Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Tyra Show: October 5th

Dr Robyn Silverman, child development expert and body image expertTyra_logo

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

It was just last Tuesday that I was asked to come down to New York City to be the Body Image Expert for a taping of the nationally syndicated talk show, The Tyra Show, with, of course, Tyra Banks. The show will air October 5th so be sure to watch or Tivo Tyra on that day (4pm EST on the CW)!

The topic: Fat Haters and the family members and friends who they hurt with their attitudes.

It’s hard enough for women to deal with the 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 so that…what? I’m not quite sure. What I call “striving for zero” (that “ideal” 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 remind ourselves that we are amazing TODAY- not 5 pounds from now.

But what is it like for those girls and women who don’t have a safe haven among their family and friends—a place where weight and looks and size don’t matter and they are loved and valued for who they are? 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.  They have no buffer. They begin to buy into the notion that the more they weigh, the less they are worth. And what’s worse, they pass body bashing 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.  See you there!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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Daddy’s Little Girl and Mama’s Boy: Bonding with your Opposite Gendered Kid

father and daughter

Dr. Robyn Silverman

As I’m writing my body image book, due out in October of 2010, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between mothers and sons and fathers and daughters. Powerful Parenting certainly must deal with more than just same-sex relationships within the family structure.

We often hear about the special relationship between parents and their same sex child. Who hasn’t heard of a daughter trying on her Mommy’s high heels and a son mirroring his Dad while he shaves? Our sons and daughters are figuring out how they are supposed to act and who they are supposed to be like. While children are able to connect with emotionally available parents of either gender, it’s only natural for children to identify with their same sex parent whose “femaleness” or “maleness” is a commonality they both share.

mother and son

But while a child might identify with a same-sex parent, as Powerful Parents know, that doesn’t mean that the child is any less bonded with the opposite gendered parent. In fact, between ages 3 and 5 years old, the opposite sex parent often becomes a focus for a young boy or girl. It’s common for a daughter to become “Daddy’s Little Girl” and a son to become “Mama’s Boy.” This powerful attachment doesn’t replace the same sex relationship but rather helps the child to learn that s/he doesn’t have to reject anyone to love both parents. This healthy resolution helps to set the foundation for resolving feelings and establishing relationships as s/he grows.

The opposite sex parent-child relationship provides a template for opposite-sex relationships as adults. What can a mother teach a son? Aside from the unique qualities the mother might have personally, such as an artistic flair or an athletic predisposition, a mother shows her son how to treat a girl and the special qualities and nuances of the opposite sex. What does a father teach a daughter? Studies repeatedly show that girls who have a strong relationship with their Dads are more confident, self-reliant, and successful overall compared to those who have distant or absentee fathers.

So how can we foster these bonds within the family?

  1. Take the cultural labels with a grain of salt: While we might not like it much, society often shames a boy who has a strong attachment to his mom. Girls relationships with their Dads are typically viewed in a more positive light yet still branded with labels such as “tomboy.” Be aware of these cultural messages and don’t let anyone taint your special relationship with your opposite sex child. A strong mother-son and father-daughter relationship is not only acceptable but beneficial to your child and to the family.
  2. Open up communication: Just because you might not understand some of the things your opposite-sex child is interested in doesn’t mean you can’t. If you don’t know something, ask questions. Even if something might seem goofy, silly, or so “not you” it’s vital that you validate your child so that s/he knows what he says and does concerns you. Never trivialize or make your opposite sex children feel strange and be sure to answer their questions.
  3. Spend the time: It’s been shown that fathers tend to spend more time with their sons and mothers spend more time with their daughters. Take interest in your opposite-sex child and find something that both of you like to do together. For those of you who have sons and daughters in a Powerful Words Member School that teaches martial arts, gymnastics, dance, swimming, or another activity be certain that both parents are part of their opposite sex child’s experience. Maybe you can even take classes with them! Outside of these activities, find other ways to connect even if you find activities that are new to you and perhaps a little out of your comfort zone.
  4. Be fully present: Give your opposite-sex children your full attention when they’re talking to you. Look them in the eyes. Shut off the cell phone, the ipod, FaceBook, and your email. Your actions will always speak louder than words. Your children want to know that nothing is more important than the time you spend with them.
  5. Treat your child with kindness and expect the same back: Parents sometimes get caught up with messages like “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls” and use these stereotypes to explain away rude behavior. This is especially true when it comes to sons—warning mothers not to “sissy-up” their boys by putting a stop to aggressive conduct. As powerful parents, we know that character does not need to be sacrificed in lieu of self expression. Be kind to your sons and daughters and expect the same in return.
  6. Give them a great example: A mother can be a wonderful model to her son just as a father can be an important model to his daughter. How do you act towards others? Everything you do and say is absorbed by your children. In the same vein, what are you watching on TV or looking at on the internet? When a father is saying negative comments about women on the internet or a mother is watching aggressive men on TV, it sends messages to your opposite-sex child about how to view him or herself.
  7. Provide your perspective: As a woman, mothers can provide their sons with a glimpse into how women like to be treated as well as how women and girls think. Similarly, a father can help a girl understand the “male perspective.” These can be valuable insights as your children enter their preteen, teen, and adult years.

A mother is the first woman in her son’s life. A father is the first male in his daughter’s life. That means they set the precedent. How do you want your child to be treated by the opposite sex during their teen years? What do you want them to look for in a spouse? The mother-son attachment and the father-daughter bond may need to overcome some differences but in the end, coming to terms with these differences helps your child learn how to create healthy relationships with others. These healthy relationships are the foundation of happy, powerful families.

Here’s to your success!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

How Can I Get My Child to Get More Active?

family_bikeBy Dr. Robyn Silverman

Dear Dr. Robyn,

We have 3 children (ages 11, 7, and 4)– and only 1 of them is really into sports.  I worry that the others are going to become very unhealthy because the activities they choose to do typically don’t require them to do much physical activity.  I worry about their weight, their health…everything. I don’t want to harp on them because I don’t want to make them hate getting active or make them think that I think they’re fat or they’re going to get fat (1 of them is a girl). Please give me some suggestions on how I can help them to get more active!   —Lisa M., Durham, NC

Dear Lisa,

Thank you for your question–

There’s so much talk about body issues these days—on the one hand, we’re dealing with what is being labeled “an obesity epidemic”  and on the other hand, we’re dealing with more and more children with body image issues (both boys and girls ), eating disorders, and challenges with food.  On top of that, more children are becoming lethargic and leading sedentary lifestyles —perhaps a function of new and fun technologies as much as more homework, more parents at work during the after school hours, and less “active time” during school hours due to budget cuts.

Interestingly, as children get older, their activity level drops dramatically.  In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health:

  • Ages 9-11 years old: More than 90% of the children evaluated met the recommended level of 60 minutes of more of MVPA per day.
  • Age 15: Only 31% met the recommended level of MVPA per weekday and only 17% met the recommended activity level on weekends.

Many of you who are reading this blog, like Lisa, are parents who are interested in getting their children active from a very young age.  There are many studies that show us that children who are active have fewer problems with weight and body image. So how can we get our kids to love being active?

(1)    Play with them: Children learn by what they see.  If their parents are sitting on the sidelines, they are more likely to do so too.  Get involved—bike ride with your kids—play hopscotch, jump-rope, and play ball in the back yard.  Join activities with them.  There are plenty of fun things you can do together! Try martial arts where family programs are prominent—or swimming programs that allow you to get in the pool with your kids. Get in touch with a Powerful Words Member School– so many of them have family programs!   By getting involved in an “active way” you relay “this is important—not just for you to do, but for the family.”

(2) Get messy and dirty: If children are always afraid to get their clothes dirty, they are less likely to get active.  Make sure that their play clothes are exactly that—for play.  And don’t be afraid to get dirty with them!  Run around—roll around—splash in puddles and get sweaty!  It’s fun and your kids will enjoy, well, being kids!  And don’t make the mistake that only boys should get messy—girls should too.  We never want our girls to think that they can’t be as active, powerful, and strong as the boys.  These sentiments get transferred to girls easily—so be sure that you are saying something empowering rather than destructive.

family_walk

(3) Make the time: There are so many things to do in the day—school, homework, piano practice, family time—that it’s often difficult to make time to get active.  But getting active isn’t something that should be negotiable or expendable. We need to make the time for it.  Children should be active for at least an hour per day! If they don’t like competitive sports, there are plenty of other activities that will get them moving—martial arts, gymnastics, dancing and swimming are all great ways to get active without necessarily getting competitive.

(4) Let them know that you’re proud: Whether they win, lose, have a tough day, or a great day, let them know you’re proud of the way they get out there and take responsibility for keeping their bodies healthy.  If we are constantly being judged on how well we did when we were active, we may be less apt to get active!  Praise effort over outcome—and determination over trophies and you will be helping your child learn to love activity.

(5) Help them to set goals: It’s fun to achieve. We achieve by setting appropriate goals for ourselves and then going after them!  Be warned though—make sure these are YOUR CHILD’S GOALS—not yours.  And be sure that these goals are not “in comparison to” a sibling, friend, or other peers.  Make your child’s physical goals something that is right for him or her—and that is completely about him or her and nobody else.  This is not “the biggest loser” or “Survivor.” Your child should not get “kicked off the island” if s/he isn’t as strong, fast, or successful as anyone else.

(6) Get them active inside too: While so many technologies are linked to sitting on the couch, there are also technologies that can get kids moving.  The Wii Fit and Dance Revolution are great ways to get active while inside on a rainy day– or just a day that the kids want to play with some neat technology. In fact, these games that are now being used as a source of fitness in gym classes. Studies are beginning to show that they “make a very positive contribution to players’ stress management, weight management, fitness and health.”

family_naturewalk

(7) Be innovative: Don’t love sports but love science? Go on nature walks! Prefers to history over hopscotch? Go walk the museums.  Think outside the box.  Sports aren’t the only way to get physical.  Children can get active by gardening, dancing, jump-roping, building and painting outside.  Go on camping trips or boating excursions. Splash in the rain. And again– all sports aren’t competitive with big crowds.  Your child might be more interested in individual activities and sports where they can work at their own pace and make their own personal goals. Moving the body feels good– it’s just a matter of finding out what your child loves best.

(6) Don’t tie it to weight: It would be easy to do so—after all, weight is a huge issue these days.  But when we tie physical activity to “exercise” and “losing weight” we make it seem like work—or punishment.  That’s no fun!  Children can be physically active at any size—so praise them for getting out there no matter what the scale says. 

In the end, we all want our children to get active to be healthy.  Our bodies need physical activity for the health of our cardio-vascular system, our muscles, our brains, and our souls.  It feels good to get active.  Let’s teach our children young to love getting up off the couch and moving around.  It will serve them well…for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn On Radio June 15th: Discussing Body Image

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Hi everyone!

Join me via the web or on the radio in Harrisburg, PA, for an hour long discussion on body image.  I’ll be on the radio show “Smart Talk” on the station WITF, an affiliate of NPR.

Host Craig Cohen will lead the discussion on Body Image. From the shows and ads on TV, to the models in newspapers and magazines, to storefront windows, to…well…anywhere you look – images bombard us that tell us what we’re supposed to look like. And many of those images are not only utterly unrealistic, they can do great harm – to adolescents especially – who grow concerned about their body image. Vanity also has led to a booming cosmetic surgery industry. But where’s the line between reasonable, appropriate efforts to look one’s best, and unreasonable, unrealistic efforts to reach some sort of ideal? And what does it say about us that we feel so compelled to always look “better?”

If you’d like to hear the full show at a later date/time, audio will be archived that afternoon at witf.org. Click on the SmartTalk icon and look for Monday’s blog entry on Body Image.

Would love to hear from you!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Diet Doping: The Scary Link Between Body Image and Drugs

scaleDiet Doping: Getting Thin at any Cost

Dr. Robyn Silverman

For many girls and women, “feeling fat” has become a common part of everyday life.  Dieting has become normal.  Complaining about weight is a social expectation.  And doing anything you can to achieve the perfect thin body, acceptable.

A recent online poll of 993 teens and women has suggested that a whopping 1 in 10 girls and women are using drugs to lose weight even though 67% were in the healthy weight range. What does that tell us?  The healthy weight range is not perceived as thin enough.  Hollywood hard bodies and Vogue model legs and abs are what we’re striving for.  No, it’s not often linked to health, it’s linked to looks.

Often, when attempting to lose weight, young girls subscribe to unhealthy practices such as quick fad diets or acts of purging including vomiting and laxative abuse instead of using a healthy regiment of exercise and maintenance of a balances diet.  Girls and women are looking for the quick fix– what’s going to make them thin NOW- not what’s going to make them healthiest in the long run.  In doing so, they turn to what IS NOT healthy.  In fact, in the poll, 10% of respondents to the poll owned up to taking stimulants like cocaine and speed, 26% said they were abusing diet pills or laxatives and one in 5 admitted to suffering form eating disorders. What’s healthy about that? It’s a practice I like to call “diet doping” and I’ll be talking about it in my upcoming book coming out in 2010.

Think it’s only the caucasian girls?  Nope.  The intense pressure to diet has amazing cross over affects.  Studies over the last 25 years have shown that rate of these subclinical eating practices, dieting and purging, and diet doping are increasing among all social and ethnic classes.

It’s very important that we begin conversations with our girls early about what it truly means to be healthy.  In doing so, we must also commit to being healthy ourselves and refrain from criticizing ourselves, using destructive methods to lose weight, or applauding others who lose weight at all costs as being “disciplined” and “healthy.”  Let’s get back to basics. I mean, remember when healthy meant having good balanced nutrition, energy, good support and well managed stress?  Let’s go back to that. Who’s with me?

Be healthy together– I know many of you already are. All you Powerful Parents out there whose families are engaging in being healthy by attending your Powerful Words Member School are showing your kids YOUR definition of healthy. Doing fun extracurriculars, being around positive people, talking about the link between your character and your physical health– you should all be applauded for taking these positive steps. Keep it going!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Diabulimia: Does my friend have Diabulimia?

Ask Dr. Robyn: Does my friend have Diabulimia?  Is Diabulimia a “big deal?”

I received a question from Jennifer in NJ whose friend has Diabetes and is currently losing a lot of weight.  Jennifer is concerned about whether her friend might have Diabulimia and if her behaviors might be causing a real problem.  This video answers, “What is Diabulimia?” and “How do I know if someone might be having a problem with Diabulimia?”

If you or someone you know is having a problem with Diabulimia, please get help.

Please comment below about Diabulimia, your take on the problem, or your stories. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Dr. Robyn is Guest Editor for Dove Self Esteem Fund!

dove self esteem fund

Dr. Robyn Silverman

How do you explain real beauty to a girl?

Joining Dove Self Esteem Embassador, Jessica Weiner and psychologist and author, Ann Kearney Cooke, I am honored to have been asked to be the guest editor for the Dove Self Esteem Fund. Do you know about the great efforts of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty that teaches girls not to get sucked into the media hype about thinness as well as the importance of loving “the skin you’re in?” They do films, workshops, and education for girls, moms and anyone who loves or works with girls.

The question I was asked to answer for preteen and teen girls was: How do you explain real beauty to a girl?

Here’s the full article and bio.

Highlights from the article include:

If you asked me about real beauty, you might be surprised by what I say…when I was 14 years old, there was an enormous billboard in our town center of a woman in an expensive dress looking down on the street through heavily made up eyes.  I thought she was perfect; unblemished, flawless, and yes, a real beauty. As I look back, I realize how wrong I was to think that way…she was digitally modified, primped, preened, puffed up and paired down…what’s really beautiful about someone who doesn’t really exist?

We want girls to realize that real beauty is in their best friend– their mom– and in themselves.  So I included passages such as this one:

Real beauty doesn’t need to be all made up or dressed in fancy clothes. It’s imperfectly perfect. It’s your best friend’s contagious zest for life that you see every time she pretends to pose for glamour shots while wearing a fuzzy bathroom and hippo-patterned pajamas. It’s the two of you singing into a hairbrush and dancing to some ridiculous song on the radio– just because it’s fun. Just because you can. Yes, real beauty is in your best friend…

Read the rest of the article!

What do you think real beauty is all about?  How would you explain it to your daughter, your niece, your student, or other girls you love?

Please comment below– we’d love to hear what you have to say!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs