Tag Archives: body image

in honor of fashion week

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In just a few hours, the ribbon will be cut to kick off New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and I can think of no better time to pay homage to the models who make these events possible. For upwards of the past decade I have listened to first-hand accounts of the fashion industry and the experiences of models, at large. The dehumanization and objectification of men and women and the expectation of compliance only chip away at self-esteem and wield extraordinary power to perpetuate personal problems and societal issues, such as eating disorders.

Over the past couple of years, it seems that the industry is gaining momentum towards empowerment.

Two years ago, Coco Rocha penned her concerns about the prevalence of eating disorders within the fashion industry in an impassioned open letter to the New York Times. She is one of the few models who have been outspoken about the ubiquitous issue of eating disorders within the industry.

Last year, Sara Ziff founded The Model Alliance, a not-for-profit organization working to establish fair labor standards for models in the U.S. Specifically, the initiative addresses healthcare, compensation, sexual harassment, working conditions and education, along with encouraging a “safe and healthy work environment that protects models’ mental and physical well being.” The Model Alliance is becoming a place where models can find support, voice their concerns and build a community.

Please visit their website, spread the word, share this post, do whatever you can to keep the conversation going, to support The Model Alliance and all of the men and women it protects! Thank you!


mirror, mirror on the wall

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Everyone looks at themselves in the mirror and maybe even sneaks a peek at their reflection when passing by store windows.

In the case of eating disorders, the time spent in front of a mirror can be obsessive and destructive. Men and women can spend overwhelming amounts of time scrutinizing their bodies. Body checking can occur in other forms, as well. Squeezing, pulling, measuring, trying on different sized clothing, etc. Harmful, damaging negative self-talk oftentimes accompanies body checking. Mantras like “I’m so fat,” “I’m disgusting,” “ugh, I’m so gross,” etc. become haunting and unrelenting.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? How do you feel about your reflection? What do you say to yourself? Do your automatic thoughts about your body promote body dissatisfaction or body acceptance? How would you like to view your body? What can you do to change your automatic thoughts to match what you desire?


miss representation: the film

Don’t miss this important documentary, premiering on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) this Thursday, October 20th at 9pm.

About the film (taken directly from the Miss Representation website):
Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.


america the beautiful 2: the thin commandments

America The Beautiful was incredible. Darryl Roberts did it again with his second film that will grace NYC on Wednesday, October 12th, at the Quad Cinema. As reviewed by the Quad:

In an instant, 29 million Americans became fat, out of shape and dangerously obese… and they did it without taking a single bite of food. It was all the result of a decision to change the national standard for obesity. The question is “What was behind a ruling to declare so many people to be fat? Was it political, financial or for the good of humankind?” The answer lies in a new film by award-winning director Darryl Roberts who, in a follow-up to “America The Beautiful”, examines the cause of our country’s obsession with dieting. You’ll find out that diet companies have raked in huge profits because of the new standards — guidelines the weight loss industry helped structure. The film also weighs in on the raging debate between doctors who say fat is healthy versus those who disagree. There’s also the revelation that — based on new “fat” guidelines — LeBron James, one of the world’s greatest athletes, is obese. So are Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tom Cruise, Will Smith and Christian Bale. Covering issues such as America’s unhealthy dieting craze, the use of the outdated and misleading BMI scale and the currently touted “obesity epidemic,” Roberts debates the widely believed concepts that you have to be thin to be healthy. During his journey, he discovers the plethora of factors contributing to America’s body dissatisfaction, many of which are being promoted by doctors, schools, the government, and even the First Lady of the United States. (Running time 1:40)

Check out Darryl’s website for the trailer and lots of other goodies about both films. Don’t miss it!


vanity sizing

Vanity sizing is the phenomenon of ready-to-wear clothing becoming larger over a period of time. It has been shown that both women and men are willing to pay a higher price for clothing deemed a smaller size. Presumably, designers are more than happy to appease consumers by gratuitously down-sizing their clothing.

There is no consistency between retailers anymore. Shopping has become incredibly difficult for many, perhaps even most. What does true-to-size really mean these days?

For those struggling with self-esteem and body image issues, it is stressful enough to go shopping for clothing, but facing this extraordinary inconsistency between designers makes the arduous process of shopping merciless.

Aside from confusing our perceptions of our bodies, what message does this send to women and men about how much size actually matters? What have you noticed? What has your experience been?


next top model contestant’s body likened to “overstuffed luggage”

Australia’s Next Top Model (ANTM) contestant, Alissandra Moone, is underweight, according to the Australian body mass index. Two weeks ago, the 18-year-old was criticized by ANTM judge, Alex Perry, when he likened Moone’s body to “overstuffed luggage.”

Moone feels, “it’s a very bad message to be sending to young girls who watch the show.” She explains,”I know this has happened to other girls in the past but I was shocked when (Perry) said I was too fat.” Moone warns, “I’m only a size eight. There’s going to be a lot of young girls watching this who are bigger than me, and how’s this going to make them feel?”

A spokeswoman for the ButterFly Foundation, which is aimed at educating and supporting people with eating disorders, said: “The (fashion) industry has a responsibility for portraying women of all healthy sizes and in playing a strong educated role in the contribution they make to the serious issue of negative body image. We encourage Top Model to be conscious of the example they set to their impressionable viewers.”

Alex Perry stands by his comments and has refused to apologize. He answered his critics citing “incorrect reporting.” Perry claims to have not commented on Moone’s body shape or body image. Instead, he says that, “[he] was talking about her modelling skills.”

Incidentally, this is just one of countless times that models of various shapes and sizes get feedback such as this. Simultaneously, there have been efforts to govern the participation of models in fashion weeks worldwide.

In 2007, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) set forth industry guidelines in response to the death of Eliana Ramos, a Uruguayan model who died of malnutrition in 2007.

Diane von Furstenberg, president of the CFDA, explained that the CFDA has no intention of policing or regulating a model’s weight or her body-mass index.

von Furstenberg went on to explain that, “We create inspirational images and it’s important that we don’t encourage unhealthy behavior. We can promote health and encourage it, empower women and give them role models not by how much you weigh but by de-glamorizing models. Few women can become models and it lasts for a short time. Yes there is a problem and because we are in the business of fashion and image we can help.“ Ultimately, von Furstenberg explained that the responsibility lies with the agencies, not the designers.

Does calling someone “fat” or “overstuffed luggage” promote and encourage health? Or does it crush self-esteem and create a war between self and body? What a dilemma this presents to models, girls and women! Don’t accept your natural body, don’t become emaciated and your natural body is one that needs to be fought. What do you think about all of this?


maggie goes on a diet?!?!

‘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?


glam slam

The Huffington Post featured an article today by Colleen Perry focusing upon the impact of early exposure to sexual themes on children. For decades, evidence has been mounting of earlier onset body dissatisfaction, the high level of importance of body image on self-esteem and the increase of disordered eating at strikingly young ages. Additionally, these issues do not discriminate between sex, race, age, socioeconomic status, etc. Statistics are growing rapidly in every subgroup. Earlier exposure to sexual themes is becoming more and more the norm and is one of the factors that buoys these statistics.

Beauty pageants began in 1921 and Little Miss America began in the 1960’s.  It wasn’t until JonBenét Ramsey’s 1996 murder that the spotlight seemed to shift onto the world of child glam. In 2009, TLC premiered a reality series entitled Toddlers & Tiaras that featured the world of child beauty pageants. The series shows toddlers being pushed, pulled and coiffed into looking like mini sexy adults and then pitted against one another and judged on the basis of beauty, talent and garb. Since then, the show has received much criticism and controversy.

In May of this year, news broke that a mother was injecting her 8-year-old daughter with Botox once she entered the world of beauty pageants. The 8-year-old was quoted to say, “I just, like, don’t, like, think wrinkles are nice on little girls.” Within days of the report, she was removed from the custody of her mother.

While this may spark a larger issue of what it means for these parents to introduce their children to pageantry and that perhaps, parents are displacing their own internal pressures onto their children, what will happen if we continue to entrench our kids in the world of princesses and glam? What if we continue to teach that makeup and lavish dresses are requirements for beauty?

Even if children are not actually a part of the world of pageants, the pressure is escalating. You as a parent, a sibling, a friend, a relative, a role model, have the power to send a different and deliberate message stating otherwise. A message that encourages a true, authentic sense of self to emerge that does not need to be dressed up to be accepted. Be conscious and be clear in your delivery of this message and it will be heard louder and with more of an impact because it comes from you, a trusted source.


mommyrexia

In September 2004, New York Magazine published a piece on the “perfect pregnancy.” They cited a Johns Hopkins study revealing that 21% of the women in the study engaged in “weight-restrictive behavior” during their pregnancy and fasted before doctors visits in order to weigh less at the time of their exam.

Just a note about those women suffering from eating disorders: conversely, these women tend to control their eating disordered symptoms during pregnancy, as their focus becomes more on the baby and away from themselves. In fact, oftentimes, women who suffer from eating disorders are more able to resist their eating disordered behaviors for the sake of the baby.

Recently there seems to be more and more discussion about “mommyrexia” being a new trend in pregnancy. I’ve heard about it from lots of people, on the internet, in magazines and on the news. It seems what Johns Hopkins revealed in their study has dramatically increased. While I have not heard statistics to back it up, what I have seen are magazine covers and articles splashed with photos of very thin celebrities who maintain most of their shape throughout their pregnancy (other than the baby bump) and then, seemingly overnight, make dramatic changes washing away any evidence that they even went through a pregnancy. I’ve heard about pregnancy exercise boot camps, and I’ve heard great fear from many women about gaining pregnancy weight and a lot of pre-planning on how to lose it quickly after giving birth.

There’s something very wrong when we begin to view the beauty and magnificence of pregnancy as something to be controlled and manipulated. In addition to the physical detriment this imposes on both the mother and the baby, this type of societal expectation and personal pressure cuts self-esteem at the knees. It riddles an otherwise beautiful experience with anxieties and fears about not doing pregnancy “right.” Why are we celebrating women who barely look pregnant? What do you think about all of this?


awww, you’re so cute!

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.