Dubai: The latest trend on social media – the #A4waist challenge – has now received a global backlash for promoting unhealthy body images.
The trend shows women taking selfies while holding a vertical sheet of A4 paper in front of their bodies, to show how small their waist measurements are.
And how small is a sheet of A4 paper? Its just 21 centimetres wide.
The worrying trend has brought up the negative portrayal of women’s body image back into the spotlight, as they can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, and even depression.
Dr Yaseen Aslam, consultant psychiatrist at The Lighthouse Arabia in Dubai, has warned that even though such trends can affect women of all ages, teenagers are however, more vulnerable to online peer pressure.
“Parents should be aware of any changes in their child’s behaviour, particularly if they start exercising more than usual and are more pre-occupied about their body image,” he said.
“The reason why trends are harmful is because they have a lot more impact through social media, as information is disseminated quickly… which can implicate [problems] of low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and trigger eating disorders,” said Dr Aslam.
A study conducted late last year by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, showed that women’s emotional attachment to Facebook can lead to poor perception of their body, which can be followed by risky dieting.
The study included 128 college-age women who completed an online survey about their eating habits and their emotional connection to Facebook. The results showed that women who had a greater emotional connection to Facebook were more likely to compare their bodies to their friends’ bodies and to engage in more risky dieting, WebMD.com reported.
However, those who did not use the site to compare themselves to others were less likely to be concerned about body image or engage in risky dieting, the study found.
The #A4waist challenge first popped up on China’s popular microblogging site Weibo, and started to gain worldwide attention when the photos were posted up on Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites.
In retaliation to the #A4waist challenge, hundreds of women in the last few days have posted up selfies while holding up A4 sheets of paper horizontally (29.7cm) across their waists, with some going as far as to holding sheets of A2 paper (42cm wide) as a comparison.