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!

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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!

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Dora the Explorer Becomes Dora the Diva?

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Dora the Explorer Becomes Dora the Diva?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Well, not exactly.  Seems that while many parents and my fellow bloggers got up in arms chanting “Say it isn’t so!” and “No Makeover for Dora! when Mattel released their controversial silhouette on the 6th, calling the new Dora a “tramp,” “streetwalker,” and a Lindsey Lohan Look-a-like.  Was she being stripped down like Miley Cyrus? There was worry that she could compromise body image, threaten her ability to empower our powerful girls, and stomp on their confidence. There was even a petition…that I was ready and willing to sign as soon as I got to see the full Dora (as of March 8th over 2000 signed).

But parents are changing their tune for this toon.

Dora hasn’t been made into the next “Bratz” and she isn’t wearing a micro-mini, but rather, a long shirt over leggings.  How nice ot Mattel to get so much extra play in the media before the reveal– I’m sure, knowing that parents would be shouting denegrating comments about the Dora silhouette and then finding themselves sitting down to a nice lunch of crow at the final reveal.  Not nice. Smart marketing. But not nice at all.

We are programmed to criticize, aren’t we?  But as parents, we are sensitive to media influence on our children as well as change that can affect how our children think and feel about themselves.  And we should. And, well,  nobody likes change.  They changed Strawberry Shortcake from a pudgy, cat-carrying kid to a slimmed-down tween and that was tough.  Perhaps something to do with nostalgia? Leaving well enough alone?  Or, as a body image specialist, we can say that it’s also about taking down that belly fat and strapping on some shape-skimming outfit can have a negative effect on our girls.  Somehow “freshening up” means going on a diet these days and of course, getting a little nip-tuck.

But anyway, back to our explorer in question.  Well, she’s not a Sesame Street Walker as we might have assumed.  But there are some issues.  She’s traded in her exploring boots for ballet slippers and her practical exploring shorts for a fashionable frock and leggings– what does that mean? Well, no more jungle explorations.  Which hurts.  I kind of liked how Dora wasn’t afraid to get dirty while traipsing along with her jungle friends. She lost her stocky toddler-like physique and traded it in for a stream-line look.  Yeah, I know, she definitely doesn’t have the Latin curves. Did you really expect them?

And yup, she’s pink-afied. And appears to be wearing some kind of lip gloss or lipstick.  Not so great. And let’s not forget that on her interactive computer games, girls can change her eye color and hair– which threatens her latina roots once again. Lyn Mikel Brown, author of Packaging Girlhood and  co-founder of Hardy Girls, Healthy Women in Waterville, Maine, and a person who I admire and appreciate, questions, “why change her appearance at all? Why is appearance so important?” Exactly.  And yet in our world, it is.

The good thing is that Mattel states that Dora  “will expand into the world of solving mysteries that have overt and relatable pro-social themes — like volunteerism, water conservation, or planting trees to help the environment.” Yeah, we like that.  That’s what we stress for Powerful Words— and any role model doing that is a good thing.

Well, what do you think? Sell out or upgrade? Sign of despair or sign of the times?

As always, we look forward to your comments.

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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

Health Risk! Kids Watching Lots of TV and Playing with the Computer?

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Just a few more reasons to turn off (or at least limit) the TV

Dr. Robyn Silverman

A study has been released that shows that children who watch a lot of TV, play a lot of video games, and spend a lot of time surfing the web are more likely to be in for lots of health problems and compromising behaviors. Namely, obesity, smoking, and early sexual activity.

Who studied it? Researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Yale University and the California Pacific Medical Center worked together on this large-scale study.

What did they study? Sifting through 173 studies since 1980, these researchers analyzed how exposure to different media sources impacts the physical health of children and adolescents. This was one of the largest assessments in this area done to date.

What did they look at? These (mainly U.S.) studies, typically largely on TV. However, some also looked at the impact of video games, films, music, and computer and Internet use. Of these, 75% found that increased media viewing was correlated with negative health outcomes for children.

What was the major finding? Young people who are exposed to more media are more likely to become obese, start smoking and begin earlier sexual activity than their peers who spend less time in front of a screen. They also found statistical correlations with high media exposure and low academic achievement, drug use, and alcohol use.

“The fact that it was probably more a matter of quantity than actual content is also a concern. We have a media-saturated life right now in the 21st century. And reducing the number of hours of exposure is going to be a big issue.” — Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, NIH bioethicist

What’s this about early sexual activity and media exposure? In the study, a whopping 13 of 14 studies that evaluated sexual behavior in young people found an association between media exposure and earlier initiation of sexual behavior.

You may remember the recent RAND study that showed that teens who watch more sexually themed TV are more likely to have a higher risk of teen pregnancy.

What’s this about obesity and media exposure? There have been connections between obesity and media previously—we’ve heard explanations such as children tending to mindlessly eat (and eat high calorie food) in front of the TV. We’ve heard that children who are watching a lot of TV also are not outside running around or participating in some kind of physical activity. One study cited in this report found that children who spent more than eight hours watching TV per week at age 3 were more likely to be obese at 7 than their peers who watched less than 8 hours of TV per week. Research also shows that many U.S. children, even those at toddler age, watch far more than children elsewhere and far more than is recommended.

Let’s also not forget, that a lot of the hyper-sexualized (ultra-thin) media exposure has been linked to poor body image and pressure to grow up too fast in children and teens as well.

“The average parent doesn’t understand that if you plop your kids down in front of the TV or the computer for five hours a day, it can change their brain development, it can make them fat, and it can lead them to get involved in risky sexual activity at a young age,” –Jim Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media, financer of the study.

SO, what do you think? Do you agree with Mr. Steyer? Is there another problem here? Speak your mind!

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picture: Jupiter

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