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

The High Cost of Beauty: Giving Up Wealth, Health, and Happiness

The High Cost of Beauty: Giving up Wealth, Health, and Happiness

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Friday Musings…

In 7th grade, one of my best friends complained that she needed a nose job. “It’s too big!” I thought she was beautiful. But I’ll never forget what she told me; “Every time I look in the mirror, all I see is this nose. Beautiful people have little noses. Have you ever seen a model with a nose like mine?”

Seventh grade was my real induction into the world of “beauty.” Or shall I say, “manufacturing beauty” from natural beauty. Make-up, hair, tanning, shaving (thank goodness we didn’t know much about waxing during the preteen years), clothes and plastic surgery—it became apparent that scuffed up jeans, a t-shirt, and a little dirt on my face was no longer going to cut it. I had been a bit of a tomboy—having 2 older brothers who I wanted desperately to be like—and a tomboy wasn’t the best thing to be once you entered middle school.

We got a bit ridiculous. We’d put on our mother’s make-up and dress up like Madonna. We actually thought we looked good. We’d spend hours looking in the mirror brushing our teeth, pinching non-existent fat and searching for flaws to complain about. We bought trinkets and bobbles and fluorescent purses (mine was pink).

I remember saving up to buy at least 50 of those rubber bracelets—yes, I realize they were simply car parts and vacuum cleaner components now—but we all wanted them. I even remember my friends and myself slathering ourselves with tanning oil and literally lying down on tin foil to get that “natural glow.” Years later I realized that I could use the same procedure to cook shrimp.

As bad as we were, it’s worse these days. How much do girls and women spend on all those products that promises “more beauty than our creator could ever provide?”

It turns out, probably more than we care to know. The YMCA released a report on the Consequences of America’s Beauty Obsession on Women and Girls to illustrate that we’ve been buying into a “Beauty at Any Cost philosophy.

Economic Costs:

  1. 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedure in 2007
  2. A survey of young people showed that 69% of responders, 18 or older, are in favor of cosmetic surgery.
  3. ¼ of cosmetic surgery was performed on women of color, up 13% from the previous year.
  4. Workers with “below average looks tended to earn about 9% less money than those with “above average” looks

Beauty or brains?

One full year of college tuition and fees at a public instate college is $6,185. Five years of beauty products costs $6,423

Health Costs:

  1. 67% of women (excluding those with bulimia or anorexia) are trying to lose weight
  2. 53% of dieters are already at a healthy weight
  3. 37% of women are concerned about what they’re eating
  4. 13% of women actually smoke in order to lose weight!
  5. Smoking is responsible for 90% of lung cancer deaths in the US
  6. 40% of newly-diagnosed cases of eating disorders are in girls only 15-19 years old. Symptoms can start as early as kindergarten.
  7. Over ½ of teen girls engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors such as fasting, skipping meals, smoking, and taking laxative

What’s the real cost of all that make-up?

Several ingredients found in US cosmetics have been linked to damage to the liver and reproductive system in animals. Europe has banned these ingredients. The US has not. In fact, in Europe, substances that can be used currently in the US have been called “carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction and should be prohibited from use in cosmetic products.” –European Union Cosmetics Directive, 2003

Happiness Cost

  1. Studies have found that girls who watch TV commercials with underweight models in them lost self confidence and were dissatisfied with their own bodies.
  2. Sexualization of girls have been linked with eating disorders, low self esteem, and depression.
  3. Aggressive bullying between girls has been on the rise since the 1990s.
  4. Relational aggression, a form of bullying, is related to their roles in culture. Women want to be attractive and men want to have attractive partners.

In a study of women, 80% of interviewed participants said that they competed with other women over physical appearance. These women are driven by an unhealthy belief that winning the looks competition will somehow gain them a husband, “the” career, or the self they desire.

So, should we dare to think about it? How much are we paying for beauty? How much are our children—many of whom are going back to school—going to spend on clothes, make-up, hair, weight loss and skin to ensure that they look “their best?” And how is it that we’ve all been fooled to believe that “our best” means slathering ourselves with manufactured, unnatural products that are made in a factory?

So much for telling children and teens to just be themselves.

Please comment below. We’re really interested in what you have to say.

Why Girls Are Confused about Body Size: Body Image Messages

Why Girls are Confused…again: Body Size Messages

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Friday Musings…

With so many pictures in the press indirectly suggesting to girls that “this very thin body is what is beautiful,” and messages telling them 101 ways to lose weight, tone up the flab, and be attractive to boys, it’s easy to figure out why so many girls (and boys) suffer from poor body image, eating disorders, scary eating practices, too much pressure, and low self confidence.

Positive role models might be available from time to time, and yet, they must be sought out since they are often sandwiched between the one celebrity who has lost another 14 pounds and another diet plan.

Just one more reason why our girls (and their Mothers) can get confused:

On the beach as compared to her Hanes Ad

On the beach as compared to her Hanes Ad

(1) Jennifer Love Hewitt made quite a statement on behalf of curvy women everywhere last December when she was criticized for “less than perfect body” while away with her fiancé in Hawaii. She was only a size 2.

“This is the last time I will address this subject. “I’ve sat by in silence for a long time now about the way women’s bodies are constantly scrutinized. “To set the record straight, I’m not upset for me, but for all of the girls out there that are struggling with their body image. “A size 2 is not fat! Nor will it ever be. And being a size 0 doesn’t make you beautiful. I know what I look like, and so do my friends and family. “And like all women out there should, I love my body.”To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini – put it on and stay strong

However, what was the headline on the latest Us Weekly?

Jennifer Love Hewitt Exclusive: Her Exact Diet and Workout Plan 18 Pounds in Ten Weeks!

Hmmmm. What are we telling our daughters?

Us Weekly "Weight Winner"

Us Weekly "Weight Winner" feels great now that she's lost 18 pounds off her 5'3" frame.

Message 1 says: People are critical of girls who are not a size 0, even if they’re just a size 2. If you put on any weight at all, people will take pictures of you, make fun of you, talk about you, and criticize your self control and appearance. But Jennifer Love Hewitt is lashing out and telling these nasty people what she thinks of them…so girls who deviate from the perceived “ideal” size 0 are OK but…

Message #2 says: Not so fast. Maybe a size 2 was too big? If a size 2 woman “needs to” lose 18 pounds…how much do other girls and women need to lose?

Parents, please use this story as a jumping off point to talk about body image and body confidence with your children and teens. In addition, in order to keep them from getting confused:

  1. Let them know that children come in all shapes and sizes: What’s important is that we make healthy choices, not that we’re a size 0.

  1. Don’t allow Hollywood to dictate what’s beautiful and acceptable: Help your children redefine attractiveness in your home. Expose them to role models of all shapes and sizes.

  2. Watch what media comes into your home: Turn on the TV, open a magazine, put connect to the internet , your family will be bombarded with images of impossible thin girls and women. Filter some of the negative stuff out as best you can and be sure to talk about what you see when it finds it’s way into your living room. It’s not about “blocking” everything out but rather, teaching your children how to process the information responsibly and with perspective.

  3. Rule out comparisons with celebrities and models: What you and your family sees on TV or in the magazines is not the “real world” and often is simply…”not real.” To compare your body type and size with Paris Hilton is about as scientific as comparing it with Strawberry Shortcake.

  4. Ground your children with values and activities: Be sure that your children know your that your values have more to do with respect, tolerance, gratitude, and citizenship than surface looks and liposuction. Surround your children with like-minded individuals and have them engage in activities that help them see the fun of moving a healthy body not obsessing with how it looks in a pair of jeans.

  5. Give them a healthy example of positive body image: As parents, we can’t just talk about the importance of a healthy body image, we must have on ourselves. Catch yourself when you start to berate your own body or make comments about your spouse or friends. Your children are listening and always affected by how you perceive yourself and your body.

Have a Powerful Weekend!

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ADHD Can Increase Obesity & Overweight in Children, Study Says

ADHD and Weight in Children…and other facts about ADHD in kids

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Given the “war on obesity” and the increasing number of children being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the results of a recent study is a real double whammy. According the July issue of Pediatrics, children with ADHD have a 50% higher risk of being medically overweight if they are not taking medication for their condition. Interestingly, those who were taking their medication were much more likely to be underweight.

The Study:

  • Who was studied? 63,000 children and teens between the ages of 5 and 17 years old. The data came from the 2003-2004 U.S. National Survey of Children’s Health.
  • Where were they studied? Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • By Whom? Molly E. Waring and Kate L. Lapane, researchers from the department of community health.
  • Interesting Fact: 1 in 5 children with ADHD are said to be clinically overweight.
  • Why we need to be careful: On the one side, we need to make sure that one problem does not beget another, such that a problem with focus also connects to a problem with health, but on the other hand, we need to make sure that we don’t make our children “scale” obsessed and give them body image issues on top of everything else! We know from other studies that girls who weigh themselves often are more likely than other girls to engage in unhealthy dieting and go up and down in weight. The girls who are most scale-obsessed, according to a 2006 study out of the University of Minnesota, tend to skip meals, use diet pills, abuse laxatives, smoke, binge, and vomit to lose weight. Help your children stay healthy, but don’t allow them to get crazy about weight.

Arguments against these findings:

(1) Some researchers believe that because the diagnosis of obesity in children and the diagnosis for ADHD are widespread, you can’t say that the overlap is due to a cause-and-effect connection rather than just coincidence.

(2) Some researchers agree that there is a connection and this is nothing new.

(3) Some researchers believe that there is a connection but we don’t know about any cause-and-effect link. In other words, we can’t say that ADHD CAUSES obesity and overweight nor can we say that obesity and overweight CAUSES ADHD.

Facts about ADHD

  • It’s estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of children have ADHD. In the United States, that equals approximately 2 million children.
  • The top characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
  • Symptoms: Fidgeting, squirming, trouble listening, difficulty playing quietly, said to talk a lot and often, often interrupt or intrude impulsively, easily distracted, lack focus, difficulty finishing tasks.
  • Symptoms appear early in the child’s life—but since ALL young children tend to fidget and become impulsive to a degree, it’s important to see a physician for confirmation of diagnosis.
  • Disorders that can sometimes go along with ADHD: Learning disabilities, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Tourette Syndrome, Conduct Disorder, Bipolar Disorder.

Some Possible Treatment Options for ADHD:

(1) Medication

(2) Behavioral Modification

(3) A combination of both Medication and Behavior Modification

(4) Psychotherapy

(5) Social Skills Training

(6) ADHD coach for child

(7) Counseling

(8 ) EEG Biofeedback

(9) ADHD Diet

(10) Alternative Medicine

Have a child or know a child with ADHD? What are your thoughts on the July Pediatrics study? Do you find any challenges with ADHD and the weight of your child? What has worked for you?

Looking forward to hearing from you-

Cartoon above found here