Body Image Tips to Raise Healthy, Confident Daughters

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NezMU5qHzLs]

Dr. Robyn Silverman

September is an amazing month for action. You can smell it in the air. Back to work.  Back to school.  Back to…snarky body-bashing comments from “friends,” coworkers, and the girl next door who, as it turns out, isn’t that nice after all.

What are we doing? It’s time to get it together.  If women can’t be nice to each other, who the heck are we all supposed to lean on?  Come on.  Men are…men.  We love them but they don’t understand the plight of women and girls like…well, other women and girls!

I know next month is national Love Your Body Day– in fact, I will be posting an amazing interview with Love Your Body Day event planner, Chenese Lewis this week. But do we really need to wait to love our bodies?  Do we really need to wait to give our friends, colleagues, and family members a compliment, a smile, and a quick “you go girl” to help them feel like they are valuable, worthwhile, and an asset to themselves and society? Yes, I mean despite their weight.  Who cares?  No woman or girl is worth more when they weigh less.  We need to fight back.

Here are some quick tips for parents and yes, other women, to help inspire our girls to hone those assets and reach their potential.  Don’t wait for Love Your Body Day.  Do it now. How about teaching that to your daughter or some other girl today?

Yours,

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

Dieting and Body Image Issues Getting Worse, WSJ says

scale_weightDr. Robyn Silverman

Well, it’s not like we didn’t know it.  Reporter/writer Jeffrey Zaslow reminds us today in the Wall Street Journal that life ain’t what it used to be.  It was 23 years ago that he interviewed some fourth graders in Chicago trying to determine if dieting and poor body image really was as big of a problem as the studies said it was.  Well, it was.  And now, it’s worse.

The celebs in 1986 were into the fitness phase, as your recollection of leg warmers and off the shoulder “flashdance” shirts might remind you– so girls were thin but they were still rather healthy.  Now, well, you know what celebs look like now.  If it’s not Jessica Stroup, it’s Glamour Magazine photoshopping the hell out of Kelly Clarkson making sure her waist looks as tiny as an unrealistic Barbie Doll. Now studies show that kids are striving for zero (or double zero, or triple zero, sheesh) and being sexualized early in the process. As I’ve asked before, what IS the new normal?

I love the way one 1986 fourth graders summed up what she saw in the media when interviewed back then by the WSJ– and what she thinks now as an adult:

Models look like popsicle sticks,” Suzanne Reisman told me in fourth grade. Today, she amends her observation: “Now they look like toothpicks.”

But don’t get me started.

Studies, as cited by the WSJ, suggest:

Researchers have seen a marked increase in children’s concerns about thinness in just the past few years. Between 2000 and 2006, the percentage of girls who believe that they must be thin to be popular rose to 60% from 48%, according to Harris Interactive surveys of 1,059 girls conducted for the advocacy group Girls Inc.

And

A preoccupation with body image is now showing up in children as young as age five, and it can be exacerbated by our culture’s increased awareness of obesity, which leaves many non-overweight kids stressed about their bodies. This dieting by children can stunt growth and brain development.

That’s right– age 5.  Kindergartners are wondering if they’re too fat. Other studies I’ve read in preparation for my book have suggest that even preschool children understand that in our culture “fat is bad.”

I get that we are trying to keep our children healthy by discussing obesity and the need to keep children physically active and eating healthy foods.  But what about the flip-side?  I can’t tell you how many schools have approached me asking about programs for their school only to reveal that while they have some obesity awareness programs in place, they speak nothing about body image, fear of fat, media’s influence on our behavior, and eating disorders.  It’s a crying shame– their schools just don’t have the funds to provide programming for the flip-side of the coin.  Obesity is a hot topic and poor body image is left in its wake.

My colleague, Claire Mysko, author of “You’re Amazing,” hits the nail on the head here– as she told the WSJ how she also feels that so much worry over obesity can make girls obsessive about weight. Of course she acknowledges that the programs are great vehicles to fight a growing problem, “we have to be really careful how we are implementing nutrition and body imaging.”  Yes– we do.

Isn’t it possible to teach girls to be physically active, eat healthily, and feel good about their body shape and size?  it seems to me, that psychological well being is just as important as physical well being– and in fact is tied in so tightly together that separating them out is not only silly, it’s careless.

Your thoughts?

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Hey Kelly Clarkson: Your Real Self isn’t Good Enough For SELF Magazine

kelly-clarkson_untouched and photoshopped

SELF Magazine Warning Needed?

Subject on Cover is Bigger Than  She Actually Appears

Dr. Robyn Silverman

When I was sitting in my Sassy Sisterhood Girl Circle showing how magazine editors photo-shop the hell out of every photo that comes their way, something clicked.  Meaghan, age 13, looked right at me and said.  “So what you’re saying is…the girl on the cover doesn’t even look like the girl on the cover?”

Yup.

Case and point: The Kelly Clarkson cover of SELF Magazine.

I can’t say whether magazine editors are incredibly stupid or off the charts brilliant.  Placing a very slimmed down photo-shopped version of Kelly Clarkson next to the words “Total Body Confidence” is definitely a great way to get our attention.

And  after the buzz of the Kelly Clarkson cover of Self has been scrutinized, dissected, and discussed on many forums in cyber-space, Self’s Editor-in-Chief, Lucy Danzinger, admitted with a shrug, that “Yes, of course we do post-production corrections on our images…SELF magazine inspires and informs our 6 million readers each month to reach their all around personal best.”  Translation: Of course we shave off pieces of someone’s body.  It’s what sells magazines and products advertised in our magazines! Airbrushing  makes people feel that their personal best is not good enough—that’s why they need us!”

Look. There’s no question that the Kelly Clarkson photos were retouched. Everyone admits to it. Other magazines do it– heck– nearly all media does it! I think what troubles me is the “ho-hum” attitude that taken place in media.  We saw it with Miley Cyrus recently and the controversy over whether she did or did not do a stripper pole dance at the Teen Choice Awards—again, it wasn’t about the pole but about how jaded we’ve become about seeing teens push the limits on stage so that they can sell more.  The SELF magazine cover of course wants to sell more magazines—we get that—but their message is so convoluted now.

Case in point: SELF as the title.  Figures that SOMEONE should look like “SELF,” right? Perhaps “SELF…not” or “SELF…photoshopped” would be more appropriate.  In the magazine itself, Kelly Clarkson talks about her weight.

“My happy weight changes… Sometimes I eat more; sometimes I play more. I’ll be different sizes all the time. When people talk about my weight, I’m like, ‘You seem to have a problem with it; I don’t. I’m fine!’ I’ve never felt uncomfortable on the red carpet or anything.” (Kelly Clarkson)

Thus the words in the magazine say one thing—but the images say another.  It’s very smart…and very hurtful to girls and women.  It says “This is Kelly  Clarkson…she is happy with her weight…but look how thin we can make her look!” Sad.

The editor in chief talks about how proud she is of Kelly Clarkson and her confidence–

“Kelly Clarkson exudes confidence, and is a great role model for women of all sizes and stages of their life. She works out and is strong and healthy, and our picture shows her confidence and beauty. She literally glows from within. That is the feeling we’d all want to have. We love this cover and we love Kelly Clarkson.”

Translation: She glows from within—we just needed to fix this yucky outside she has.  Ya know…fat doesn’t sell.

But the thing I hated the most was the nonchalant way they explained themselves. SELF editors actually felt that they were right to  give Kelly Clarkson a thinner body on their September issue—not because they want to sell magazines—not because they thought there was a bad angle– but because they don’t think that covers should reflect reality (i.e. people are actually normal and human), but “inspire women to want to be their best”.

Their best? By providing something that doesn’t actually exist?  By degrading the woman on the cover by putting a version of herself on there that isn’t actually her?

I think our friends over at Jezebel.com said it well:

Danziger was right: the point is that magazine covers “inspire women to want to be their best.” And the best way to keep women reading Self‘s workout recommendations and buying the useless beauty products advertised on its pages is to inspire them to keep chasing after a version of themselves that Doesn’t. Really. Exist.

Unfortunately—Kelly Clarkson doesn’t seem very bothered by the cover shot.

She says makes that clear so her blog:

“we decided the cover of the album and just in case you haven’t seen it i’ll post it! it’s very colorful and they have definitely photo-shopped the crap out of me but i don’t care haha! whoever she is, she looks great ha!”

Whoever she is?  Is this SELF or The National Inquirer? Next stop: Aliens. Especially if they’re thin.

And how might this affect our girls? Because we can’t forget– there are millions reading this magazine and looking at the pictures for “inspiration.” According to one grieving mother over on Self.com where she commented about this topic she wrote:

I was appalled at seeing Lucy on the Today show trying to rationalize the drastic photoshopping Kelly Clarkson. People cannot be photoshopped. My beloved daughter died in May of consequences of Bulimia. Her 8 year struggle with body image was not helped by the constant barrage of “the right look”. Of all publications, Self should be promoting health and acceptance of ones self, not some fake Hollywood ideal. The cover of Self is a sad spectacle of our society. You should be ashamed of YOUR self! Signed Grieving Mother

There ARE repercussions to our actions.  Girls and women actually look at this stuff and think “I should look like this.” But even Kelly Clarkson doesn’t look like this! Can you say “false advertising?”

Oh well. See? Nobody seems to care about this stuff anymore at all.  We’ve just gotten complacent. Of course, more and more teens are suffering from body image issues—but please, keep going folks.  Provide us with our best version of ourselves.  Even if they don’t exist.

So…perhaps magazines need to come with a warning label like on cigarettes—or like on the side mirror of a car.  “Object on cover is bigger than she actually appears.” What do you think?

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Avatar Diet: Being thin in "second life" can make you thin in your first?

Credit: RTI International

Credit: RTI International

The Avatar Diet: Does this Avatar Make My Butt Look Big?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Trying to get rid of that belly fat? Looking to thin down those thighs? Want to straighten out your body image and “combat obesity” while looking at your computer screen? It’s time to join the virtual world!

If you were ever wondering if a vitual representation of oneself (Second Life) could really have any influence on the fitness or appearance of the actual person in real life, according to one study out of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, it can.

The researchers at RTI suggest that having a physically fit and thin avatar may just be the next thing to put this “obesity epidemic” behind us.  I mean, who needs Atkins or South Beach when you can have The Avatar Diet? The researchers found that having a thin and physically avatar fit may encourage individuals to become healthier and more physically fit in their real lives.  Yes– that’s right– people are more likely to engage in physical activities in their real lives if their avatars in Second Life engage in physical activities.

“Based on these preliminary results, it seems likely that virtual reality users may adjust their identity to be consistent with that of their avatars,” –Elizabeth Dean (research survey methodologist at RTI and the study’s lead author)

The results suggest that 80 percent of respondents who reported high levels of physical activity for their avatars reported participating in high levels of physical activity in their real lives. This is where it really gets strange for me though– this link is suggested to be causal (the avatar is thin which causes the person to go and get fit too)– rather than a simple correlation (the avatar is thin AND the person is thin). It seems logical that if someone was to make a representation of themselves, that if they were “fit” and going to the gym, they would make their avatar do so as well.  It would “represent” them.  Not sure where the causal link idea is coming in– especially because good research does not suggest causation– simply, correlations.  But I digress…

Another aspect of the study showed that if the participants were interviewed by a thin avatar for this study rather than an obese avatar (this is just getting strange), the participant would be more likely to confess a higher BMI (Body Mass Index).  In addition, almost 3/4 of participants, when interviewed by the thin avatar, told the interviewer that their avatar was also thin.  But when interviewed by the obese avatar, only 1/3 of participants described their avatar shape as thin. Apparently, people like to bend the truth about their own bodies in Second Life around thin avatars.  Geez.  Just like high school again.

Interestingly, the virtual world is becoming a place where some health professionals are sending their clients for treatment.  Since people are apparently influenced by their avatars, and want to live up to what they put out there in the virtual world, hanging out in Second Life could make a difference in one’s first.

Are they creating virtual gyms and virtual low cal meals too? This one remains to be seen.  Considering that this study was only done with 27 participants (a very low research number which provides very low power to the results), we can’t totally buy what these researchers are saying. And of course there is the lingering question– does size really matter?  Does it really have to?

But no doubt, people will give “avatar diet” a shot.  No quick pill to lose weight this time– just a quick dose of Second Life.

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Too Fat? Discrimination Against Surgeon General Nominee Dr. Regina Benjamin

Too fat to be Surgeon General?

Too fat to be Surgeon General?

Too Fat to Be Surgeon General?

Discriminatory Claims Circulating Against Dr. Regina Benjamin’s “Fitness” to Be Surgeon General

Dr. Robyn Silverman

There have been some unfortunate derogatory groans about Dr. Regina Benjamin’s Fitness to be President Obama’s pick for Surgeon General.  Her weight is throwing opinions of her fitness for the job off kilter.

Case and point from one angry blogger:  “Rather than select a fat Black woman Obama should have chose a Black woman with a body mass index of 25 or less.”

Someone else asked: “How can Dr. Benjamin promote healthy eating if she herself is obese?”

and

“One of the greatest health threats in our population is obesity. Now we have an obese Surgeon General as a role model. How is she to impact the nation’s health if she can’t even take care of herself?”

Of course, her qualifications speak for themselves:

  • Bachelor’s degree in 1979 from Xavier University of Louisiana
  • Attended Morehouse School of Medicine from 1980 to 1982
  • Received a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1984.
  • Completed her residency in family practice at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in 1987
  • Founded the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in 1990 in Alabama
  • Serving as Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic its CEO since.

Today, the National Organization for Women (NOW) is speaking out saying that Dr. Benjamin “personifies the message of NOW’s Love Your Body Day (LYBD) campaign, which promotes equality for all people regardless of physical appearance.”

My friend and body image book contributor, Chenese Lewis is also an actress, plus-sized model, and chair of the LYBD committee for Hollywood NOW. She had something to say on the topic:

“Discrimination based on appearance is wrong in any form, period,” Lewis said. “It’s unfortunate that this is even an issue when Dr. Benjamin is more than qualified and capable of handling the position of Surgeon General. This is yet another example of how society puts more value on outer appearance over ability, integrity, and character.”

Zoe Ann Nicholson, President of Pacific Shore NOW, was also outraged about the discriminatory slaps Dr. Benjamin was receiving due to her weight:

“When I see Dr. Benjamin, I see a woman I can trust,” Nicholson said. “If I have chest pains, it might not be a heart attack or something related to weight. She might understand that just because I am big, a doctor should not give me double doses. Both of these things have happened to me. Since most American women are size 14 or more, I am really encouraged to have a Surgeon General who can see us as people, not as number on a body fat scale chart.”

So…what do you think?  Should the Surgeon General pick be thinner? Does weight negate her stellar qualifications? Give us your opinion.

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The Impact of Dads on their Daughters' Body Image

dads and daughters

Dads impact on Daughters Body Image

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Do dads have an impact on girls’ body image development? You betcha!

I just finished a great interview with Joe Kelly aka “The Dad Man” in preparation for writing the chapter on Dads for my body image book.

Number 1 question on my list: How important are Dads when it comes to girls’ body image development?  After all, moms and daughters have been studied, analyzed, discussed, and discussed again—but issues of Dad’s and daughters have taken a back seat.

The impact of Dads (and step dads) on their daughters is profound.  As the first man in their lives, Dads set the precedent of how daughters believe men see them.  What do they value?  Are looks a major issue?  Do they see their daughters as a full “human” with thoughts, feelings, interests, and principles—or simply as a girl who should look and act a certain way?

Studies tell us that what parents say– yes, that includes Dads too– have a powerful influence on how girls see themselves, their dieting habits, and their overall views about body shape and size. Fathers, who tend to tease their children more than Moms, have been reported to have a very harsh impact on their daughters and their self image. In fact, girls whose dads made fun of them are far more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies,  to exhibit eating disordered  behavior, to have low self-esteem, and suffer from depression. Of course, Dads can also have a positive impact on girls and how they view themselves– so what can you do, Dads?

Mr. Kelly underscores that Dads need to see their daughters as individuals not just as girls.  Every girl is different—every child is different—what is their daughter all about? Certainly weight shouldn’t be the first thing (if at all) that comes to mind! In fact, weight should be irrelevant considering looks change constantly and should not have a bearing on who your daughter is as a person.  Weight is a cultural issue now—it shouldn’t be YOUR issue.

So how can Dads have a positive affect on their daughters’ body image development?

Mr. Kelly’s advises Dads to stop buying into all the cultural crud and see their daughters as multifaceted people. Show her that the media , the “product” world, the celebrity world and the advertising world fosters a bunch of lies and the measure of a woman is based on who she is, who she helps, how she feels, how she uses her mind—not on how she looks, how much she weighs, and what size she wears.

He also wants Dads to remember that for every advertisement out there– imagine your daughter’s face on the model or actresses body.  Would you really want that to be YOUR daughter? Do you really want her receiving THESE messages? For example (thank you for this ugly gem,  Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth, of which I am an advisory board member)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB2MDYzx5OY]

I know…yuck.

Remember, Dads, your daughter is looking to you to understand how she is viewed by 49% of the world.  What do you want her to see when she looks in the mirror? What do you want her to think when she is around boys—and later, men?  Talk to her about it.  Show her how you feel.

And for those of you who are telling your daughters that they are “too fat” or some other form of appearance criticism, please know that you are overtly contributing to the body image problems your daughter has now and your daughter will have in the future.  But to those Dads who are remaining silent, don’t think you are in the right.  By saying nothing at all, you are covertly contributing to the problem.  Yes, by saying nothing at all, you are letting the world speak for you.

Take a stance—then take a stand. Be the father she needs and deserves.

**Have a story about how your Dad or step Dad influenced your body image (negative or positive)? Please send me your story for the book (to be published in 2010 by Harlequin Books)!

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Dr. Robyn on the Radio talking about Body Image

Dr. Robyn SilvermanCraig Cohendr. pauline wallin 6-15-09 body image

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—

  1. Some studies tell us that up to 80% of girls are dissatisfied with their bodies and have a fear of being fat
  2. And over half are dieting at any given time
  3. Almost 2/3 of girls use “unhealthy weight control behaviors” (whether it’s laxatives or purging or diet pills or powders)  to lose weight
  4. Anywhere from half to ¾ of girls say they weigh too much whether the medical world would say they do or not
  5. 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.

I want to add this fascinating and “sick” new development. “Now even Vogue thinks you can be too thin”

And how about this for insane? Bony models are digitally retouched to look fuller.

Listen to the broadcast to find out more!

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Kim Kardashian Body Image Message: Hypocritical or Genuine?

kim-kardashian_lifeandstyle

Kim Kardashian, curvaceous reality star, is featured in Life and Style Magazine this month.  She’s talking about her body (not surprising– everyone else does!) and what she really thinks of her curves.  It’s amazing how controversial these reality stars and celebs can be– even if they seem to be doing something good for women. On the one hand, she’s got some great quotes that relay a “say what you want” attitude and an “I love my body the way it is” message.  Yes, of course we like that! or example, she says;

“I love my body the way it is,” the 28-year-old tells Life & Style magazine. “I’m not perfect. I have cellulite, so what.”

And “If there’s a picture that’s not perfect, where I have cellulite, then people say I’m big. I’m built a certain way, and you just can’t change the way you’re built,” the reality star says of her body. “In Hollywood, people are used to stick-skinny women, and that’s never going to be me.” Again, good stuff.

What’s more, the magazine says that the pictures of Kim Kardashian in her swimsuit have not been retouched and are therefore au natural…for all to see. Again, good.  Reality for the reality star.

On the other hand– and here’s the possible hypocritical part– you tell me… Kim happens to be promoting her new fitness DVD series called…get this… ‘Fit in Your Jeans by Friday.’  If she’s so “OK” with her body and wants others to be as well, why not just get jeans that fit instead of the other way around? Anyone?

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Do Latinas and African American Girls Have Better Body Image?

do ethnic girls have better body image?

Do Latinas and African American Girls Have Better Body Image?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

A new localized study caught my eye this morning because it talked about a discrepancy in the way Latinas viewed their bodies in comparison to the way that mainstream American women view their bodies. In particular, the researchers suggested that the Latinas they followed wanted to lose weight due to health reasons rather than for looks. So do Latinas have a more positive body image? What about African American girls and women?

While it’s been suggested for quite some time that Latinas and African American women have a more positive body image than their Caucasian counterparts, the sample size of this study was quite small (35 Mexican American immigrants) so more research to add more confidence to the researchers conclusion are necessary. The fact that these women were born and raised in another country certainly makes it much more likely that they would have a better body image than girls and women in American who are constantly exposed to media that makes them feel inferior and “less than.”

Studies don’t always agree on the topic. Of course, while middle to upper class European-American families tend to be the focus of most empirical research on body image, all social classes and ethnic groups are becoming increasingly affected as shown in the research produced in the last 20 years.

What if the Latinas were born in the United States? Body image plummets. The American Association of University Women found that Latinas between the ages of nine and fifteen actually maintained a negative body image and those who were “happy” with themselves dropped by 38% as they increased in age. More recent studies explain that Latinas born in the United States, and thus exposed to American culture, are more likely to prefer a smaller size and express the same concerns about their body shape and weight as European-American females. These girls believe that they are too fat and should strive for a thinner body. In fact, Latinas were recently reported to have the lowest levels of body satisfaction than any other girls in the United States (Robinson). Even the youngest children are compromised.

While there have been hints of body image problems among Asian-American and African-American adolescent girls, lack of ethnically diverse research has caused such concerns to remain overlooked. In the recent past, studies have shown that the leanest 25% of Asian-American girls were significantly more dissatisfied with their bodies than European-American girls. In addition, although it has been shown in earlier studies that African-American girls are most secure with their bodies as a result of the cultural tolerance among African Americans for larger women, and lower incidence of weight-related discrimination than their European-American counterparts, African-American girls are not immune to American weight issues. It has been recently noted that there are no racial differences between black and white girls in their efforts to lose weight or to practice chronic dieting (i.e. Schreiber)

Not surprisingly, concerns have been voiced about young African-American girls’ recent exposure to very thin African American media models and actors and their possible negative influences on body perceptions and attitudes. Interestingly, in the last five years there have been a significant amount of weight loss concerns among prominent African American celebrities such as talk-show host, Oprah Winfrey, and others, found that Black female stars in the film, music and fashion industry are now just as thin as their European-American counterparts. Girls just don’t feel that they are “enough.”

Such unachievable ideals have been on the rise in European-American culture as illustrated by the models featured in many well-read magazines, on the internet, and on television during the last several decades and this trend has been blamed for America’s weight obsession. However, thinner, more diverse media personalities are fairly new to the African American population and culture and are likely raising weight awareness in more diverse communities.

We’ll talk more about this in my upcoming book which will be out in 2010. Would you like to conttribute a story to it? Please do!

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Girls are Diet Doping to Lose Weight

Weight and women

Dangerous Diet Doping: Being Thin at all Costs

Dr. Robyn Silverman

As we know, “feeling fat” has become a common part of everyday life for girls and women. Dieting is the norm. Complaining about weight is a expected and encourages. And doing anything you can to achieve the perfect thin body, accepted and supported.

A recent online poll of 993 teens and women has suggested that an alarming 1 in 10 girls and women are using drugs to lose weight. Were they in an unhealthy range for weight? Nope. Two thirds of responders–67%– were in the healthy weight range. What does that tell us? The healthy weight range is not perceived as thin enough. Hollywood hard bodies and unattainable rock-hard abs are what we’re striving for. No matter what people say, the diet doping is not often linked to losing weight for health (how could it?), it’s linked to looks.

Many times, when attempting to lose weight, young girls subscribe to unhealthy practices such as quick fad diets or acts of purging including vomiting and laxative abuse instead of using a healthy regiment of exercise and maintenance of a balanced diet. Girls and women are looking for the quick fix– THINNESS NOW- not what’s going to make them healthiest in the long run. In doing so, they turn to what IS NOT healthy. In fact, in the poll, 10% of respondents to the poll owned up to taking stimulants like cocaine and speed, 26% said they were abusing diet pills or laxatives and one in 5 admitted to suffering form eating disorders. What’s healthy about that? It’s a practice I like to call “diet doping” and I’ll be talking about it in my upcoming book coming out in 2010.

Most people might think that the African American girls and the Latina girls steer clear of such practices. Nope. If you think it’s only the Caucasian girls you’d be wrong. The intense pressure to diet has amazing cross over affects. Studies over the last 25 years have shown that rate of these subclinical eating practices, dieting and purging, and diet doping are increasing among all social and ethnic classes.

It’s crucial that we begin conversations with our girls early about what it truly means to be healthy. In doing so, we must also commit to being healthy ourselves and refrain from criticizing ourselves, using destructive methods to lose weight, or applauding others who lose weight at all costs as being “disciplined” and “healthy.” Let’s get back to basics. I mean, remember when healthy meant having good balanced nutrition, energy, good support and well managed stress? Let’s go back to that. Who’s with me? Let’s do it.

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