Dr. Robyn Silverman, Dr. Pauline Wallin & host Craig Cohen on SmartTalk radio this AM talking about body image. Listen now!
This morning, I had the pleasure of being on WITF SmartTalk radio, a division of NPR, talking about body image. We discussed everything from the media’s influence, the parental influence, peer influence, and plastic surgery.
Some of the topics:
(1) How early can issues of body image be seen in children? Studies over the last 40 years tell us that children as young as 3 or 4 (and certainly by kindergarten) already perceive the societal pressures to be thin. Whether the children themselves are thin or what the medical world would call “overweight” when shown pictures of all different children they label the largest one as the child they wouldn’t want to look like at all, the one who has the fewest friends, the one who they’d least likely want to be friends with, the one who is the meanest—and I’ve had plenty of parents who’ve come to me and said that their 4 year old asked them if they were too fat, their 5 year old wants to know if they need to go on a diet, and other weight-oriented comments that would cause any parent alarm.
(2) How pervasive is this problem of negative body image? Let me first say that the issue is so pervasive that it is no longer a “clinical” issue—we have created a culture of girls who are obsessed with weight such that it is more normal to be on a diet than not—to feel bad about your body than not—to think about your weight than to not– There are many good studies on this topic and the statistics can be startling—
- Some studies tell us that up to 80% of girls are dissatisfied with their bodies and have a fear of being fat
- And over half are dieting at any given time
- Almost 2/3 of girls use “unhealthy weight control behaviors” (whether it’s laxatives or purging or diet pills or powders) to lose weight
- Anywhere from half to ¾ of girls say they weigh too much whether the medical world would say they do or not
- The main thing to notice here is that feeling fat and going on a diet is becoming the norm—and dieting is more prevalent than not-dieting.
What are the body image issues for boys? Boys are dealing with something that is now informally being called “The Adonis Complex”—named after the Greek mythology figure Adonis who was half man and half god—he was considered the ultimate in masculine good looks and ideal physique for men. And, if you are familiar with Greek mythology, Adonis had a body that was so perfectly beautiful that Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, fell in love with the site of him. Boys are hearing messages about how they are supposed to look too– and they internalize these messages and are prone towards negative eating practices, steroids, and other alternative methods to thin out and buff up.
Listen to the broadcast to find out more!