Dr. Robyn Silverman in The Tyra Show– October 5th on the CW!

Tyra_logoDr. Robyn Silverman, Child and Teen development Specialist and Body Image expert

Topic–“Fat Haters:” Dr. Robyn Silverman, body image expert, on The Tyra Show!

Maybe you’re not an avid watcher– and maybe you are.  But I’m a fan of getting the word out on positive self worth and body image– so in a word, I was PSYCHED to be called on to be the Body Image Expert for the nationally syndicated talk show, The Tyra Show, airing October 5th at 4pm EST on the CW! On Tuesday of last week, I was asked to come down and be part of the show, hosted by America’s Next Top Model guro, Tyra Banks. We had a great time taping the show– with me in the audience fielding some question on body image and giving my opinion about what was happening up on stage. It was exciting. So be sure to watch or Tivo Tyra on that day (4pm EST on the CW– check for your local time)!

The topic for The Tyra Show: Fat Haters and those in their family who they hurt with their attitudes.

It’s hard enough for girls and women to deal with the sheer numbers of “thin is in” images they see each day—from what they see in the media to what they “see” reflected in the mirror. Girls and women compare themselves to impossible standards of thinness– and for what? I can’t be sure. I call it “striving for zero” (that “ideal” dress size or that “ideal weight)– 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 stuff doesn’t matter and we can remind ourselves that we are amazing and beautiful TODAY- not 5 pounds from now.

But imagine what it must be like for those girls and women who don’t have a safe haven among their family and friends. Imagine not having a place where weight and looks and size don’t matter and where you are loved and valued for who you are. What must it be like to not have a place where beauty has a wider definition and a clothing size doesn’t depict more worth as it delves deeper into the zeros. Those girls and women are suffering deeply. They have no buffer. They begin to believe the notion that the more they weigh, the less they are worth. There family tells them that this is true! I’ve heard the stories for my body image book– I’ve hear it on The Tyra Show– and I hear it All The Time. And what’s worse, family members wind up passing body bullying on, generation after generation.

So, that’s what we were all talking about on The Tyra Show. I was asked about why some girls lash out in the ugly ways depicted on the show (you won’t believe some of the things said) and other related questions about double standards and body image. It was exciting to be a part of The Tyra Show and I’m glad I can share this topic with you, which, as you know, is near and dear to my heart. After all, I’m writing a whole book on it (due out October 2010!).

Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about the show. There isn’t any crazy chair throwing—don’t worry- I think there are some important stories and opinions uncovered. So watch The Tyra Show with me—Monday, October 5th, at 4pm EST on the CW. So excited to see you there!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Are you in? End Fat Talk October 19-23, 2009

A powerful video for a powerful cause: The health, wellbeing, high self worth, and positive body image of our girls and…us as valuable women of this world.  We have achieved so much to push ourselves down, criticize ourselves and whisper in our own ears in the quiet of our minds that we are not enough, just as we are, at the weight we are, at the size we are.  We are enough. Join in and end fat talk.

Who? Started by “Reflections,” which is a body image program that was co-developed with Dr. Carolyn Becker and the local sororities at Trinity University.

What? Reflections is a body image program that works to prevent eating disorders in collaboration with sororities.  It is peer-led and evidence-based– so they have the goods. Their research  has shown that Reflections reduces the risk-factors for eating disorders and improves body image perceptions among its participants.

What now? As the video shows, they are asking you to get on board and shut out fat talk– at least for one week, called, appropriately, “Fat Talk Free Week.” It takes place October 19-23rd.

Let’s support these girls by ending the criticism of ourselves.  We are powerful– and amazing.  Let’s show the world that we believe it so that these girls know that they can believe it too.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

Gearing Up For Love Your Body Day with Chenese Lewis

chenese lewis, Love your body dayLove 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

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.

Is anyone going to take responsibility for bullying in our schools? Anyone? Anyone?

Blame

Dr. Robyn Silverman

For me, it didn’t have to do with weight or body image.  But for so many, it does.Whatever the reason, we’ve got to do something. Anything. Watching people point fingers and put temporary band-aids in place that aren’t being followed in the first place isn’t helping anyone.  Not the teachers.  Not the bullies.  And certainly not the victims.  When is the time?

When I was in 5th grade, I was bullied.

As a woman in my 30s, I can still say this: It was one of the worst years of my life—perhaps THE worst—because going to school was so horrible and yet I had to do it 5 days a week. I still remember the knots in the pit of my stomach—waiting on line to go into the school—waiting for the laundry list of female relational aggression to start. Everyday was the same. Target…ostracized. Rumors…sent. Eyes…rolled.

The teachers never knew what to do. I’m not sure if they were cut off at the knees, they didn’t have a plan, or the school didn’t have their back.  All I know is that I was labeled “sensitive.” It was my problem—the teachers did feel bad about it but… “kids will be kids.”

So I stood there on the black top during recess, completely alone, clearly unhappy, clearly apart from the crowd, and yet…nothing. The one time something was done, I was sent to the library as the rest of the class sat in the classroom with the teacher and talked about…me. Then one of my “friends” who bullied in me in school came to get me, gave me a stare down before entering the class, told me not to “lie” and left me in her dust. Then the teacher talked to the class with me present. It was humiliating. It didn’t help. At. All.

So when I read yesterday in the Washington Post that the laws that were enacted to cope with the bullying problem, especially since the shootings in the 90s, offer practically no protection—mostly because, well, they aren’t really being enforced, I got that familiar knot in my stomach again. If you’ve never been bullied, it is the most sickening, exhausting, heart-wrenching feeling. You don’t feel comfortable walking around in your skin. You want to be anywhere but there. You want to be anyone but you.

It’s actually one of the reasons I do what I do.  From creating Powerful Words to the work I’ve done with girls to the presentations I do for teachers, coaches and instructors. I want to help kids like me—I want to help kids like those who bullied me—I want to help them early so that maybe…I don’t know…maybe an infiltration of character education, and understanding of how words and actions shape lives, encouragement that adults need to get involved and take responsibility– would help a few people avoid what I went through…or worse.

But what about the anti-bullying laws? And as it is, the laws wouldn’t have even been helpful for someone like me. I was only in 5th grade. The laws only apply 6th-12th. So what about those kids who aren’t yet 12 years old and in the 6th grade? Some will never reach it. Just take a look at these sad cases:

An 11-year-old had complained of teasing and was found hanged in his Springfield, Mass in mid-April.

A 10-year-old boy hanged himself in a restroom stall in a suburban Chicago school,

An 11-year-old boy was found dead in Chatham, south of Springfield,

An 11-year-old daughter hanged in a closet of their Chicago home.

All complaining of bullying before the tragedies.

One of the big problems here is that people are quick to point the finger at who should be in charge of teaching children not to bully and inflicting consequences if there are incidents. Parents point to teachers and school officials to take responsibility, teachers and school officials point back at parents.

“A lot of this has to be handled in the home,” said Peter Daboul, chair of the board of trustees at New Leadership, the Massachusetts school where her son was a 6th grader.

But what happens when the fingers get pointed? Nothing gets done. Result? Kids suffering.

I also find it very frustrating that relational aggression is clearly given “a pass.” Even those states that are doing something about bullying (like threatening that schools will lose their funding if they don’t keep good records and transfer bullies after 3 offenses, such as in Georgia), these departments are only tracking broad offenses like fighting and threats. So much for spreading rumors, being ostracized, and intense teasing. Those wouldn’t qualify or be recorded.

There is still great confusion about how to define bullying, what’s offensive, what’s child’s play, what can lead to tragedy. What counts? Blows to the head? Cyberbullying? Taunts and teasing? “One of the questions is how do you quantify bullying? It could even be as simple as a rolling of the eyes,” said Dale Davis, a spokesman for schools in DeKalb County, Ga., where Herrera committed suicide.

Maybe we should ask the kids…who are being bullied.

“In 2007, nearly a third of students ages 12 to 18 reported having been bullied during the school year, according to data on more than 55 million students compiled annually by the National Center for Education Statistics.”

So where are in this? Just spinning our wheels until something more tragic happens that leads us to wonder if what we are doing already is the right thing to do? I can tell you now—it’s not. I mean, 55 million kids sounds like a lot to me. does it to you?

I don’t know…maybe I’m just being sensitive.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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

Glamour Magazine displays model with a fat roll! Save for posterity!

lizzie-miller_the_woman-on_page194_glamourGiven that positive body image and media don’t often click these days, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for this fabulous shot of a normal looking woman in Glamour Magazine…

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Look.  I’m happy to see some more versatility in the media these days when it comes to shape and size.  When I was interviewed on this topic several years ago regarding the DOVE campaign and how I felt about it being in the top women’s magazines I said “well, it’s a start.  But the fact that there is one add that shows women in other sizes besides 2s and 0s, and a hundred that show that extra small is the only size, we have a long way to go.”

Now, I’m in the same boat.  I’ve been getting questions recently about how I feel about the new show “More to Love.”   On the one hand, I’m happy to see that a show featuring women who aren’t stick thin on primetime, but on the other hand, why is it all so segregated?  These women are still being shown to the “back of the bus” by saying “here, have a show, but you can’t be on the show with the thin women—you need your own show.” Do they have to drink from their own water fountain too? I know I’m not alone here.

I had a similar reaction to Glamour’s model, known as the “woman on p. 194,” who actually had a little pooch that stuck out over her underwear in September’s issue. Her name is actually Lizzi Miller, a 20 year old model , size 12-14, who is also an avid softball player and belly dancer.

People have gotten really excited—and Cindi Leive, editor of the magazine, was apparently shocked by the response.  She even wrote a post on the magazine’s website which talked about the vast number of letters she has been receiving since the magazine hit newsstands. She wrote:

The letters blew me away: “the most amazing photograph I’ve ever seen in any women’s magazine,” wrote one reader in Pavo, Georgia. From another in Somerset, Massachusetts: “This beautiful woman has a real stomach and did I even see a few stretch marks? This is how my belly looks after giving birth to my two amazing kids! This photo made me want to shout from the rooftops.” The emails were filled with such joy—joy at seeing a woman’s body with all the curves and quirks and rolls found in nature.

I’m thrilled to see something—anything—different than the one dimensional, one sized, one-shaped girl in the pages of a fashion magazine. I am.  And I don’t want to sound ungrateful here…or jaded…but…isn’t it sad that we get all worked up by a single picture sized 3in. X 3in. of “normal” among so many of “oh so thin?” (And she IS pretty normal—in fact, her BMI is 25.1—the medical “normal” range is 18.5-24.9 so it’s not like she is so “outside of the box!” And yet…she is!)

And isn’t it bizarre that the editor is SO surprised that we actually WANT to see different shapes and sizes when we open up a fashion magazine that is supposed to make us want to feel beautiful and…GLAMOURous?

Yes, people.  We actually DO like to see that women don’t need to be stick thin in order to be considered beautiful.  We like to see all different types of women because…well, then, there is more of a chance that many of us out here will see ourselves in those magazines and feel good about what we see in the mirror.  Girls and women need to see diversity in media. Not that one picture makes me say that we have hit the nail on the head—one picture IS NOT diversity.

But, it seems that Leive is not totally dense.  She wants to know what kinds of pictures people want to see—and assures us that it won’t fall on deaf ears.

“Trust me, Glamour‘s listening, and this only strengthens our commitment to celebrating all kinds of beauty.”

As our colleagues over at Jezebel relay to their reads;

Hopefully she means it, because it’s already obvious from the response to one three by three inch photo that women are interested in seeing beautiful pictures of women of all shapes and sizes that look like them, rather than what the magazine says they should aspire to look like. But, we’re still skeptical. If magazines run more images like the one on page 194, women may internalize the idea that you can look sexy with messy hair, no clothes or accessories, and a layer of body fat and stop buying products to fix their natural yet somehow “flawed” figures.

Yup.  And wouldn’t THAT be just sooooooooo terrible!!!

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