What is the “new normal” for body image and girls?

shenae grimes and jessica stroup

Reflecting on the New Normal: Today’s ultra thin standards for the ideal body

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Ahh, it’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? New actresses- new entertainers– more ultra thin body ideals saluted.

We all know standards of beauty change. Model and actress Marilyn Monroe, who reigned supreme in the fifties as the symbol of a beautiful woman, was undeniably curvaceous. We look at her now and think: well, she could pull off the extra weight because she had such a pretty face…or hair.  But who’d have guessed  that Marilyn Monroe, along with the fashion models of her time, weighed  eight percent less than the average woman.

Today, most fashion models weigh about 23 percent less than the average woman and represent only five percent of women who can actually attain such a figure. Supermodels are often so they thin they meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for anorexia.  Tabloids and blogs feed the misconceptions. Gisele Bundchen was once named Vogue’s model of the year, in part, the magazine stated, because she is not rail-thin. Really? Gisele at the time was 5’11” and weighed only 115 pounds —25 percent below what is considered an ideal body weight.

Earlier this year the world seemed to stop when Jessica Simpson put on a few extra pounds. Magazines shamed the singer/actress for deviating from the thin ideal. Simpson, at 5’3,” weighed in at 130-135 pounds, which would actually put her right in the middle of a medically healthy weight range.  Most of the stars on hit shows viewed by teens look like they haven’t eaten a hamburger or even the side of pickles since the third grade. When the remake of Beverly Hills 90210 came out in the Fall of 2008, US Weekly reported that the only sizes available in the show’s wardrobe range from 00 to 2.   One of the actresses, Jessica Stroup, weighed a whopping 100-105 pounds at 5’8” tall.  A young woman who is 5’8” tall and 100 pounds has a BMI of 15.3, categorized as “severely underweight” and certainly raises red flags when it comes to possible eating disorders. Yet these are the women that star in one of the most-watched shows aimed at adolescent girls.]

We’ve seen impossibly thin television actresses and entertainers before [(think Calista Flockhart, Victoria Beckham, Mary Kate Olson or Lara Flynn Boyle), but the trend has gained ground. A  study done  by three scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Michigan found that the effects of media exposure were stronger in the 2000s than in the 1990s, suggesting that the thin-ideal has become both thinner, more prevalent, and more widely accepted as the standard. The study also found that there is a direct relationship between the media’s endorsement of a thin-ideal and increased levels of body dissatisfaction among adolescent girls.

Think these actresses have no pull?  Just look at what’s on the blogosphere.  Girls are so excited about them– and for many, the thinner the better.  They serve as thinspiration. For example:

“If you want to be thin, you have to have control. I  LOVE Jessica Stroup! She is my new thinspiration! Can’t wait to be that skinny… Started at 155 last week…down to 146 now….my ultimate is 95…. Haven’t hit a wall yet, hope i can just stay strong. Lets do this! xx”

There are a lot more just like these. Good grief. I think the new normal is making me sick.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature


9 Responses

  1. […] here: What is the “new normal” for body image and girls? « Kiss My … Related PostsWhat is the “new normal” for body image and girls? « Kiss My …Elle […]

  2. […] from: What is the “new normal” for body image and girls? « Kiss My … Related PostsWhat is the “new normal” for body image and girls? « Kiss My […]

  3. It’s really misleading to say that “often” supermodels’ BMI is at the level of anorexic. Maybe some, but not all or even most. Anorexia is a DISEASE, not a body type anyways. Plus, your statement about how now the average supermodel is 23% lower in body fat than the average woman today probably has more to do with the fact that the average woman has gotten fatter from eating too much f’ing fast food that has become more readily available than it was in the past.

    And to suggest that thinness is somehow more in vogue right now is soo unbelievably off base. If anything it’s hip to ridicule thin women, hence the phrase “scary skinny” that is often used to belittle skinny girls. A person who is 5’3 weighing 135 pounds is fine, but so is a a person 5’3 weighing 100 pounds. There is a lot that is normal and there is nothing wrong with wanting to lose a few pounds. Furthermore, how do YOU know how much these girls weigh? You don’t. You’re just pulling information that some psuedo quack doctor who comments on celebrities says in order to create a story that will mock the body of a young woman.

  4. This is sick! These girls are supposed to be setting an example for teenaged girls and look at the size of them! They are probably lighter than my 11 year old brother! Shenae’s ribs are sticking right out of her skin and her legs are painfully thin. This is a disturbing photo and I would hate to see any of my friends that thin. This is soo not normal. If anybody at my school saw me like that I would be considered weird, strange and NOT normal! Girls should be curvy, especially teenage girls who are still growing and haven’t fully matured yet. Why these girls feel the need to diet and starve themselves is beyond me.. i think it’s disgusting.. I am a healthy UK size 8 – 10 and I’m only 15 years old, just a bit younger than these girls who cannot be more than 6 and a half stone. I wish these girls would have some sense!

  5. […] Why all the hype over Mary Kat…kathleen on How Much Do You Pay For Beauty…Natalie on What is the “new normal…Shaping Youth … on About KMA & […]

  6. These girls are obviously too, too thin, and the fact that they are so young is particularly disheartening. But I don’t think you can use the percentage difference between models weights and the average woman without taking into account the obesity epidemic in America. These girls are too thin, but many, many women are overweight. There is a healthy weight for everyone, and it may not have much to do with the “average.”

  7. […] 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 […]

  8. […] and what I do know is that it makes us feel inadequate and unworthy. And that this feeling is normal. How grateful we must be that we all have a place to go home (or be amongst friends) where all that […]

  9. […] dress size or that “ideal weight) makes us feel inadequate and unworthy.  And this is normal. Thank goodness we all have a place to go home to where all that stuff doesn’t matter and we can […]

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