September 2002
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Media, Please Leave Me Alone
By Jackie Gibson, Age 16, Booth Memorial, St. John's, NF

Mainstream media continually reports on the expanding waistlines of Canadians. At the same time that Health Canada, doctors and others tell us about obesity, heart disease and cancer, advertising, magazines, videos and movies continue to feature skinny models and actresses.

When young girls go through puberty they gain weight around the hips and legs but that's normal. That's a sign of becoming a woman. What I don't get is how the media tries to switch that natural process into a constant fight against it. I, myself, get bombarded with images of the perfect body everywhere I turn. I know a lot of girls that feel like if they could be as thin as such and such they can get a lot of attention from guys.

The concept that you have to be small and delicate is created by the entertainment industry to generate money. As well, weight loss companies advertised everywhere are all gimmicks that rely and feed off of people's insecurities. People spend huge amounts of money trying to look like what they are not. A lot of young girls are so confused about their bodies that they don't know how to take care of themselves. Some girls starve themselves trying to be thinner.

Don't get me wrong. I don't approve of the unhealthy lifestyle a lot of us live. If you can't walk up a flight of steps or run across the street to catch a bus then you need some help. You need exercise.

I try to take care of my body. Not because I want to be a certain size or look like a movie star but because I want to live a good, healthy life and live long enough to fulfill all my dreams.

This is how I do it. I joined a team sport like water polo that will work my entire body. Other sports such as track and field, hockey, soccer, etc all promote exercise and fitness. If you are scared of pain then this is not for you. If you're not into team sports then weight lifting, aerobics, yoga are other good ways to keep your body strong and fit. Even going for a 30 minute walk every day or every other day is good. Staying active like that will get your body in shape.

Drink lots of water. That was a hard thing for me to do. Try to think of it this way – every time you're thirsty or reaching to get some soda at a restaurant replace it with water.

Eating right requires a lot of fruit and veggies, and oats like wheat and cereal. I love salads, apples and bananas. Fresh is always best but canned or frozen is okay as well. No matter how much you want that double bacon cheeseburger with mushrooms you might want to get a Caesar salad with chicken.

You'll see the difference but remember to do something that's fun or you'll get frustrated and give up. It takes time to get healthy and quick fixes never last.

Remember, though, that first you have to love yourself. Being happy about who you are is the first step to living healthy. Accept the perfect imperfections that decorate your body. You have to look good for yourself, not for others. If somebody doesn't accept how you are then they are not worth having as a friend or boyfriend. Be yourself and you'll know who the phonies are in your life.

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