Reprinted from "Eating Disorders" issue of Visions Journal, 2002, No. 16, p. 40
Body Thieves: Help Girls Reclaim Their Natural Bodies and Become Physically Active
By Sandra S. Friedman, BA, BSW, MA: Salal Books, 2002. 244 pp.
When I first read Body Thieves, I was struck by the aptness of its title. Anyone female recognizes the struggle we’ve all have had for ownership of our bodies; it’s disappointing, but no real surprise that the effort continues. This book begins by defining the enemy — a list of body thieves which hold girls hostage to bathroom scales, limit their vision to pounds and kilos and narrow their focus to a slim definition of worth based on size or lack thereof.
Therapist, educator, and consultant, Sandra Friedman is no stranger to these topics. The author of three other books on girls, eating disorders, and body image (Just for Girls, When Girls Feel Fat: Helping Girls through Adolescence and Nurturing GirlPower), she’s also conducted training workshops, spoken at major conferences, and been active in the media in getting this message out.
My curiosity about what new ground she could cover was soon replaced with surprise and admiration for the sheer volume of information she has compacted into the pages of this volume. From web sites that support and enhance her considerable research efforts, to a crash course in media literacy, Friedman provides a thoughtful, intelligent guide to interacting with teenage girls on several of the most important topics of their lives.
This book is well-written and informative. It follows a natural progression from gender and development through socialization, relationships with girls, and takes readers through a plain-spoken and eye-opening journey of the perils facing teenage girls today. Yes, I’ve long been aware of the media’s role in bombarding us all with messages about body image and the unacceptability of living in a fat body . What I haven’t really given much thought to (and it’s high time that I did), is how simple it is to actually take some positive action to be part of the solution.
Friedman doesn’t offer pat answers, nor does she pretend that this is an issue that can be easily ‘fixed.’ What the book does offer is the clear message that there are concrete things that family, friends, educators and support people can do, and that these things will add up to social changes that will profoundly affect us all. I’ m reminded of the old adage “It’s simple, but it ain’t easy.” With a book that actually offers sample letters to write to the editor of your local newspaper, self-tests to help girls figure out what issues they need to address, and lists entitled WHAT YOU CAN DO, it becomes a lot easier, and a lot more possible than any of us would think. Inasmuch as I liked Mary Pipher’s book Reviving Ophelia for identifying the difficulties facing adolescent girls, I think this is the book that will teach us all how to be proactive in empowering all the teen girls we know to have richer, more physically active, and happier lives.