- Caitlin Beck, 14, lives in Derby with her mother Jo, a credit advisor
- Caitlin says she can't think of any parts of her body that she likes
- She avoids full length mirrors because she hates her appearance
- Jo says it breaks her heart that her daughter thinks she is overweight
- Lottie Hall, 17, lives with her mother Sara Goodson, 50, a delivery manager
- Lottie even hates her toes and the size of her head
- She started taking laxatives aged 11 to lose weight
- Sara feels guilty for not spotting her daughter's anorexia earlier
- Emily-Beth Roscoe, 17, lives with mum Kate, 48, a business consultant
- Emily-Beth says sometimes she cries because she feels so ugly
They are young, beautiful and have the world at their feet. But recent studies have revealed how teenage girls are twice as likely as boys to be unhappy with their appearance, more than two-thirds think they need to lose weight and almost a fifth admit to having an eating disorder. Here, three teenage girls talk with courageous honesty about their self-image to JILL FOSTER — and their mothers reveal how it makes them feel as parents.
MOST GIRLS I KNOW ARE ON A DIET
Caitlin Beck, 14, lives in Derby with her mother Jo, a credit advisor, and her younger brother.
Caitlin Beck, 14, (right) and her mother Jo (left). Caitlin says she can't think of any parts of her body that she likes and avoids full length mirrors
Caitlin says: I honestly can’t think of any bits of my body I like, and I try to avoid full-length mirrors because I don’t like to look at myself.
I’m not curvy; more straight up and down, although I have a bit of a waist. I’m 5ft 6in and used to hate being the tallest person in class.
I constantly compare my figure to other girls’, and they all do the same. I’m not that interested in celebrities, but I know a lot of the girls in my class are — they admire the film star Megan Fox.
But it’s the boys who talk about female celebrities the most. I guess some of the girls want to look like actresses so boys will find them attractive.
I feel like my tummy is a bit fat. I could do with losing a bit of weight. At the moment I’m 8st 7lb. But I know it would be dangerous to lose too much. I don’t want to become anorexic.
At least half the girls in my class have been on a diet. There are even a few who simply don’t eat at school any more. The thing is, these girls aren’t really, really skinny, so they must eat at home.
I hate my face — it’s too chubby — although I suppose my long, dark hair is nice and I quite like my hazel eyes. I even like wearing glasses as I think they suit me.
Even when I was 12, a lot of the others wore tons of make-up to school, but I’ve never been that kind of girl. I’ve kicked back against that, but you definitely feel pressure to look ‘pretty’.
Mum Jo says it breaks her heart to hear about her daughter's low self esteem
A couple of years ago, at my old school, I was bullied badly about my spotty skin, the fact I’m tall and have got hair on my arms. This made me feel paranoid, self-conscious and anxious around other people, so I moved schools. I feel better now and not so judged, but I’m conscious when I am spotty and compare myself to other people.
Jo says: It breaks my heart to learn that Caitlin thinks she is overweight. It really isn’t the case. But I know from being bullied myself for having bad skin when I was at school that teenagers can lose a lot of confidence.
When I was bullied as a youngster, it was all done to your face. But Caitlin’s bullies targeted her online. Cyberbullying is a totally new way of making someone’s life a misery.
One of the girls who bullied Caitlin at her old school once contacted her through social media and tried to restart her revolting behaviour.
It devastated her at the time, but all Caitlin had to do was block that person and report her, and the girl hasn’t bothered her since. That’s the one good thing about bullying with this generation — if you don’t go looking, it can be avoided.
I believe the experience has given Caitlin a confidence she doesn’t even realise. She doesn’t bow to pressure to slap on lots of make-up like other teenage girls, she is totally her own person and I think her friends at her new school admire her for that.
She has a boyfriend, too, so clearly boys her age find her attractive.
I know she is beautiful. Yes, she’s a slightly gawky teenager, but she will turn into a totally stunning woman. I’m incredibly proud of her.
ANOREXIA IS ‘NORMAL’ AT ALL-GIRL SCHOOLS
Lottie Hall, 17, lives with her mother Sara Goodson, 50, a delivery manager, and her older sister Rosie, 19, in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.
Lottie says: When I look in the mirror, I see a disgusting person with flab everywhere.
I don’t like my hair because it’s thin and dry. I don’t like anything about my face, particularly my eyebrows which I hate because they’re bushy. I’ve had them threaded and groomed, but they’re still horrible.
Lottie Hall, 17, (right) and her mother Sara Goodson, 50, (left). Lottie says that when she looks in the mirror she sees a 'disgusting' person
I hate the size and shape of my head. I’ve got no bone structure and I hate my teeth, which are neither straight nor white.
I suppose I like the fact that I’ve got long legs, but they’re like tree trunks and my knees are knobbly. My stomach sticks out and isn’t toned. I even hate my toes — they’re so ugly.
I was 15 when I was diagnosed with anorexia. Although I’m at a healthy weight now and my doctors say I’m doing well, I still hate how I look.
Lottie says she hates most things about her body, even her toes and the size of her head
It began when I hit puberty at 11 and started developing curves before everyone else, so I decided to do something about it. I barely ate anything, exercised loads and took large quantities of laxatives.
I’d look up advice and images of skinny girls on pro-anorexia websites. I wanted to look just like them, only I wanted to be the skinniest and the most ill.
I’m 5ft 10in and my lowest weight was 5st 9lb, with a body mass index of just over 11. I couldn’t concentrate or stay warm and my skin turned grey.
I’ve had counselling for years and have never got to the bottom of why I’m like this. Perhaps it’s celebrity-driven. When I was younger, I always thought Cheryl Cole had the perfect figure and wanted to be like her.
Some people ask if it’s down to my parents’ divorce, but I don’t think so as they’ve been separated since I was very young, and I don’t even remember them being together. I think it’s got more to do with genetics, as a close family member suffered from anorexia, too.
Everything came to a head when I collapsed at school one day when I was 15 and mum took me to the doctor. She’d noticed I’d been losing a lot of weight and begged me to eat.
I was admitted to hospital that day, and spent three months at an eating disorder unit in Cambridge.
Mum felt like the whole thing was her fault and it really damaged our relationship for a while. I hated her for putting me into hospital. I thought they would make me fat. I relapsed in November 2012 and was finally discharged in February of this year.
Sara would find laxatives in Lottie's room which she started taking aged 11 to lose weight
I’m at a healthy weight now, though I don’t know exactly how heavy I am; part of my recovery means I do not weigh myself. Still, there’s not one part of my body I like.
Around ten girls at my single-sex school have eating disorders, and since I developed the illness I’ve discovered it’s really common in girls’ schools.
I’ve come to terms with the fact I’m never going to accept my body — I still feel huge now — but I’m definitely on the right track.
Sarah says: It’s so very sad that Lottie can’t see she is beautiful. Whenever anyone tries to compliment her, she throws it back in your face and calls herself a ‘fat, ugly pig’. It’s terrible to hear.
We’re constantly living on a knife edge because all it takes is one tiny comment and she’ll go back to dieting. The last couple of years have been emotionally traumatic, and for a long time I blamed myself for not noticing Lottie’s illness sooner.
But anorexia is a devious disease. I’d find laxatives stashed in her room and throw them out but she’d always find more. I’d come home to dirty plates in the washing up and she’d say she’d eaten when she hadn’t.
When she was first admitted to hospital, the doctors told us she was three days from being in a coma. I felt devastating guilt. My daughter had been close to death and I’d not noticed. But those dreadful pro-anorexia sites encouraged her illness.
My own puberty was traumatic, too, because my parents divorced in my teens. But I wasn’t even aware of anorexia when I was at school. In fact, the first time I heard of it was when I was 21 and met my husband-to-be, who had a relative with it.
My eldest daughter Rosie has never had any trace of the illness and is happy and confident.
It’s such a sad illness. It stops Lottie seeing just how gorgeous she is.
BOYS EXPECT YOU TO BE SKINNY
Emily-Beth Roscoe, 17, is studying for a diploma in media studies. She lives near Ormskirk, Lancashire, with her father Andrew, 48, a business consultant, her mother Kate, 48, a teaching assistant, and sisters Sarah, 19 and Anna, 14.
Emily-Beth Roscoe, 17, (left) and her mother Kate, 48, (right). Emily-Beth says sometimes she cries because she feels so ugly
Emily-Beth says: There are days when I look in the mirror and feel repulsed by the spots on my face or the way that my thighs look larger when I’m sitting down.
Sometimes I’ll shed a few tears because I feel so ugly. Other days I am happy with what I see. I think it’s just down to whatever mood I’m in.
There is so much pressure on girls to look a certain way now and it’s not helped by the fact that boys of my age can get their hands on all kinds of images at the click of a button.
They expect girls to have figures in perfect proportion, with big boobs and skinny waists, but we all know this is unrealistic as most of these ‘poster girls’ are airbrushed.
Kate says there was nowhere near as much pressure on girls when she was growing up
All the pornography boys watch makes them assume girls are sex maniacs. But most girls I know are too busy fussing over our looks to bother about sex.
I worry what my younger sister will have to put up with over the next few years, though — it takes a strong person to see through all that rubbish and be yourself.
Mum always encourages me to feel positively about my body, but I still have ugly days and I think that annoys her. I guess that’s what being a teenage girl is all about.
Kate says: When I was a teenager in the Eighties, magazines like Just Seventeen were only just becoming popular and there was not nearly as much pressure on girls to look a certain way. Girls grew up more slowly.
Also, there simply wasn’t the technology to manipulate photographs, so as a young teenager I wasn’t body-conscious at all.
Teenagers always want to fit in and Emily-Beth is no different. A few years ago she was very much into labels and we had a few rows about that, but now she’s got a very individual dress sense that suits her. Sometimes I think her skirts can be a little short or inappropriate, but that’s just teenagers for you.
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