I'm a 15-year-old boy, and I know too many young women who struggle with eating disorders. Eating disorders affect millions of people. They damage bodies and even cause death. I think one of the reasons so many get sucked into eating disorders is because girls in our society have an ever-increasing pressure on them to be stick thin — not healthy, but skinny. The message girls receive from everywhere that they have to be the smallest of all or they can't even dream of being popular or accepted.

I just read an article in the March 5 People Magazine titled, "Dancer's Image." It tells of a 9-year-old who was not accepted to the San Francisco Ballet School because she is 4 feet 1 inch and 64 pounds. That is not fat. That's not even heavy. This girl should have been judged by her love for dance and her ability to perform. Instead, she was judged by her appearance and told she was, "too fat." This little girl had a dream, and now she can't fulfill it because of someone else's idea of what makes a good dancer. I think that is sad.

Last fall, I got to go to Mexico with my dad, and one day we were in a big shopping center. I noticed pictures of the models around the store and pointed them out to my dad. We decided that there was no way these pictures would have been displayed in stores in the United States. People here would have seen these models as "too fat."

All you have to do is look through a magazine at the checkout stand of any store and you see why young girls feel the increasing need to be thin. All you have to do is listen to guys talk about who the prettiest and most popular girls are in the school (and they are always the smallest) and you see why other girls are dying to be thin. We need to fight this twisted view that is being planted in the minds of so many young women. As a society we need to focus more on what's inside and help young girls realize that is where they need to build self-esteem.

That's why I'm writing this letter. I want to tell the San Francisco Ballet School that they are wrong and they better re-examine their admission criteria. I want to tell other teenage boys that they are wrong to always be talking about which girls are thinnest and prettiest, especially around other girls. I want to tell the publishers of magazines and newspapers that they are wrong to always be printing pictures of anorexic models. Eating disorders can be defeated, but we are the ones who need to defeat them.

Russell Wilcox