In America and Overseas, Girls Yearn for a “Nip and Tuck”

A recent survey conducted by a fashion magazine in Scotland asked young girls of that country what they would do to make themselves look more attractive. The surprising results showed nice clothes and the latest hairstyles are being replaced by something far more permanent: Plastic surgery.

Of the 2,000 girls questioned, four out of ten said they would consider plastic surgery to make themselves slimmer. Why? According to their answers, pressure from celebrities ranked high on the list of motivating factors, along with comments from other boys. (And we can only assume what major influence has helped all those young males form their opinion of the ideal female body.)

The average age of the studied group is only 14, but it says volumes about the increasingly misplaced priorities teens are dealing with – as well as pointing out that body image is not just a North American issue.

An article on the study printed in The Scotsman newspaper, makes another important point: Not only do young girls worship the figures of celebrities, but often their mothers do as well. The reinforcement of moms depressed about her weight because they don’t look like magazine models, makes it even more likely for the daughters to be unhappy with their bodies.

Interestingly, a report on, suggests the reasons teens contemplate plastic surgery is different than those that motivate grown-ups. Sighting information from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), adolescents view plastic surgery as a way to fit in and look acceptable to friends and peers. Adults, on the other hand, frequently see plastic surgery as a way to stand out from the crowd.

For the younger group, the “standard” of what is acceptable has an undeniable media link, that even Dr. Leroy Young, co-chair of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, confirms in a June 14, 2004 New York Post article.

“The media and fashion industries emphasize breasts and a curvaceous figure,” says Dr. Young, who is also the co-chair for the society’s breast-surgery committee. “There’s no advertising targeting that age group, but the images are all around them.”

This immersion into an environment of perfect bodies comes from so many sources, it’s almost impossible to comprehend. In my city, an innocent trip to the grocery store isn’t possible without passing tight torsos, ballooning breasts and long legs on dozens of billboards. Once inside, my kids are subjected to checkout stand magazine racks laden with nearly naked bodies, and other tabloids “exposing” celebrities’ secrets.

On television, there is the constant bombardment from advertising and programming, as well as some more direct messages.

Quoting spokesperson Rod Rohrich MD, and ASPS president, “The new wave of plastic surgery reality television is a serious cause for concern. Some patients on these shows have unrealistic and, frankly, unhealthy expectations about what plastic surgery can do for them.”

Dr. Rohrich continues by expressing his trepidation regarding “the young impressionable audience watching these shows who are already self-conscious about their body image.” He adds, “The public is being lulled into a sense that there are no real risks or complications in cosmetic plastic surgery. People need to understand that it is real surgery…”

Another plastic surgeon practicing in Virginia clearly states his views on teenage plastic surgery. “Society helps form the concept of body image,” says Dr. Michael Bermant on his web site. “Television, movies, magazines, and advertising often idealize the human form. During the malleable teenage years, appearance is often an emotional issue. Self-image and acceptance impact the balance between enjoyment and stress. Teen peer pressure can be strong. Other adolescents can be cruel.”

Taking these factors into account, Dr. Bermant suggests parents and teens explore the reasons for considering surgery. While some types of plastic surgery may be appropriate, even at a young age, he stresses that parents consider the body part involved and whether it is still maturing, the degree of problem or deformity, the patient’s emotional maturity and ability to determine realistic goals from the surgery, and if the teenager is the one who perceives the problem.

The nip/tuck quick-fix trend is yet another indicator of the stresses your teens face in our media directed environment. Parents need to make sure they take the time to talk to their children, both girls and boys, and help them understand the real ingredients that contribute to a positive self-image.

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