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The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless – Interview

Charlotte Markey, PhD, joined us for an interview on her book, The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless. What follows are our questions in italics and her thoughtful responses.

In The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless, your goal is for girls to understand their bodies and have positive feelings toward their bodies. What guided you to develop this resource?

There were so many reasons why I wanted to write this book!

As a scientist who’s been studying body image for a long time, I wanted to bring evidence-based information about body image and mental health to girls in an accessible resource. There are so many things we need to discuss more openly with girls. I also felt personally motivated. Growing up I was a ballet dancer and I struggled with my own body image. I really want something better for my own daughter and for other girls.

You present questions that many girls may feel hesitant to ask like, “What changes during puberty?” and then provide facts that normalize concerns. How did you amass your information on what girls want to know about their bodies and body image?

I’ve interviewed and surveyed 100s of girls for over 20 years as a research scientist. I also was a girl (although it was a long time ago now!), I have a teenaged daughter, and I work with undergraduate and graduate students who are not far beyond adolescence. So, the questions I propose in Q & A format are real girls’ questions.

Can you please tell us about your decision to include the “Myths and Misbeliefs” sections?

There is SO much inaccurate information in public spaces about body image and weight issues. So many products and plans are marketed to all of us every day to make us think we need to fix ourselves in some way. I wanted to set the record straight for girls so that they don’t fall for misinformation. I want girls to know, for example, that carbs are not bad for you, diets don’t help you lose weight, and treating yourself and others with kindness (not judgement) is much better for body image.

You encourage readers to recognize that what they wear matters. Please tell us more.

Parents often ask me how to handle talking with their girls about what they are wearing. Parents want their girls to stay young, wear comfortable clothes, and avoid suggestive clothing choices. Girls want to appear grown up and sometimes care more about fashion than comfort. I want girls to realize that what they wear – and how comfortable they are – affects how they think and behave as well as how other people interact with them. There’s nothing wrong with being fashionable, but sometimes there are costs associated with clothing choices. Clothing that is uncomfortable or skimpy is often distracting and can keep us from being able to concentrate and be our best selves. I’m guessing we’ve all made an uncomfortable choice at one time or another because we wanted to look good (I certainly have!), and I think that’s fine, but just want girls to appreciate that they have choices.

“Dieting isn’t good for your mental health.” Please share some of the reasons you include this comment.

I suppose it is more accurate to say that dieting isn’t good for your mental or physical health.  Dieting is a practice that the majority of adults engage in at some point and yet it makes people miserable.  The desired result – weight loss – is very, very rarely achieved long-term.

In Chapter 7, entitled “Keep Food Fun,” you provide information on eating disorders. Interestingly, you placed these diagnoses in this chapter. Your thoughts?

Worrying about food, what we eat, and disordered eating are all the opposite of fun.  Food should be a positive part of our lives; it can be a great source of pleasure.  What happens when food choices become a struggle?  What happens when we avoid social situations because we want to avoid food?  What happens when we feel so distraught about our appearance that this affects our ability to live a happy, satisfying life?  These are serious mental health problems that require serious, comprehensive treatments.

What are some of the skills girls can develop to “be fearless”?

I want girls to have a strong sense of self, to be comfortable with who they are, and to know how to take care of themselves – body and mind.  My hope is that the tips and information in The Body Image Book for Girls can help girls achieve all of this and approach the world feeling fearless.

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About the author:

Charlotte Markey, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and founding director of the Health Sciences Center at Rutgers University (Camden).

The Body Image Book for Girls was published in 2020 to rave reviews and called, “Evidence-based, fun, and engaging…Every girl should read this book” (Dr. Meghan Gillen, Pennsylvania State University) and “Within the pages of this book, girls will find all the information they need to live more healthfully and happily” (Lexie and Lindsay Kite, PhDs and founders of Beauty Redefined).

Her second book (co-edited with Drs. Elizabeth Daniels and Meghan Gillen), Body Positive: Understanding and Improving Body Image in Science and Practice was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018.  Reviewers referred to the book as having, “the real potential to enrich lives” (Marika Tiggeman, Flinders University, Australia) and “providing a novel and refreshing way of conceptualizing body image” (Marita McCabe, Australian Catholic University).

Dr. Markey writes monthly for U.S. News and World Report (Eat + Run blog), Psychology Today (Smart People Don’t Diet blog), as well as other publications, focusing on individuals’ eating behaviors, body image, and health. Her research has garnered widespread media attention, and she has been featured in and interviewed by The New York Times, The Economist, US News and World Report, The Today Show, Health Day, ABC News, Time Magazine, Health Psychology, The Washington Post, Science Daily, NBC News, Psych Central, Men’s Health, as well as numerous other publications.  She also conducts seminars, talks, and presentations to hundreds of people a year, primarily in the tristate area.

Dr. Markey received her doctorate from the University of California (Riverside) in health and developmental psychology, with a focus on eating behaviors and body image.  She has published nearly 100 book chapters and journal articles in peer-reviewed journals.  She also has hundreds of presentations to her name at universities across the U.S. and at national and international conferences. Each year, she teaches hundreds of students at Rutgers University, including students in her Psychology of Eating course, where a great deal of time is spent discussing body image.  Both her teaching and research have received awards, including the Chancellor’s Teaching Award, the Faculty Scholar-Teacher Award, and the Annual Faculty Fellowship at Rutgers University.

Dr. Markey has long been involved in community efforts to educate parents and children about eating, body image, and health.  She has been asked to present in school districts across the tri-state area and has served on task forces charged with improving school nutrition programs.  Dr. Markey enjoys running and swimming and has participated in numerous half marathons, triathlons and even one marathon.  She lives with her husband, son, daughter, and her pandemic puppy Lexi in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.




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