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.

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Body Image Tips to Raise Healthy, Confident Daughters

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,

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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

The Ick Factor Getting the Best of the Breast Feeding Baby Doll?

The Ick Factor Getting the Best of the Breast Feeding Baby Doll?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

I’ve got to be honest. I’m grappling with something here. This breast-feeding doll for little girls. I haven’t written about it because truthfully I really wasn’t sure what I was feeling about it.

The doll, called “Baby Gloton,” is manufactured by a Spanish Company and is not yet available in the States. It will be though—next year. In the box comes a 20 inch doll (newborn size) ready for suckling. It also comes with a halter top with daisies placed strategically where working nipples would be—if the young girls had them. When the doll is lifted to the nipples, it makes suckling noises.

I know. Some of you are thinking, well, yuck. It does have a strong “ick” factor. And I wondered to myself, “why?” I mean, the feminists and breast-feeding advocates are right—breast-feeding is natural and normal. Having just adopted a baby myself, I’m around breast-feeding often and think it’s wonderful. Many babies are breast fed and we, in America, believe in breast-feeding just like the European countries do. Not all babies bottle feed, as other baby dolls would have us think. So, a breast-feeding baby doll makes sense…right?

I think the problem here is that we don’t like to think about “nipples” and “suckling” when it comes to our school-age daughters. Even if it’s all pretend.  Because, of course, it is!

But with all the talk about sexualization and pushing our girls to grow up so soon, the doll feels inappropriate. Or…is that just “our problem?” Are we making this very non-sexual thing into a sexual thing when it isn’t?  (And let us not forget—that girls simulate these kids of acts with baby dolls that aren’t programmed to suckle. Just as they pretend to feed, change, and comfort their dolls, they may pretend to breast feed—and they don’t need any special dolls to make that happen.) We’ve certainly seen that breast-feeding has made people feel uncomfortable before– remember Selma Hayek and the hungry dying baby she breast fed? People were even uncomfortable with that– so a breast-feeding doll stands little chance of acceptance!

Are Americans just oversexualized—or too uptight? Are we backwards thinking or just prudish? Are we all just being scammed and ripped off?  Or perhaps, we just like our children’s toys to be a little less realistic.

After all, look at Barbie. She’s as unrealistic as you can get and she’s been around for 50 years.

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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!!!

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

kelly-clarkson_untouched and photoshopped

SELF Magazine Warning Needed?

Subject on Cover is Bigger Than  She Actually Appears

Dr. Robyn Silverman

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

Yup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She says makes that clear so her blog:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trying to get the body to fit the swimsuit or vice versa?

I think we can all learn a very important lesson here (Thank you, Tracy).  Stop trying to make your body fit the clothes and start looking for clothes that fit your body!  Why do girls and women berate themselves when the clothes don’t fit us well?  Somehow, the size and shape of the clothes in the store become our own private dictator telling us we must lose weight, get surgery, and do dangerous things to ourselves just so we can fit into them. Who made them king?  Take back the power– find the clothes that fit you and that make you feel beautiful.  You deserve it.

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