The fact that eating disorders cross all gender, race, age, culture and socioeconomic lines has been clear for decades. Somehow, the fact that there is increased pressure on boys has escaped much of the spotlight.
A recent study published in Pediatrics yielded statists that show both boys and girls engaged in muscle-enhancing behaviors (e.g.: changing eating habits, increased exercise, used protein powders/shakes, used steroids, used another muscle-building substance), the large majority of which were boys.
Beginning in childhood, heroes like G.I. Joe and The Incredible Hulk model bulging muscles. If G.I. Joe Extreme were life-size, he would have a 55-inch chest and a 27-inch bicep. In other words, his bicep would be almost as big as his waist and bigger than most competitive body builders’. Seems like in this, and many other ways, buff is the new skinny!
We continue to creatively perpetuate new and unrealistic ideals and expectations for our little boys and girls, who grow up into our men and women (and us!), and in some ways shaped by these confusing paradigms. You may have heard about 13y/o McKenna Pope’s petition to Hasbro asking them to make gender-neutral toy ovens. Ultimately, McKenna was saddened by a pushback by Hasbro explaining that boys do play with their products but never addressed the fact that these toy ovens are marketed towards girls.
And what is Barbie doing these days? Saying nothing about her unrealistic shape (in real life she would stand six feet tall with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist, and 33″ hips), she’s still hanging out in her Dreamhouse, tho, she has upgraded to 3-stories, has a beach house and a castle (in the country?). She goes camping now but sports high heals and a denim mini while doing so. The “Barbie I Can Be…™” series is impressive however, again it seems that Barbie can be anything she wants so long as she wears her high heals and a mini skirt! It would be great if they made a “Barbie I Can Be…™” ME doll.
I can go on and on about gender specific toys and the impact of them on the psyches of boys, girls, men and women but you get the idea. I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts/experiences (in “comments” below). Since the holiday season has already begun, I encourage you to be a little more mindful and aware of the toys that stock the isles (and your shopping cart) and form an opinion about it! What do you think and feel about what you see? About what your kids (or children in your lives) see? You can empower yourself, like McKenna Pope and many others, to take a stand and push back. If not by creating a petition or writing to these toy makers, by choosing where you spend your money and on which toys fill up your playroom!
Leave a comment | tags: adolescence, barbe i can be, barbie, body image, boy body image, boys eating disorders, buff, easy bake oven, gender specific toys, gi joe, hasbro, hulk, male body image, male eating disorders, mckenna pope, muscle enhancement, steroids, teenage boys worried about body image, the incredible hulk, toys | posted in body image, eating disorders, holidays, self-esteem
What little girl doesn’t like princesses? Most of them have been swallowed up by the whole phenomenon. While these princesses frequently have strengths, what is front of mind for most tots is that these princesses are beautiful, wear fancy dresses, jewels and shoes.
Sometimes these messages are covert. Typically, the “bad” characters in Disney films are overweight.
Sometimes these messages are overt. In Gnomio and Juliet, just before her first date, the frog says to Juliet,”You know he’s going to ditch you when he finds out how much you weigh.”
In the film Ice Princess, there were a few scenes about food. In one, the mother gave her daughter a hard time because she wanted a cheeseburger. In another, a skater wanted the server to measure out the cheese in her salad at the skating rink snack bar.
Our little boys are taught that good looks, money and charm are the things that matter.
Parents are in a very powerful position, believe it or not, even more powerful than the messages in these films. What we can do is watch these films WITH our children and talk about what was portrayed. We can offer a different message, dispel the warped belief systems illustrated and empower our children to view themselves, their friends and people at large, in a different way.
How are you handling this issue with your children? Is there anything you can you do differently to be more effective? What do you notice when you have these conversations with them?
Leave a comment | tags: adolescence, children, disney characters, disney princesses, expectations, media literacy, princess phenomenon, self-esteem | posted in empowerment, media literacy
‘Maggie Goes On A Diet’ is a new children’s book, authored and self-published by Paul M. Kramer, due out this October and geared towards readership as young as four-years-old. It tells the story of a 14-year-old adolescent girl who becomes a school soccer star after losing weight by going on a diet and limiting snacks, etc. Aren’t there more effective ways of being a soccer star than going on a diet?
But, perhaps this is really a book about an adolescent girl who gives in to the peer and societal pressures to look a certain way in order to feel good about herself? One of the first things I noticed was the distorted image in the mirror (body image distortion being a hallmark symptom of eating disorders). The second thing I noticed was that Maggie is not holding up an all-star soccer uniform, she is holding up an ultra-thin dress that she is hoping to fit into, one even smaller than her trimmed down mirror image.
As you might imagine, the story has become the target of tremendous controversy and criticism. Many reviews point to the irresponsibility of negatively targeting the self-esteem of young girls, Maggie’s acceptance of the bullying she experiences directed toward her weight, and the sheer danger of exposing children to these messages.
Many are up in arms and speaking out about what they think:
“for any parent to buy [this book] would be unforgivable.”
“4-8 year-olds should not be taught that dieting is a healthy choice.”
“The idea of this book makes me want to either cry or scream – actually both.”
“This is a dangerous book.”
Hundreds of reviews have addressed how this book, and the like, will contribute to early-onset eating disorders. Many have gone so far as to ask that Mr. Kramer remove the book from the market.
Mr. Kramer maintains that his book is not aimed at preschoolers and stated to Fox News that “I’m not advocating, never did, that any child should go on a diet. First of all, this is a change of lifestyle. This is not meant to be to go on a diet.” Here is his side of the story.
So… is this truly a case of judging a book by its cover (the book has not yet been released) or is there enough here to warrant the verbal barbs it has suffered thus far? What do you think?
7 Comments | tags: adolescence, body image, children, controversy, dieting, eating disorders, girls, maggie goes on a diet, paul kramer | posted in body image, eating disorders, self-esteem
I let this article go without blogging about it but since then, I have gotten lots of emails about it (thank you to everyone who is thinking of me!). So, I figured what the heck! Before I get to the article, I want to give you some statistics for perspective:
- 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets – Gustafson-Larson, A.M., & Terry, R.D. (1992). Weight-related behaviors and concerns of fourth-grade children. Journal of American Dietetic Association, 818-822.
- 42% of 1st – 3rd grade girls want to be thinner
- 51% of 9-10 year old girls feel better about themselves when they are dieting
- 9% of 9 year olds have vomited to lose weight
- 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their body
- 78% of 18 year old girls are unhappy with their body
- The #1 wish of girls 11-17 years old is to lose weight – Maine, M. (2000) Body Wars: Making Peace with Women’s Bodies. Carlsbad, CA: Gurze Books.
- 81% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat – Dove Self Esteem Fund Initiative
AND WHEN THESE GIRLS GROW UP…
- 67% of women 15-64 withdraw from life-engaging activities, like giving an opinion and going to the doctor, because they feel badly about their looks – Dove Self Esteem Fund Initiative
AND THE BOYS…
- 45% of boys are unhappy with their bodies
- Nearly 1/3 of teenage boys engage in unhealthy and dangerous behaviors to control the weight and the size of their body, such as skipping meals, refusing to eat, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives. – Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). I’m, Like, SO Fat! New York: Guilford.
Lisa Bloom wrote a thoughtful piece for the Huffington Post
that addresses the ways in which we engage with and speak to little girls. She writes about the power of speaking to our girls in such a way that calls attention to their bodies, appearance, clothing, hair, etc., teaches them that their appearance is more important than anything else.
We need to recognize our children as unique individuals beyond their appearance. What precisely? Intelligence, interests, abilities, intentions, thoughtfulness, etc. I want to challenge you, and us all, to begin to shift the ways in which we address our children, both girls AND boys, and to show them that they are more than their appearance. OH! and don’t forget to actively listen to what they have to say! Let them feel heard and let them know that what they have to say and share really matters to you.
Leave a comment | tags: adolescence, body image, boys, children, girls, lisa bloom, messages, self-esteem | posted in body image, eating disorders
It has become routine for NYC schools to report the body mass index (BMI) of students on report cards. This is a CRITICAL issue. Not only does it begin to scrutinize weight at a very early age, it is also being done without education, leaving parents confused about what, exactly, to do with this information. This is not an opposition to health, it is an opposition to addressing health in this way. It is my very strong opinion that this practice be stopped immediately and I am not alone. I came across a petition drafted by 2 women who have, themselves, struggled with eating disorders. I urge you to take a moment to take a stand. Visit http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-dangerous-practice-of-weight-grades-on-report-cards-4 to sign the petition. Go now and please pass this along to anyone and everyone. Thank you, most sincerely.
Leave a comment | tags: adolescence, bmi, children, eating disorders, report cards, school, weight grades | posted in eating disorders
A 10-year longitudinal study by University of Minnesota researchers yielded significant findings that girls who demonstrate weight control measures in early adolescence are highly likely to carry these behaviors into adulthood. The same was true for the male group.
This speaks volumes to the unequivocal importance of addressing disordered eating and weight control behaviors as early as possible. We need to raise our awareness of how much time, focus and modeling of these behaviors we offer our children and address these issues as soon as we notice them. We must offer an alternative to this negative thinking and obsessiveness about food, weight and body image and teach them to accept themselves and their bodies as they are meant to be. What can you do, right now, today, to model self-acceptance to those around you?
The article is “Dieting and disordered eating behaviors from adolescence to young adulthood: Findings from a 10-year longitudinal study” by Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD; Melanie Wall, PhD; Nicole I. Larson, PhD, MPH, RD; Marla E. Eisenberg, ScD, MPH; and Katie Loth, MPH, RD. It appears in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 111, Issue 7 (July 2011) published by Elsevier.
Leave a comment | tags: ada, adolescence, adulthood, children, dieting, disordered eating, early onset, eating disorders | posted in eating disorders