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No Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat-Talk Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my family’s favorite holiday. Is it one of yours too? There’s something so powerful about a holiday that everyone celebrates in America because it is part of American culture, not religion.  But you know what can really ruin a good holiday meal? Fat Talk.

Hold the Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat (Talk) Free Holiday Dinner

A collaborative body image article by Dr. Robyn Silverman & Dr. Lynne Kenney

With Thanksgiving on Thursday and many of the major holidays right around the corner, expectations run high. The grand dinner, the family gathering and…who’s done what since the last get together. You know what I mean. Who’s dating and who’s been dumped. Whose daughter was accepted early to the best program and who is licking her wounds?

And of course, who’s gained weight.

The comparisons slip off the tongue as easily as the marshmallows are stolen off the sweet potato casserole. It easily, seamlessly, and expectantly becomes part of the dinner conversation. Between bites, stares of “should you be eating that” meld with apologies for eating too much and promises to be “good” at dessert time. Each plate is then served with a hefty heaping of shame, blame, and naming names of those relatives or celebrities who are or are not adhering to the narrow definition of what is considered the standard of beauty these days. Is this really what Holiday Dinners are supposed to be about?

Fat-Talk-Free Holiday Tips

It’s time to take control of our holidays instead of allowing Fat Talk into the driver’s seat. Dr. Robyn Silverman and Dr. Lynne Kenney give you the tips to make your Holiday a positive experience where everyone involved can come away feeling good, strong, powerful, and supported.

Dr. Robyn Says…

(1) Declare the Holiday Table a Fat Talk Free Zone: In Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I talk about establishing a Fat Talk Free Zone in order to take charge of what kind of “talk” you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Holidays, of course, are special occasions and times when we see people who aren’t in our every lives. While it may take guts, ask your guests (YES, your mother-in-law too!) to join you in making this holiday a positive one where you build people up rather than tear them (including yourself!) down. Hang it right on the door or by the Holiday Table; “You are now entering the Fat Talk Free Zone!”

(2) Don’t forget what Holiday Family Dinners are really all about: When you think of the true meaning of your holiday get togethers, they’re really about love, family, friends, and gratitude, right? I mean, what happened to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving? If we can focus on what we have—our strengths, our assets, and our support system—instead of what we lack, our Holiday dinners will surely be more enjoyable…and something to fondly look forward to and remember.

(3) Remember what Your Mama told you (if you can’t say something nice…): Whether it’s about yourself or someone else, snarky, rude comments Read more

What happens when smoking is marketed directly to your teen?

camel-cigsxA recent study shows that advertising for Camel No. which was introduced in 2007 appealed to…teenage girls.  Can’t imagine why.

These advertisers think they’re being sneaky…but we’re not buying it, are we??? I mean, who did they think they were kidding when they came out with a pink cigarette box using girly fonts and flowers to advertise dangerous, addictive cigarettes? Or…perhaps it was the promotional DEAD give-aways including flavored lip balm, cellphone jewelry, purses and wristbands.

The pink cigarette box is labeled “Light and luscious.”

And they still claim it was marketed towards adults. PLEASE! Come on! When was the last time an adult wore flavored lip balm and decorated their cell phone with jewelry? We are not all Paris Hilton. Read more

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?

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

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?

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

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!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

Clean the Plate Club: The Weight of Mom and God?

pasta plateDisband the Clean the Plate Club?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Thank you to all of you who have already submitted stories to my body image story website in preparation for my forthcoming book!  It is very telling– so many stories have similar themes.  This one, which came in recently, hits on a point I want to talk about today: The Clean the Plate Club.

food_plate

Colleen’s Story: My Mom is a card carrying member of the clean the plate club. I guess that makes me one too. I have always felt like I needed to sneak food since the girls in the house weren’t supposed to really eat “real food.”.  My Mom would always say,  ‘no don’t eat the meatballs, eat the salad.’  I would think to myself, “but I want the meatballs.” I know now that forcing me to eat the salad only meant that I would eat the salad in front of her and then go back and eat the meatballs when she wasn’t looking.  So I wound up eating double.  Denying me the food would only make me want it more.  Then I would be out with my friends and I would think “Ha! Nobody’s watching so I can eat whatever I want.”   “You did not leave the table without cleaning your plate.  It was a sin to waste food–as opposed to eat until you are full.  It says it in the bible that you can’t waste.  My mother would always quote it so it was ingrained in me at a very early age. “It still sticks with me.  I say it all the time when I am out with friends.  I tell them, ‘I am so full, I couldn’t eat another bite.  And they tell me just to take it home.  But I say, “no, no, no, I have to eat everything.  That was what I was told growing up.’ That is why I continue eating but feeling bad about it.  I was told you have to finish everything but told not to gain weight at the same time. ”

What are studies telling us?

(1) Little girls as young as 3 years old are being warned by their parents to watch how much they are eating so that they do not gain unwanted pounds.  At the same time, little boys at the same age and size are being encouraged to “eat up” so that they become strong and solid big boys (International Journal of Eating Disorders. 2005). Girls are clearly being given different messages than are boys when it comes to food.

(2) Parents who try to control their children';s food intake by insisting that their children clean their plate are the more likely to find that their kids, especially the boys,  request larger portions of sweetened cereal at daycare (Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2008).  In fact, in a recent study, preschool aged members ate 35% more fruit loops than those who were not members of the clean the plate clubwhen given an unlimited portion. This interferes with children’s own ability to listen to their bodies and determine when they are full. They begin to be at war with food which can affect their relationship with food and their bodies.

hotdog clean the plate club

In addition. studies clearly show that families of adolescents with disordered or problem eating tend to overemphasize food, fat, dieting, and weight.  An overemphasis of food and food control is associated with a higher incidence of girls eating when they are not hungry.  Daughters whose families control food and emphasize diet are more likely to have mothers who are more critical of their daughter’s weight and figure.  Not surprisingly, such a family climate is associated with a girl’s greater concern about weight.

Interestingly, when I bring up these issues with some of the girls and women who have been guilted into cleaning their plates, they bring up issues of God and respect for their elders. In fact, when I followed up with Colleen and I asked her if she thought she could change her behavior so she could reclaim ownership of her body she wrote; “Well, how could I go against God’s word?  And every daughter knows saying “no” to their Moms is harder than you think.”

I think it is safe to say that “clean your plate” is no longer good advice.  No offense to Mom or God.  It may have been a good preservation technique during the depression or at times of famine or scarcity, but that does not apply to the lives of these girls.  Studies show that once the power struggle is taken out of meal times, children will self correct their under eating, overeating, and general weight problems.   It seems difficult, however, for parents to refrain from pushing “one last bite,” “clean your plate”  or “you shouldn’t eat so much of that.” Every child is equipped with a hunger gauge with controls how much they should eat.  If parents continually override those signals, the child will have trouble tuning in to that hunger gauge and relying on something internal, rather than external, to tell her how much to eat.

What are your thoughts? Does the clean the plate club influence how we feel about food or our bodies? Weigh in.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

Bashing our Bodies…Just part of being a girl?

Woman looking in the mirror

Dr. Robyn Silverman

I’ve been talking to a bunch of girls lately about how girls talk badly about their bodies…all…the…time.  Why?

Here are some of the answers I’ve received:

“They think you’re all high and mighty if you don’t”

“Nobody’s happy with their body because we don’t look like the celebrities.”

“It’s just what girls do.”

“My friends and me talk about it all the time.  If we didn’t, I don’t what we’d talk about!

What do you think? Is talking smack about our bodies something we do to get positive feedback from others? Do we do it to connect with other girls or women? Does everyone just hate their physiques?

Tell the truth. Do we need to criticize ourselves just because we’re…girls?

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

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.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Half of Teens Say Rihanna is at Fault for Abuse

rihanna assaulted by Chris Brown

Something is clearly screwed up.  In the Boston paper today, the results of a survey tells us that almost half of the Boston teenagers interviewed in a poll by Boston Public Health Commission said pop star Rihanna was responsible for her own beating. Yuck. Perhaps you remember that Rihanna has granted Chris Brown continuance after the abuse was outed. What do you think of that? Belittling the circumstance? How might it influence how our teens see their own bodies and the sacredness of other people’s bodies?  Celebrities have to watch what they say and do (or don’t do) when it comes to kids. They have influence whether they like it or not!

Who is involved? Teens ages 12-19

What did the survey say?

  • Almost 50% of the 200 teens interviewed felt Rihanna was responsible for the assault
  • 71% claimed that arguing was a normal part of a relationship;
  • 44% claimed that fighting was a routine occurrence in relationships.

What’s the big issue? Teens have somehow gotten used to or desensitized to domestic violence. Perhaps they’ve seen too much “reality” on TV. Perhaps they’ve been exposed to too much arguing and physical arguing. Perhaps our teen’s values need an overhaul. Oh boy, more work.

It’s time to start some important conversations here. Don’t wait. Do it tonight.  Your feedback is welcomed.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs