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Recover(ed) or at least a bit closer: Teen Blogger Rebecca’s Two-Year Anniversary of Starting Treatment for Her Eating Disorder

Eating Disorders. The Recovery process is a hard road and the length of struggle varies depending on the person. Many wouldn’t dispute that there is no silver bullet.  What may be controversial is my colleague, Jenni Schaefer’s concept that one can indeed recover fully from an Eating Disorder. But more and more, those who have previously suffered from eating disorders have accepted full recovery as a possibility– where an eating disorder is no longer “given a seat at the table” and the person who once succumbed to dangerous and unhealthy eating practices and poor body image no longer allows that ugly Gremlin to be in charge.  Our teen blogger is currently celebrating the 2 year anniversary of her recovery journey and she is most certainly heading towards what she feels is full recovery.  Congratulations, Rebecca. Here is where she is now:

Recover(ed) or at least a bit closer: On My Two-Year Anniversary of Starting Treatment for My Eating Disorder

By: Rebecca Tishman

Recovered. Well, maybe not quite but I’m definitely getting there.

Today, is my two-year anniversary of going to inpatient treatment. Thinking back to two years ago is frightening and brings a wave of emotions. The picture was bleak: Barely able to stand. Unable to keep up with friendships. Blacking out multiple times a day. Shivering even under layers upon layers of clothes. Yelling at my parents no matter what they said or did. Afraid of every food except for two. Angry at absolutely everything.

No glamorization here. I absolutely hate my eating disorder and wouldn’t want to go back to it even though it takes an excruciating amount of work to stay in recovery. It’s a daily battle but I’m willing to keep fighting it if it means one day my eating disorder will be gone for good. One day it will just be ME, living in an amazing and healthy body able to do anything I want.

Intuitive Eating. I thought I would never engage in that. When I was in treatment and people mentioned intuitive eating and gave us books to read about it I thought to myself “What the hell? Intuitive Eating doesn’t exist; I’m just going to go back to my eating disorder as soon as I leave this place anyway.” Well after two years on a very, very rigid meal plan, with certain exchanges to meet at every meal of the day, and another year or two before that on other meal plans, I am finally off of all meal plans! Boy does it feel amazing. I eat what I want, when I want, and don’t engage in ED behaviors. This past weekend with a friend of mine I was able to make macaroni and cheese and make an amazingly scrumptious blueberry and raspberry oat loaf. I remember just two years ago when I was forbidden by doctors and family members to cook anything! My how things have changed. I’m forcing them to change.

I’m actually listening to my body—a voice I blocked out for so long. I refuse to be my eating disorder any longer or adhere to the rules my eating disorder establishes. I am tuning in to my healthy body’s messages and relying on hunger cues. It’s bizarre and frightening to feel hunger, thirst, fullness, etc; all things that I turned off for many, many years.

Until recently, I confused hunger cues and thirst cues, unable to tell whether I needed to hydrate myself or eat something. It’s bizarre to not understand what is happening within your own body. Trust me. But now that I’m refusing to relapse, even though it would be so easy to just give up and go back to that life I described earlier (because it sounded so appealing, right?) I’m learning what hunger feels like and I eat when I feel those feelings inside. I stop when I’m full or have had enough.

If I don’t like what I took a bite of, I get something else. When I was following my meal plan, I didn’t listen to whether I liked the food or not, I ate what my meal plan told me to eat regardless of how it tasted. Not anymore. I’ve discovered I like a lot of food, there’s a lot I don’t like too. I’m rediscovering myself everyday—like a rebirth- and opening myself to new options.

I no longer load up my plate thinking;

  • “What am I supposed to eat?”
  • “How many starches do I need?”
  • “Is this enough fat?”
  • “Does this count as a protein?”
  • “If I skip something now, do I have to make it up later?”
  • “What if I’m overeating?”
  • “What if I’m under-eating?”

Instead I think;

  • “What am I hungry for?”
  • “How hungry am I?”
  • “ What do I want to eat?”
  • “What tastes good?”
  • “What do I remember liking the last time I tried it?”

That’s an inner dialogue I’ve enjoyed having over the past few weeks and I look forward to having for many more days and years to come.

I couldn’t be more excited to honor my two-year anniversary. I’m thrilled that I’ve made it this long in recovery. Though I’ve had moments, days, even weeks, where I was somewhat uncommitted to recovery and on the verge of a relapse, I’m still here in recovery and loving it. As my therapist put it on my birthday, my two-year anniversary this year is more of my birthday and the truth is, she’s right. This year I am two years old and I have a whole life ahead of me. All it takes is my commitment and I, for one, have no plans to waiver.

Recover(ed)…here I come.

Many congrats to our fabulous teen blogger, Rebecca Tishman.  Please take a moment to react her Rebecca’s article here or on Facebook. No doubt she would love to hear from you.

Other articles by Rebecca:

Vegetarianism and Eating Disorders

Speaking out against Fat Talk

Summer Renaissance: Body Image Rebirth

Fast Food: The New F Word

Are Schools Helping Students Down the Road of Eating Disorders?

Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Today Show Talking about Body Image & Her New Book!

Dr. Robyn sat down with Meredith Vieira on The Today Show to talk about body image, her book Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, and the alarming trends of low body esteem in girls. A recent poll shows that 95 percent of girls between the ages of 16 and 21 want to change their bodies in some way. Even in young girls, low self esteem, disordered eating, and dieting have become more commonplace. Working on behalf of girls and women, Dr. Robyn Silverman is speaking across the country to help them identify their assets, bolster their body image and learn to thrive in a world that values thinness at all costs.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTk2N70CnUM]

New Study Says Weight Teasing Has Profound Effects On Preteens and Teens


relational aggression and mean girl bullying

We know that bullying and relational aggression can strip children of their dignity, self esteem, and desire to go to school.  Having focused on appearance-based discrimination in my own research and in preparation for writing Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I quickly realized that what I termed “body bashing” or “body bullying” can be particularly insidious as it plays on a major insecurity in many preteens and teens.

So it isn’t surprising yet still sad that a new study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology suggests that teasing about weight can have profound effects on how young people perceive their bodies. Read more

Gearing Up For Love Your Body Day with Chenese Lewis

Love Your Body Day: Interview with Chenese Lewis, Hollywood NOW event organizer

By: Dr. Robyn Silverman

I had the pleasure of interviewing the very beautiful and the very busy Chenese Lewis, actress, radio host, motivational speaker, plus size model– and if that isn’t enough– the creator of the National Organization for Women’s Love Your Body Day event for her Hollywood Chapter! The confidence of the women around her increases manyfold whenever Chenese is around. She radiates body esteem and gives a boost to women’s body image.  Find out why she thinks everyone should love their body on October 24, 2009 and every other day of the year.

Maybe God put an extra dose of confidence in me so I have enough to share with others.   –Chenese Lewis

Dr. Robyn: What great things are you doing to honor Love Your Body Day and when and where is it all happening?

Chenese Lewis: Since 1998 the National Organization for Women (NOW) has celebrated Love Your Body Day. In honor of the day, I created an event for my local chapter, Hollywood NOW, and this marks my 4th year putting on the event. Hollywood NOW’s Love Your Body Day celebration consists of vendors, entertainment, and a “real women” fashion show. It’s a festive day with a positive message. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, October 24, 2009 from 12-4pm in the West Hollywood Park Auditorium and the admission is free.

Dr. Robyn: The concept of Love Your Body Day is straight forward– we should all love our bodies no matter what the shape or size! But what does LYBD mean to you and why celebrate it in such a big way?

Chenese Lewis: I think everyday should be Love Your Body Day for everyone, but unfortunately many women hate themselves instead and feel they don’t have anything to celebrate, which is exactly why I think this event is so important. I have had people come to me and tell me before attending Love Your Body Day and learning about the positive body image message I promote, they felt as if there was something wrong with them and they were “less than” the rest of society. I’ve had people who have confessed to me that they have had eating disorders they never told anyone about. I’ve had women who have told me that they gained weight after child birth and their self esteem was so low they though about ending their life.

Through this event I have had the opportunity to change lives. I had no idea it would affect people to this magnitude because the way the event is set up its just a fun and entertaining day. But just being in a uplifting and accepting atmosphere, with positive influences and seeing other women who look like you that are confident and happy, is so empowering, even to me!

The event has grown each year. It’s real grassroots and we don’t have a big budget. It’s fueled by my passion and is a labor of love. Why not celebrate in a big way, we’re worth it!

Dr. Robyn: Given that we live in a world that seems to celebrate thinness and denigrate women for deviating from that ‘thin ideal,” how have YOU come to love your body?

This is a question I get often, and I wish I had I great story to tell but I don’t. I never had a problem with confidence or self esteem in my life. I contribute it to the cultural and regional environment I grew up in (African American in the South) as well as unconditional love and support form my parents. Being plus size just wasn’t that big of a deal, I had a happy childhood, did great in school, very social, so I didn’t have to learn to love my body, it was just second nature. I feel that everything happens for a reason, and my life experiences have lead me to what I am today, maybe God put an extra dose of confidence in me so I have enough to share with others.

Dr. Robyn: For those girls and women out there who are yo yo dieting, starving themselves, or constantly criticize their own bodies (or someone else’s) for not fitting in with society’s thin ideal, what advice do you have for them in honor of this special day?

My advice would be to stop trying to achieve this “perfect ideal” that doesn’t exist. No one is perfect, everyone has flaws, and those flaws make us unique and beautiful. If you are constantly unsatisfied with yourself and always trying to look a certain way you’re not meant to be, you will go crazy. Its such a freeing and peaceful feeling when you accept yourself as you are and start living your life instead of bashing yourself. Your weight is just a number not your worth.

Your weight is just a number not your worth. –Chenese Lewis

Dr. Robyn: For those people who won’t be able to make it to the celebration, how do you suggest that they get in on the festivities and the spirit of the day?

Chenese Lewis: I would suggest that you do something that boosts your confidence to celebrate you. For me it would be pampering myself by getting a manicure and pedicure,and a new outfit! Plan a fun day with the girls where no one is allowed to say anything negative about themselves and everyone showers each other with compliments! Do something fun that celebrates you as you are right this moment!

For more information about Hollywood NOW’s Love Your Body Day visit www.loveyourbodyday.com and for more about Chenese visit www.cheneselewis.com

Source: www.loveyourbodyday.com
Hollywood NOW “Love Your Body Day,” is a community celebration to promote healthy body image for women of all ages and to combat the negative portrayals of women and girls in mainstream entertainment, fashion, cosmetics, media and advertising.

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

Diet Doping: The Scary Link Between Body Image and Drugs

scaleDiet Doping: Getting Thin at any Cost

Dr. Robyn Silverman

For many girls and women, “feeling fat” has become a common part of everyday life.  Dieting has become normal.  Complaining about weight is a social expectation.  And doing anything you can to achieve the perfect thin body, acceptable.

A recent online poll of 993 teens and women has suggested that a whopping 1 in 10 girls and women are using drugs to lose weight even though 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 Vogue model legs and abs are what we’re striving for.  No, it’s not often linked to health, it’s linked to looks.

Often, 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 balances diet.  Girls and women are looking for the quick fix– what’s going to make them thin 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.

Think it’s only the caucasian girls?  Nope.  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 very important 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?

Be healthy together– I know many of you already are. All you Powerful Parents out there whose families are engaging in being healthy by attending your Powerful Words Member School are showing your kids YOUR definition of healthy. Doing fun extracurriculars, being around positive people, talking about the link between your character and your physical health– you should all be applauded for taking these positive steps. Keep it going!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Diabulimia: Does my friend have Diabulimia?

Ask Dr. Robyn: Does my friend have Diabulimia?  Is Diabulimia a “big deal?”

I received a question from Jennifer in NJ whose friend has Diabetes and is currently losing a lot of weight.  Jennifer is concerned about whether her friend might have Diabulimia and if her behaviors might be causing a real problem.  This video answers, “What is Diabulimia?” and “How do I know if someone might be having a problem with Diabulimia?”

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

If you or someone you know is having a problem with Diabulimia, please get help.

Please comment below about Diabulimia, your take on the problem, or your stories. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Boys and Body Image: The Adonis Complex and Steroid Use in Teens

Steroid Use in Teen Boys: Continuing the discussion…

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Powerful Parents are certainly a passionate bunch. I guess my article on steroid abuse among teens stirred up some good discussion yesterday in light of the cultural response to body image problems among our youth. Perhaps you were surprised that boys were affected just as girls have been affected. What else can we expect?

With so much concentrated focus on the war against obesity, it shapes up the insecurities in children who say to themselves, “I don’t want to be fat, I don’t want to be cast aside, put down, or put out, so I will do whatever it takes, even if it means putting my health as risk, to be thin, muscular, and admired. Is this the message we want to send to our youth—spooned to mouth by Hollywood starlets, He-man Gladiators, and appearance-driven magazines? To be thin, muscular and unhealthy rather than risk being called “overweight” or worse yet…“average?”

Research has shown that dieting and attending to one’s physique in negative ways has become so prevalent that the behavior of in a way, has become normalized. That means that those people who are NOT dieting, participating in some abnormal or disordered eating patterns, or trying to alter their body through surgery, drugs, or laxative abuse, are in affect, abnormal. One preteen in one of my Sassy Sisterhood Girls Groups said it clearly a few summers ago, “if you’re not dieting or something like it, you’re considered weird, snobby, kind of stuck on yourself, or like, NOT normal.” Great. What youth, whether we’re talking about a boy or a girl, wants to be abnormal?

So they reach out for assistance. They restrict food, they purge, they take laxatives, or they dope up with steroids. Well, what did we expect? Do you ever hear societal reverb recalibrated to say, “lose weight but don’t go too far?” Of “eat healthily, exercise wisely, and then accept yourself at the size your at? No. We hear…be better, faster, bigger! Be More! More! More!

I did an interview a few month’s back for a teen website in which I was asked about boys and body image. Here is a part of my answer:

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.

So what parents need to know is that while it’s not as common as it is for girls, (in fact, girls are 3 times as likely to feel bad about their bodies than boys) boys are also at risk of developing unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders. In fact, according to a study done in Australia, about 45 per cent of men were unhappy with their bodies to some degree, compared with only 15 per cent of men only 25 years ago. Remember, Boys are changing too—they also want to look good and desirable to others—they value the opinions of others, and they recognize that there is a connection between positive attention and how they look.

Research into boy’s body image has shown males are concerned with having that lean muscular look and of course, this makes them want to lose weight and increase their muscle mass- often in unhealthy ways. And the bottom line here is that again, messages that come from parents and the media have a strong influence on body image for teen boys as well as teen girls—but while it may be a large concern—and it deserves a lot of attention, we can do something about it—we can help our kids feel confident, healthy, happy and worthwhile-and that is what I am trying to do with my work with children, teens, parents, and educators.

So we must expect teens to come up with ways that make them “the best.” Because we tend to pay attention to the best. Who pays attention to mediocre? In our society we want it all—even if it means that we chisel away at ourselves, our health, and our self worth to get there. Yes, I’m talking abut the teens…but you know as well as I do, we’re also talking about adults. And somehow, we’re supposed to serve as examples.

In a world in need of role models that don’t come in retouched slinky dresses or couched in pumped up doped-filled muscles, we ask those who are truly trying to make a difference to scream the loudest. So go ahead…scream!

One of our resident role models, Amy Jussel, Executive Director of Shaping Youth (an Organization for which I am an Advisory Board member and Body Image expert, piggybacked my article on Steroid use in boys, which I wanted to share, at least in part, with all of you:

Take it away…Amy!

Awhile back I wrote about body image issues offering “equal opportunity toxicity” as young boys have increased body dysmorphia, emulating buffed boy, ripped six-pack icons of video games and ‘hunks’ modeled and merchandised ad nauseum.

Not getting alarmist, as we’re still in single digit growth percentages, but it’s worth the focus on BOYS who have been gaining on girls in eating disorders and tanked self-esteem as media and marketing serve up a quest for the almighty ‘hotness’ and adolescents end up with The Adonis Complex reverb.

This Sunday on our own Shaping Youth Advisory Board member Rona Renner’s radio show, you can hear the doctors tackle “adolescent body image” (podcasts archived too) as Rona and her guests help teens develop a healthier image of themselves beyond the media machine.

Gee, let’s start with Lightyear XSTREAM Energy. (and no, not the Buzz Lightyear kind) This energy drink contains Yohimbe, claiming to be an aphrodisiac and “natural sexual enhancer used for impotent males.” Or perhaps this new summer ’08 flavor of citrus “Crunk” which you may recall originated in ’04 with rapper/producer Lil John and the late Sidney Frank, of Jagermeister and Grey Goose libation fame.

Now, um, tell me, doctors…”Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see?”

The media/marketing blitz selling kids ways to last longer, get stronger, “be hot with a shot” is complicit in the escalation of body image problems wreaking havoc on this appearance-obsessed generation of kids.

Girls may receive more press about disordered eating and such, but ‘Bigorexia’ (photo credit at left from Ditch Diets Live Light by blogger Cari Corbet-Owen) is on the rise. (See Cari’s primer called ‘Who Gets the Adonis Complex?” for a helpful snapshot of milestones in media moments for male context)

These media corollaries are backed up by researchers like Alison Field, Harvard Medical School professor of pediatrics and lead researcher on the GUTS study [Growing Up Today]…

A synopsis of her outcomes with males?

“Although fewer males than females are preoccupied with a desire to be thinner, a non-trivial number of males are preoccupied with a desire to have more or better defined muscles. The latter concern is rarely assessed in studies that include males.”

And it’s more common than once thought, with a direct correlation of risk factors between boys unhealthy means used to gain weight, (e.g. steroids) and girls unhealthy means lose weight, (e.g. bulimia, diet pills, etc.) tied to “wanting to look like same-sex figures in the media.”

Ahem. Causal link, anyone? When I have 5th graders in our counter-marketing sessions worried about dieting and muscle mass, (boys AND girls) I’d say Houston, we have a problem.

How would Shaping Youth “counter-market” the buffed boy/steroid bit? (and intake of supplements of all kinds promising the lean, mean teen machine?)

Point to articles like this from Parenting Teens.com for starters:

“Teens abusing steroids may suffer reduced sperm count, shrinking testicles, impotence and difficulty urinating. All of this intimately associated with the equipment most men value very highly.

Teens on steroids also risk losing their hair and inappropriate breast development. One has to wonder how many takers there would be for steroids if these side effects were listed alongside the much-vaunted ‘desirable’ effects. This is why education on the (in excess of 70) side effects of steroids is almost a sure way to deal with steroid abuse among teens. The fact is these young people are simply unaware of this.

Imagine a pack of steroids bearing this equation: “Enormous increases in brute strength” soon followed by the shrinking of testicles, impotence, lowered sperm count and hair loss. With the writing on the wall few teens can dispute the ill effects of steroid abuse. It is still true that the underlying problem of low self esteem and poor body image must be addressed. Rest assured that if it is allowed to lie there unattended it will not go away. Instead it will find another destructive outlet.”

Info on Rona Renner’s Radio Show for this Sunday: (1-877-372-KIDS) or listen when posted on the website Details: The doctors will be talking about media and peer pressure to be thin or look sexy, as well as some of the ‘acting out’ that transpires with body insecurities in the form of cutting, eating disorders, depression or anxiety. Hey, maybe Dr. Robyn would call-in to Rona’s radio show and write us a guest editorial recap? Hmn…

Related Resources/Body Image/Boys

NIDA for Teens (Fact Sheets)

Adolescents Bulk Up Their Bodies, USA Today

The X/Y Factor by Rachel Abramowitz, L.A.Times

Tween Boys/Putting on the Spritz by Lori Aratani, L.A. Times

Shaping Youth Packaging Boyhood: Corporate Pirates Raid Boys’ Souls

Bigorexia & Muscle Building: Ditch Diets & Live Light.com

The Adonis Complex: How to Identify, Treat, & Prevent Body Obession in Men & Boys (book)

I’m, Like, SO Fat!: Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices About Eating & Exercise (book)

Looking Good: Male Body Image in North America (book)

About-Face: Body Image Books/Tips on Body Acceptance

NIDA: Anabolic Steroid Use in Teens, 2005

Kids Health: Steroids/Human Growth Hormone

Steroid Use by Teens Soaring (CBS News, 2003)

Packaging Boyhood.com (upcoming book/survey here!)

Amy Jussel is the Founder & Executive Director of Shaping Youth, a nonprofit, nonpartisan consortium concerned with harmful media and marketing messages to children.Prior to founding Shaping Youth, Amy spent over 20 years as a writer/producer in print, broadcast and film in commercial advertising as well as journalism. Her media background makes her uniquely qualified to assess the impact of multi-channel marketing in children’s lives.

Thanks, Amy! Let’s hear what all of you have to say…comment below!

Copyright: Dr. Robyn J.A.Silverman; http://wwwDrRobynsBlog.com and http://wwwBodyImageBlog.com

Body Image and Boys: The Adonis Complex and Steroid Abuse among Teens

Steroid Use in Boys…furthering the discussion.

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Powerful Parents are certainly a passionate bunch. I guess my article on steroid abuse among teens stirred up some good discussion yesterday in light of the cultural response to body image problems among our youth. Perhaps you were surprised that boys were affected just as girls have been affected. What else can we expect?

With so much concentrated focus on the war against obesity, it shapes up the insecurities in children who say to themselves, “I don’t want to be fat, I don’t want to be cast aside, put down, or put out, so I will do whatever it takes, even if it means putting my health as risk, to be thin, muscular, and admired. Is this the message we want to send to our youth—spooned to mouth by Hollywood starlets, He-man Gladiators, and appearance-driven magazines? To be thin, muscular and unhealthy rather than risk being called “overweight” or worse yet…“average?”

Research has shown that dieting and attending to one’s physique in negative ways has become so prevalent that the behavior of in a way, has become normalized. That means that those people who are NOT dieting, participating in some abnormal or disordered eating patterns, or trying to alter their body through surgery, drugs, or laxative abuse, are in affect, abnormal. One preteen in one of my Sassy Sisterhood Girls Groups said it clearly a few summers ago, “if you’re not dieting or something like it, you’re considered weird, snobby, kind of stuck on yourself, or like, NOT normal.” Great. What youth, whether we’re talking about a boy or a girl, wants to be abnormal?

So they reach out for assistance. They restrict food, they purge, they take laxatives, or they dope up with steroids. Well, what did we expect? Do you ever hear societal reverb recalibrated to say, “lose weight but don’t go too far?” Of “eat healthily, exercise wisely, and then accept yourself at the size your at? No. We hear…be better, faster, bigger! Be More! More! More!

I did an interview a few month’s back for a teen website in which I was asked about boys and body image. Here is a part of my answer:

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.

So what parents need to know is that while it’s not as common as it is for girls, (in fact, girls are 3 times as likely to feel bad about their bodies than boys) boys are also at risk of developing unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders. In fact, according to a study done in Australia, about 45 per cent of men were unhappy with their bodies to some degree, compared with only 15 per cent of men only 25 years ago. Remember, Boys are changing too—they also want to look good and desirable to others—they value the opinions of others, and they recognize that there is a connection between positive attention and how they look.

Research into boy’s body image has shown males are concerned with having that lean muscular look and of course, this makes them want to lose weight and increase their muscle mass- often in unhealthy ways. And the bottom line here is that again, messages that come from parents and the media have a strong influence on body image for teen boys as well as teen girls—but while it may be a large concern—and it deserves a lot of attention, we can do something about it—we can help our kids feel confident, healthy, happy and worthwhile-and that is what I am trying to do with my work with children, teens, parents, and educators.

So we must expect teens to come up with ways that make them “the best.” Because we tend to pay attention to the best. Who pays attention to mediocre? In our society we want it all—even if it means that we chisel away at ourselves, our health, and our self worth to get there. Yes, I’m talking abut the teens…but you know as well as I do, we’re also talking about adults. And somehow, we’re supposed to serve as examples.

In a world in need of role models that don’t come in retouched slinky dresses or couched in pumped up doped-filled muscles, we ask those who are truly trying to make a difference to scream the loudest. So go ahead…scream!

One of our resident role models, Amy Jussel, Executive Director of Shaping Youth (an Organization for which I am an Advisory Board member and Body Image expert, piggybacked my article on Steroid use in boys, which I wanted to share, at least in part, with all of you:

Take it away…Amy!

Awhile back I wrote about body image issues offering “equal opportunity toxicity” as young boys have increased body dysmorphia, emulating buffed boy, ripped six-pack icons of video games and ‘hunks’ modeled and merchandised ad nauseum.

Not getting alarmist, as we’re still in single digit growth percentages, but it’s worth the focus on BOYS who have been gaining on girls in eating disorders and tanked self-esteem as media and marketing serve up a quest for the almighty ‘hotness’ and adolescents end up with The Adonis Complex reverb.

This Sunday on our own Shaping Youth Advisory Board member Rona Renner’s radio show, you can hear the doctors tackle “adolescent body image” (podcasts archived too) as Rona and her guests help teens develop a healthier image of themselves beyond the media machine.

Gee, let’s start with Lightyear XSTREAM Energy. (and no, not the Buzz Lightyear kind) This energy drink contains Yohimbe, claiming to be an aphrodisiac and “natural sexual enhancer used for impotent males.” Or perhaps this new summer ’08 flavor of citrus “Crunk” which you may recall originated in ’04 with rapper/producer Lil John and the late Sidney Frank, of Jagermeister and Grey Goose libation fame.

Now, um, tell me, doctors…”Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see?”

The media/marketing blitz selling kids ways to last longer, get stronger, “be hot with a shot” is complicit in the escalation of body image problems wreaking havoc on this appearance-obsessed generation of kids.

Girls may receive more press about disordered eating and such, but ‘Bigorexia’ (photo credit at left from Ditch Diets Live Light by blogger Cari Corbet-Owen) is on the rise. (See Cari’s primer called ‘Who Gets the Adonis Complex?” for a helpful snapshot of milestones in media moments for male context)

These media corollaries are backed up by researchers like Alison Field, Harvard Medical School professor of pediatrics and lead researcher on the GUTS study [Growing Up Today]…

A synopsis of her outcomes with males?

“Although fewer males than females are preoccupied with a desire to be thinner, a non-trivial number of males are preoccupied with a desire to have more or better defined muscles. The latter concern is rarely assessed in studies that include males.”

And it’s more common than once thought, with a direct correlation of risk factors between boys unhealthy means used to gain weight, (e.g. steroids) and girls unhealthy means lose weight, (e.g. bulimia, diet pills, etc.) tied to “wanting to look like same-sex figures in the media.”

Ahem. Causal link, anyone? When I have 5th graders in our counter-marketing sessions worried about dieting and muscle mass, (boys AND girls) I’d say Houston, we have a problem.

How would Shaping Youth “counter-market” the buffed boy/steroid bit? (and intake of supplements of all kinds promising the lean, mean teen machine?)

Point to articles like this from Parenting Teens.com for starters:

“Teens abusing steroids may suffer reduced sperm count, shrinking testicles, impotence and difficulty urinating. All of this intimately associated with the equipment most men value very highly.

Teens on steroids also risk losing their hair and inappropriate breast development. One has to wonder how many takers there would be for steroids if these side effects were listed alongside the much-vaunted ‘desirable’ effects. This is why education on the (in excess of 70) side effects of steroids is almost a sure way to deal with steroid abuse among teens. The fact is these young people are simply unaware of this.

Imagine a pack of steroids bearing this equation: “Enormous increases in brute strength” soon followed by the shrinking of testicles, impotence, lowered sperm count and hair loss. With the writing on the wall few teens can dispute the ill effects of steroid abuse. It is still true that the underlying problem of low self esteem and poor body image must be addressed. Rest assured that if it is allowed to lie there unattended it will not go away. Instead it will find another destructive outlet.”

Info on Rona Renner’s Radio Show for this Sunday:

(1-877-372-KIDS) or listen when posted on the website Details: The doctors will be talking about media and peer pressure to be thin or look sexy, as well as some of the ‘acting out’ that transpires with body insecurities in the form of cutting, eating disorders, depression or anxiety. Hey, maybe Dr. Robyn would call-in to Rona’s radio show and write us a guest editorial recap? Hmn…

Related Resources/Body Image/Boys

NIDA for Teens (Fact Sheets)

Adolescents Bulk Up Their Bodies, USA Today

The X/Y Factor by Rachel Abramowitz, L.A.Times

Tween Boys/Putting on the Spritz by Lori Aratani, L.A. Times

Shaping Youth Packaging Boyhood: Corporate Pirates Raid Boys’ Souls

Bigorexia & Muscle Building: Ditch Diets & Live Light.com

The Adonis Complex: How to Identify, Treat, & Prevent Body Obession in Men & Boys (book)

I’m, Like, SO Fat!: Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices About Eating & Exercise (book)

Looking Good: Male Body Image in North America (book)

About-Face: Body Image Books/Tips on Body Acceptance

NIDA: Anabolic Steroid Use in Teens, 2005

Kids Health: Steroids/Human Growth Hormone

Steroid Use by Teens Soaring (CBS News, 2003)

Packaging Boyhood.com (upcoming book/survey here!)

Amy Jussel is the Founder & Executive Director of Shaping Youth, a nonprofit, nonpartisan consortium concerned with harmful media and marketing messages to children. Prior to founding Shaping Youth, Amy spent over 20 years as a writer/producer in print, broadcast and film in commercial advertising as well as journalism. Her media background makes her uniquely qualified to assess the impact of multi-channel marketing in children’s lives.

Thanks for your take on the situation, Amy! Now let’s hear what you have to say…comment below!

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Copyright: Dr. Robyn J.A.Silverman; http://www.DrRobynsBlog.com

Banned: Illegal to promote ultra thinness in France

Places around the world (not the U.S.) are finding ways to discourage ultra-thinness and eating disorders in a powerful way.

France:

The Christian Science Monitor reported the other day that you will now we fined (or jailed) if your website or blog promotes ultra thinness or excessive dieting. The promotion of excessive thinness or eating disorders is now a punishable crime with fines up to $78,000.

France is fed up with the growing numbers of sites that glorify destructive eating behaviors; particularly those sites that offer contests, support, and tricks that lead to the success of starving oneself.

Coming on the heels of related initiatives in Spain and Italy, the ban is the latest and most far-reaching attempt to stem a disorder – and an image of womanhood – with which hundreds of thousands of Europeans wrestle. But how effective will the measures – and some are quite creative – be?

France’s bill, which must now be approved by the Senate, won unanimous support from Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, empowers judges to punish with prison terms and fines of up to €45,000 ($72,000) any publication, modeling agency, or fashion designer who “incites” anorexia. It also allows for the prosecution of websites whose pages and blogs promote eating disorders.

Spain

France’s fines follow the ban that Spain put in place in 2006 that banished ultra-thin models from walking down the catwalk.

In Spain, where some experts say that eating disorders affect 1 in 200 young women, the country’s major fashion show provoked controversy two years ago when it tried to address the issue. Banning from the catwalk models with an unhealthily low body mass index (or BMI – a weight to height ratio) of below 18, the vice-councilwoman for the Economy in Madrid’s regional government, Concha Guerra, said, “Our intention is to promote good body image by using models whose bodies match reality and reflect healthy eating habits.”

In addition, the Spanish government has successfully persuaded 90% of Spain’s clothing manufacturers to standardize female clothing sizes. This action was based on a study of the size and shape of 8,000 Spanish females between the ages of 10 and 70. Spain also wants to discourage the use of display mannequins that are smaller than a Size 38 (U.S. Size 6).

Note: According to The World Health Organization, anyone with a BMI below 18.5 is underweight. In addition, a BMI below 17.5 is one of the criteria for the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. A BMI nearing 15 is usually used as an indicator for starvation. (Here’s more information from the National Institutes of Health along with a BMI calculator for your reference)

Netherlands

Unilever, parent company to Dove and Axe, agreed to ensure that their models adhered to a BMI of between 18-25, which is, medically speaking, in the “normal” range.

“Unilever has adopted a new global guideline that will require that all its future marketing communications should not use models or actors that are either excessively slim or promote ‘unhealthy’ slimness,” –Ralph Kugler, president of Unilever’s home and personal care division

Italy

The Health and Sports Ministries in Italy launched a campaign last month that provides media guidelines that are meant to discourage ultra-thin body ideals. Milan, following the path of Spain, is requiring it’s fashion runway models to have a BMI of at least 18.5 They are also providing eating disorder education in schools.

That campaign came just months after one of the country’s clothing labels began its own anti-anorexia campaign with billboards depicting the nude, emaciated body of anorexic French model Isabelle Caro. –CSM

The UK

While the organizers of London’s Fashion Week did not follow Spain and enact a ban of any models who had a freakishly low BMI, they did require all fashion models to demonstrate that they were in good health by bringing in a signed certificate from an eating disorders specialist that stated it was so.

Austrailia

The government recently launched a media code of conduct on body image. Minister of Youth Affairs, James Merlino, explains that the code of conduct contains 4 clauses that he encouraged the media, fashion world, and advertisers, to adopts.

The Code contains four clauses regarding:
· The use and disclosure of altered and enhanced images;
· Representation of a diversity of body shapes;
· Fair placement of diet, exercise and cosmetic surgery advertising; and
· Avoiding the glamorization of severely underweight models or celebrities.

As Leslie Goldsmith mentioned over on The Huffington Post, it’s been quite a “tumultuous week for body image” in Australia. In addition, it’s been proposed that as of mid-2008, plastic surgery (and tanning beds) are off-limits to teens under 18 years of age. Unfortunately, at the same time, the news highlighted “Club 21,” a clique that ranks girls based on weight. Nope, not kidding.

Members of the elite club, dubbed “Club 21″ or “Big 21″, parade their ranking from one to 21 on their wrists. The skinnier and prettier the girl, the higher her rank. One respondent to an internet forum on the issue said: “Ugly girls need not apply.”

I guess we need to take the good with the bad in Australia. At least the government is taking some action.

America

Still waiting…

Currently, our defense against ultra-thin models has to do with plumping out disturbing waifiness with photo-shop instead of hiring more “real-size” models, as well described on feministing and shapely prose.

Due to first amendment rights, people are skeptical that such a ban issued in France could be successfully issued in the U.S. According to Sudan Scafidi, an expert in fashion law at New York’s Fordham University Law School;

We do ban advertising of smoking in the U.S. and we take smoking into consideration for movie ratings. But we know there is a clear link between smoking and lung cancer. No one has yet established a connection between images in magazines and skinny girls.”

I guess that means it’s back to work for all of us…

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photo from http://thisislavie.wordpress.com