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ON A DIET BY AGE OF 11; Shock survey of children & food moved me to tears, says TV's Jane.


A SHOCKING new survey has found that 15 per cent of Welsh girls have been on a diet by the age of 11.

The survey, commissioned for BBC Wales current affairs programme X-Ray, quizzed 3,000 youngsters aged 11 and 12 in North Wales to discover their attitudes to food and dieting.

And like teenage Newport mum Jenny Richards, who has just won Channel 4 programme Model Behaviour, many revealed they had been bullied or teased about their weight at school.That bullying led a significant number to begin dieting.

The survey found:

A worrying 48 per cent of girls said they were embarrassed about their body; 29 per cent of girls said they wanted to be a pop star like Geri Halliwell - while just three per cent wanted to be like Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis.

Just 29 per cent of boys and girls knew they should aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day; And boys listed pizza, chips and burgers as their favourite food.

Pembroke-born X-Ray presenter Jane Harvey admits she was shocked and moved to tears by some of the things the children she spoke to said.

"I spoke to a number of young people with anorexia and I found it a very moving experience, " says Jane.

"When I spoke to kids in the classroom they said what you'd expect them to say, that it's OK to be fat and a bit overweight.

"But when I spoke to them on a one to one they would say things like: 'I hate my stomach, my mum says there's nothing wrong with me but I think I'm fat."

Jane showed a class of schoolgirls in Llangollen pictures of Posh and Ginger Spice, both before and after they lost lots of weight, and asked them who they preferred.

"They all said they preferred the thinner versions of them, " says Jane. "They associated the skeletal images of the Spice Girls with something they wanted to be. Britney Spears was the primary role model for the 11-year old girls and in the piece we show a video of her in which she's dressed as a nine-year-old girl. The girls see her in that and that's how they want to be.

"Boys aren't excluded from having a poor body image either. Robbie Williams' weight has fluctuated since he left Take That and again the boys wanted to be like him at his thinnest."

Jane says as well as the way pop stars look the images in glossy magazines do not help promote a positive body image.

"The survey found that a lot of the girls had already been on a diet because of bullying or teasing, " says Jane.

"And what's more worrying is that the nutritionist we spoke to at Ysbyty Gwynedd said that the number of girls who'd been on a diet was likely to double by the time they reached 13."

You can see X-Ray tomorrow evening on BBC One Wales at 7pm.

I was bullied about looks, says model TEENAGE mum Jenny Richards was bullied at school for being skinny.

Now she is set for stardom after beating 4,000 hopefuls to win top TV competition Model Behaviour.

The victory is a remarkable comeback for Newportborn Jenny, 18, who has sensationally revealed she was bullied at school for being skinny and having big ears.

The 5ff 8ins beauty said: "I was horrible looking and called anorexic. One girl bullied me every day."

Jenny says despite efforts to put on weight she can burn off anything she eats without even trying.

"The judges didn't want me to lose any more weight so I could eat what I want although they did say I should have more fresh fruit and vegetables, " says Jenny who weighs in at 7st 6lb and whose vital statistics are 32-23-32.

"When I was younger I used to have loads of milk shakes to build me up because like the rest of the family I'm quite skinny.

"But they didn't make any difference and I am one of those people who can eat what they want and still stay the same."

Jenny says she is riding the crest of a wave at the moment.

"I am absolutely delighted.

"When I had my little girl Lacey when I was 16 I thought my dreams to be a model were over - but now I'm going to be a cover girl.

"I just can't believe it."

Jenny, who as well as winning the chance to be on Cosmo's cover, has been signed to Naomi Campbell's modelling agency, Premier.

Model Behaviour judge and Cosmopolitan editor Lorraine Candy said: "Jenny has done brilliantly and worked so hard, she deserves to win.

"She didn't even make the final five and only was invited to join the others when it didn't work out for one girl.

"She's a true success story."


EMOTIVE: Jane Harvey spoke to children who wanted to look like Geri (right) COVER GIRL: Cosmo was TV show's prize MUM'S A MODEL: Jenny with daughter Lacey
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 4, 2001
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