Anorexia, the media and role models.

A question.

21 to 34 of 34 messages
23/08/2012 at 18:09

I have a seven year old daughter who has asked me if she is fat, which is very upsetting. At her school, "fat" is one of the worst things you can call another child, regardless of their size. My daughter is tall and thin and loves sports, but worries about the "fat" on her thighs - it's just skin. Besides, even if she was an overweight child, she is active and eats well and just shouldn't be thinking that way about herself.

I enjoyed watching the olympics with her as there were so many bodies on show, of all shapes and sizes, and all of them healthy. I look forward to the Paralympics for the same reason.

One thing that annoyed me though was the highlighting of "British Fashion" during the closing ceremony. Not that so much, but more the fact that, after watching all these beautiful healthy athletes we were once again looking at stick-thin models being adored by cheering crowds.

But the moment passed, and luckily for me, my daughter was tucked up in bed and so missed the skeletal clothes horses undoing all the hard work of the olympics in the minds of impressionable children. Maybe I'm just hyper-sensitive to this, but I would rather my daughter look up to Jessica Ennis than Kate Moss.

Hope    pirate
23/08/2012 at 19:52

Springle, I felt exactly the same way!

23/08/2012 at 20:11
Springle wrote (see)

 the skeletal clothes horses undoing all the hard work of the olympics in the minds of impressionable children. Maybe I'm just hyper-sensitive to this, but I would rather my daughter look up to Jessica Ennis than Kate Moss.

I haven't got a daughter so I can't really comment on whether you're being over-sensitive but I'd like to think that on balance anyone who watched more than just the closing ceremony of the Olympics would be left with a positive impression of what healthy female bodies look like. Looking at Team GB alone with the likes of Jess Ennis, all the cyclists, rowers, etc. this must've been our most successful Olympics ever for female athletes.  Not to mention the female footballers showing the men how to behave. 

Edited: 23/08/2012 at 20:12
23/08/2012 at 20:50

I haven't seen the lady in the big brother house Kittenkat, but I am glad that your children were able to see just how unhealthy she looked. I wonder at what age we suddenly start seeing thinner as better, rather than "fitter" as better.

I was devastated to hear my own daughter worrying about her "fat legs," I had thought she had a few years yet before all that business started. The timing of the olympics was perfect as I was able to use it to illustrate my point to her; that people of all shapes and sizes can be healthy and happy, and if you are healthy and happy it shines out of you and you just glow.

24/08/2012 at 00:42
Wilkie wrote (see)
kittenkat wrote (see)
mtbrDot wrote (see)

I wonder why you let kids just watch this stuff. I really wouldn't!

There was nothing in the slice of the program yesterday afternoon that was unsuitable for children of that age.

I guess you've never watched it...

I depends on whether you think a programme promoting under-nourished 'celebrities' is suitable viewing for impressionable girls, I suppose.

So Wilkie, what would you have us parents do?  Given that you've made it common knowledge that you have no children, and therefore, whether auntie, part time carer, teacher or involved in childcare in any other way than being a parent, not actually wholly knowledgeable in the common everyday issues associated with hands on parenting.  What would you do?

You're a in a shop, you are paying for your goods and your 8 year old daughter is scouring the front page of the gossip mags that adorn every checkout (where the sweeties were kept in our youth).  Do you shield their young eyes and make believe theses articles do not exist or do you, in the middle of a supermarket, explain to them that these women are potentially very sick, risking either a fascination in them or an obsession in the child about weight?

Pan forward four years.  Your daughter is 12 years old and beginning her adolescence.  She is surrounded by a legion of other hormonal girls, the vast majority of whom subscribe to the BB/Heat ideal of 'thinner is cooler'.  Peer pressure far outweighs your meagre efforts at common sense and reason.  You talk to them, you be honest about the implications, you are open and honest and frank with them.  What more can you do?  Keep them in after 5pm and ban all media?

Once again your sanctimony with regard to child raising, especially given your self proclaimed childless nature, is astounding.  Yes, childless people are entitled to their opinions with regard to child raising, but it is always better recieved when a little humility is displayed, rather than judgemental condescension

And tell me, what exactly is so bad about Adele and Beth Ditto (I know who she is KK, so , The Gossip - youtube her and Jarvis Cocker).  Whether or not you like their music, they are both successful, talented, articulate and confident young women.  I would far rather my daughters - and my son for that matter - look on them for their immense achievements and potential than look at them and assume that because of they're 'fat' they are somehow a bad influence on what is an already vacuous society. 

24/08/2012 at 10:20
Springle, I was the same as your daughter - worried about my fat thighs as a young child and 15 years later I'm just starting to tackle a severe eating disorder. I'm not saying that your daughter will go the same way but with warnig signs there it's the confidence and support from her family that will swing it the other way.

I don't agree very clearly underweight women, and sometimes men, being pushed forward by the media; they promote an unhealthy ideal for young women and normalise very low body weights. I think the media should take some responsibility in shielding our young people from things like this. Why not promote people like Jess Ennis and Chrissie Wellington? While the media certainly doesn't cause an eating disporder, the advent of pro anorexia sites, along with very thin "role models" splashed over the tv and magazines certainly doesn't help.
24/08/2012 at 11:23
kittenkat wrote (see)
xine267 wrote (see)

I can see where you are coming from, but I tend to think that it is the responsibility of the parents rather than the media to encourage their children to develop a healthy attitude towards food, exercise and their bodies. Clearly you are doing a good job with your kids because they were able to identify that the girl looked unhealthy, rather than deciding that she was a good role model. 

 

I agree that it's the responsibility of the parents, but here's a more general question. Should the media have a conscience?

Yes, it should but I'd rather that the media's conscience was confined to things like not tapping into crime victim's phone lines or stalking grieving parents. I don't think there should be people in charge of deciding that Girl A is too thin to be on TV, Girl B is a fine role model for young people and Girl C is too fat and can't be screened because she will encourage kids to gorge on pies?

24/08/2012 at 12:24

If we take the position that anorexia is a mental problem then is it any worse to feature this person than say someone with depression or OCD?

Not that I'm in favour of medically diagnosing someone via the TV of course.

24/08/2012 at 12:24

CD, there are all sorts of nasty things out there in the world which children will encounter somehow or other, but I wouldn't be bringing them into the home.

Would you recommend buying a copy of Hustler in order to discuss pornography with your children?

What's wrong with Beth Ditto and Adele?  They are seriously overweight, which is not any healthier than being seriously underweight.

24/08/2012 at 15:29
Weeble. wrote (see)

If we take the position that anorexia is a mental problem then is it any worse to feature this person than say someone with depression or OCD?

Not that I'm in favour of medically diagnosing someone via the TV of course.

Exactly. Or do we stop featuring certain people because there is a possibility that seeing them might trigger anorexia in certain viewers? Eating disorders would still exist even if every single woman shown on TV or in magazines was a size 16+

24/08/2012 at 15:38

While athletes can be seen as great role models, what's to say that articles about athletes having to restrict their diets in order to make a particular weight category won't also trigger EDs? You have someone who appears incredibly fit and healthy and has won an Olympic medal, and yet talks openly about restricting their calorie intake to shave off a few kilos to get into the 'right' weight category. That could send quite a mixed message to someone who is already vulnerable - your success depends on how many calories you consume.

24/08/2012 at 18:36

Hi there Tri Aims,

I posted on your thread yesterday too; eating disorders are a subject close to my heart due to the ongoing, and exhausting, struggle that has shaped much of my adult life.

I remember feeling fat when I was about 9 or 10, and I wasn't fat at all. Looking back, I don't recall seeing a lot of super-skinnies on tv, but the pressure I felt was from the nasty bullies in my class, who were very twiggy and boy-shaped right up to their late teens.

I guess it doesn't matter how much you try to shelter your children, they will come across pressure to be thinner at some stage in their lives. What really matters is how we, as parents, recognise the pressure and step in to ease it by reassuring them. I wish my own mother could have seen the torment I was going through but eating disorders were something that happened to other people then and I take responsibility for my own actions now that I am an adult. I just hope I can offer enough support to help my own children love themselves the way we all should.

Perhaps it is a good thing that the media show super-skinny folks on tv; if they look ill or unhealthy it might be a way to show our children that skinny doesn't automatically mean healthy, pretty, or "better." In much the same way that Adele, who is shaped more like the national average, can be used to show that normal sized people can still be beautiful, successful and happy. Possibly not the tack that I will use myself, but its a thought.

25/08/2012 at 00:28
Wilkie wrote (see)

CD, there are all sorts of nasty things out there in the world which children will encounter somehow or other, but I wouldn't be bringing them into the home.

Would you recommend buying a copy of Hustler in order to discuss pornography with your children?

What's wrong with Beth Ditto and Adele?  They are seriously overweight, which is not any healthier than being seriously underweight.

I hardly think you can compare the likes of Big Brother, as dreadful as it is, to bringing a copy of Hustler in to the house!  What a ludicrous analogy to make. 

Which takes me back to my ultimate point - it is the responsibility of the (responsible) parent, not the observer, to pass judgement on whether the content their children view is suitable, as indicated by KK's post above.  Having randomers with no real knowledge of the family or their circumstances comment on whether or not that particular programme/magazine/film/music should be permitted (something you seem especially good at) does not add in any way to the OP's discussion.  It merely conveys an attitude of 'I know best', which can only serve to irk pretty much any parent.

As for the ladies in question, yes, they may be overweight and yes, there are health issues associated with that (you're attempting to preach to someone who previously worked with morbidly and super morbidly obese patients).  However you seem to have once again entirely missed the point I was making.  I would much rather my children looked to those successful, articulate, intelligent, talented, driven.....and Dog forbid.....obese girls, than look to the vacuous, air headed, possibly anorexic, desperate attention whores that are paraded across our modern media and displayed to our youth as some sort of paradym of achievement.  This doesn't mean they'll end up obese, it just means they'll have a respect for real women who have worked hard to achieve in life as opposed to wannabe Barbie dolls.

07/10/2012 at 06:55

I love all these posts here and am excited that someone would start a thread about this to spread awareness and/or discuss it.  I definitely have to say that it is a serious mental disorder (that tends to go hand-in-hand with bulimia and/or overeating as well (kind of flipping back and forth)) that has (or can have) so little to do with women wanting to look like the picture perfect models on the media.  In fact, many times the beauty or "thin obsession" side of it CAN have only a small part.  It definitely may be part of it or even trigger, but this disorder starts from the inside.  Is the person prone to perfectionism or control?  Sometimes the core of this disorder starts with the need to perform (driven by the feeling or the sense that one is not good enough or worthy of love).  Sometimes trauma victims run to eating disorders as an escape or to seek control in SOMETHING even if life doesn't FEEL out of contol.  At the same time, trauma in early and very influential stages in life can cause a person to intensely struggle with perceptions (or a warped reality) on anythin in life including body image.  Yet ANOTHER factor of what can trigger eating disorders is because it's less mutilating than something such as...cutting perhaps, but it has the same intent at heart, showing on the outside what the person is feeling on the inside.

I'm sorry.  I'm really tired right now, but this thread looked really intriguing.  Basically, if sometime I said sounded unclear, please don't hesitate at all to ask me what I meant.  I may not have explained it clearly!  

Just to let you know, I'm not a psychologist, but much of my thoughts are from personal experience.

We can love (including ourselves), because Christ first loved us! He thinks we're worth it!  If the God of the universe thinks we're worth dying for, no one else's opinions of us should matter and DEFINITELY not define us!  (This includes (but absolutely not limited to) peers, the media, or anyone at all that even merely implies we're not good enough or worthy of love).   

A book that has HIGHLY influenced my life and my thinking is called "God Loves Ugly" by Christa Black.  She is/was the violinist for a band called the Jonas Brothers.  She struggled with this as well and really walks through her whole process through it as well as many other things surrounding this struggle.

"I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Your works are wonderful.  My soul knows that full well.  My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place.  When I was skillfully woven in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."  ~Psalm 139:14-16


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