold in the media.
Oops...I think I should state:
Yes. I am a feminist. No. I do NOT think girls should have their activities curtailed during the pubescent years (heck, I was a competitive athlete during those years...if someone had taken the ocean away from me I would have cried the entire time.) BUT I DO think that girls should be allowed to eat appropriately FOR all these wonderful extra sports and activites that we're allowed to do, period, AND during those years...not kept on stringent diets that would make any boy's coach go to the parents house and start banging on the door demanding that they start feeding the boy right. Male pubescent athletes easily consume 4000+ calories a day and we don't blink. Girls on the other hand are restricted and restricted and restricted...because heaven forbid we have a "fat" girl. Yet...how many boys doing the same events stay super skinny post pubescence...and how many girls sped the rest of their lives on yo yo diets? Hmmmm...