When it comes to a daughter's body image and eating habits throughout her life, her mother is a major influence. If mothers can learn to value their own bodies, they can teach their daughters to do so as well.
Don't Let Your Body Image Affect Your Self Image, Dr. PhilShow
Watch the trailer for Miss Representation,
a documentary that explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the
underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.
And then read about the results of their "Keep it Real Challenge!"
Ashley Judd Slaps Media in the Face for Speculation Over Her ‘Puffy’ Appearance
Ashley Judd’s 'puffy' appearance sparked a viral media frenzy. But, the actress writes, the conversation is really a misogynistic assault on all women.
The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.
As an actor and woman who, at times, avails herself of the media, I am painfully aware of the conversation about women’s bodies, and it frequently migrates to my own body. I know this, even though my personal practice is to ignore what is written about me. I do not, for example, read interviews I do with news outlets. I hold that it is none of my business what people think of me. I arrived at this belief after first, when I began working as an actor 18 years ago, reading everything. I evolved into selecting only the “good” pieces to read. Over time, I matured into the understanding that good and bad are equally fanciful interpretations. I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself. I thus abstain from all media about myself. The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself, my personal integrity, and my relationship with my Creator. Of course, it’s wonderful to be held in esteem and fond regard by family, friends, and community, but a central part of my spiritual practice is letting go of otheration. And casting one’s lot with the public is dangerous and self-destructive, and I value myself too much to do that.
However, the recent speculation and accusations in March feel different, and my colleagues and friends encouraged me to know what was being said. Consequently, I choose to address it because the conversation was pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle. The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.
A brief analysis demonstrates that the following “conclusions” were all made on the exact same day, March 20, about the exact same woman (me), looking the exact same way, based on the exact same television appearance. The following examples are real, and come from a variety of (so-called!) legitimate news outlets (such as HuffPo, MSNBC, etc.), tabloid press, and social media:
One: When I am sick for more than a month and on medication (multiple rounds of steroids), the accusation is that because my face looks puffy, I have “clearly had work done,” with otherwise credible reporters with great bravo “identifying” precisely the procedures I allegedly have had done.
Two: When my skin is nearly flawless, and at age 43, I do not yet have visible wrinkles that can be seen on television, I have had “work done,” with media outlets bolstered by consulting with plastic surgeons I have never met who “conclude” what procedures I have “clearly” had. (Notice that this is a “back-handed compliment,” too—I look so good! It simply cannot possibly be real!)
Three: When my 2012 face looks different than it did when I filmed Double Jeopardy in 1998, I am accused of having “messed up” my face (polite language here, the F word is being used more often), with a passionate lament that “Ashley has lost her familiar beauty audiences loved her for.”
Four: When I have gained weight, going from my usual size two/four to a six/eight after a lazy six months of not exercising, and that weight gain shows in my face and arms, I am a “cow” and a “pig” and I “better watch out” because my husband “is looking for his second wife.” (Did you catch how this one engenders competition and fear between women? How it also suggests that my husband values me based only on my physical appearance? Classic sexism. We won’t even address how extraordinary it is that a size eight would be heckled as “fat.”)
In the News: Putting a 7-year-old on a diet: Responsible or Reprehensible?
Today's Professionals, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Star Jones and Donny Deutsch, discuss the Vogue
article written by Dara-Lynn Weiss about putting her young daughter on a strict diet.
(Also, read articles below)
Putting a 7-year-old on a Diet: Responsible or Reprehensible? By Rita Rubin, Today
Dara-Lynn Weiss admits it: She’s had issues with food her whole life. You name the diet, she’s tried it. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Weiss sprang into action when the pediatrician told her “we needed to do something” about her 6-year-old daughter’s weight.
Weiss describes her daughter Bea’s rocky road to svelteness in the April issue of Vogue magazine. The article, in which Weiss acknowledges deriding Bea for eating an “inappropriate” snack at a friend’s house and withholding dinner after she had consumed hundreds of calories worth of Brie and filet mignon at her school’s “French Heritage Day,” has stirred up a heaping portion of controversy...
Mom's Diet for 7-year-old Daughter in Vogue Sparks Backlash by Katie Kindelan, ABC News
An article in this month’s Vogue magazine documenting the effort to get a 7-year-old girl to lose weight has sparked an online backlash and raised a debate about how much is too much when it comes to fighting the childhood obesity epidemic.
The debate centers on the article’s author, Dara-Lynn Weiss, the mother of the child at the article’s center, 7-year-old Bea, and the year-long Weight Watchers-type diet Weiss put Bea on to lose weight...
My Nose - A short documentary by Gayle Kirschenbaum
Synopsis: A humorous look at the complex dynamics of a mother/daughter relationship, "My Nose" is the film-maker's personal story of an unhappy trio - herself, her mother and her nose. Mom thinks the nose is suspect and needs some plastic surgery. Daughter wonders what changing it will do. Will she change, and more importantly, how will changing the organ affect her feelings toward the mother who gave her the apparatus in the first place?
Watch the film below and then let us know what you think by writing your own comment below that.
Note from Barb: Laurie found this video several weeks ago and I kept meaning to watch it. I finally got around to it and I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed it, but, boy, do I feel badly for Gayle, the filmmaker, for having a mother who was so critical of her and her looks. I'm actually a product of a nose job myself (it started out with correcting a deviated septum when I was in college but then it seemed a shame not to fix a few things about my nose while we were doing the surgery anyway), but, happily, it was my decision and my mom, who can certainly be critical in other areas of my life, never pressured me or made me feel badly about how I looked. It was totally my choice. And I can say that, while having a "better" or "prettier" nose certainly made me feel a bit less self-conscious at times, it certainly didn't change my life dramatically. I think Gayle is beautiful just the way she is and I agree with the one person in the film who told her to tell her mother to "go pound sand!" And I love her dad...the end made me cry...
Love who you are and what God gave you. You are unique, stay unique! ; )
Great video. I am working with ninth graders on the topic of body image. I know that some of them are enduring the same comments from their mothers about some aspect of their appearance. I hope you didn't get your nose altered. You are an interesting and engaging person, don't change your nose!!!! Susie Manion, Guidance Counselor
Life-Size Barbie Doll Sparks Debate
This is what the proportions of a life-size Barbie doll would look like.
Galia Slayen, who transformed the iconic Mattel toy into a life-size replica model, is an anorexia survivor. The Barbie stands 6 feet tall with a 39" bust, 18" waist and 33" hips and wears a size 00 skirt that Galia used to wear when she was sick from her eating disorder.
This year, Galia displayed Barbie at her school, Hamilton College, during its first National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
The goal in creating Barbie’s likeness was to start conversation. “Talking about eating disorders is taboo to many people, and this made people talk about it,” Slayen said. “It’s a shocking image. A lot of people have seen it, and it’s started debates,” she said, particularly after she wrote about it for the Huffington Post. “Her proportions are not 100 percent correct, but her look is not invalid.”
Galia says that Barbie’s build helps accelerate “a drive for thinness,” claiming that the doll was one of many factors in her own personal struggle with body image and an eating disorder.
Body Image: The "5 to 1" Challenge By Dara Chadwick
Author of You'd Be So Pretty If...Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies--Even When We Don't Love Our Own PsychologyToday.com
We can break the mother-daughter body loathing cycle.
Did you happen to catch the results of the latest body image survey by Glamour magazine? The survey asked nearly 300 women of all sizes to reflect on how they think about their bodies in an average day and, according to the results, 97 percent of those women admitted to having at least one "I hate my body" moment in the course of an average day. In fact, the average number of daily negative body thoughts per woman was 13, according to the survey.
Shocking! Or is it?
It's no secret that we ladies like to put ourselves down, and our bodies are usually a prime target for our abuse. Get any group of women together and it likely won't be long before the conversation turns into a full-on body-bashing session. It's the female equivalent of bonding over sports talk. Beating up on our bodies, it seems, has become a socially acceptable way to feel part of the group.
How twisted is that?
Glamour editor Cindi Leive put the dysfunctional nature of women's relationships with their bodies - and how they speak to themselves about their bodies - beautifully when she told the TODAY Show, "If a man talked that way to a woman, it would be considered relationship abuse."
Indeed. And just think about the impact that our words about ourselves have on our daughters. From us, they learn that being a grown-up woman means putting yourself down, pointing out your flaws to friends and never admitting - to your friends, at least - that there might be things you actually like about your body.
In my book, You'd Be So Pretty If..., I spoke with mothers, daughters and experts about the effect that our words and actions toward our own bodies have on our girls and their developing body image. This negative cycle gets passed down in a dark legacy that leaves too many of our daughters hating who they are.
Of course, negative thoughts occasionally have their place. If feeling bad about your lax gym habits and the effect they're having on your body gets you to exercise regularly or make healthier food choices, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But a near-constant stream of insults or multiple negative thoughts - like many of the women surveyed reported - is less likely to encourage positive habits and more likely to encourage self-loathing.
In thinking about the dysfunctional relationship that so many women have with their bodies, I'm reminded of the marriage research done by Drs. John and Julie Gottman. They found that "successful" marriages generally have a ratio of five to one positive to negative interactions. Think about that: Five to one.
What would happen if we applied that science to our relationships with our bodies? For every negative thought we have about our bodies, we have to think of five positive things about it. For those ladies who reported the average 13 negative body thoughts, that's 65 positive body comments each day. Could you do it?
That's my challenge to you, readers: For every negative remark you make about your body, try to think of five positive things.
Food is never just food. Food is love. Food is solace. It is politics. It is religion. And if that’s not enough to heap on your dinner plate each night, food is also, especially for mothers, the instant-read measure of our parenting. We are not only what we eat, we are what we feed our children. So here in Berkeley — where a preoccupation with locally grown, organic, sustainable agriculture is presumed — the mom who strolls the farmers’ markets can feel superior to the one who buys pesticide-free produce trucked in from Mexico, who can, in turn, lord it over the one who stoops to conventionallygrown carrots (though the folks who grow their own trump us all). Let it slip that you took the kids to McDonald’s, and watch how fast those play dates dry up.
Doing right by our kids means doing right by their health — body and soul. Yet even as awareness about the family diet has spread across the country (especially among the middle class and the affluent), so, it seems, have youngsters’ waistlines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a full third of America’s children are overweight, and 17 percent are clinically obese — a rate that has more than tripled since 1976. Those figures may be alarming, yet equally disturbing are the numbers of children, girls in particular, who risk their health in the other direction, in the vain pursuit of thinness. In a 2002 survey of 81,247 Minnesota high-school students published in The Journal of Adolescent Health, more than half of the girls reported engaging in some form of disordered behavior while trying to lose weight: fasting, popping diet pills, smoking, vomiting, abusing laxatives, binge eating.
Parents, then, are left in quandary, worrying about both the perils of obesity and those of anorexia. How can you simultaneously encourage your daughter to watch her size and accept her body? My own initial impulse, when I found out I was pregnant with a girl, was to suggest that my husband take responsibility for feeding her. After all, he doesn’t see a few extra pounds as a character flaw. Nor does he serve up a heaping helping of internal conflict with every meal. It’s not that I’m extreme; it’s just that like most — heck all — of the women I know, my relationship to food, to my weight, to my body is . . . complicated. I did not want to pass that pathology on to my daughter.
My Mother, My Weight By Suzanne Koven, M.D., Psychology Today
Mother and daughter communicate in the language of fat.
My patient--I'll call her Amy--was heavy. Her mother, Sybil, also my patient, was thin. At Amy's visits to my office we always discussed her weight. At Sybil's visits Amy's weight also came up frequently.
"Doctor, can't you make her lose?" Sybil would plead. "I don't care how she looks. I only worry about her health."
Amy's version differed. "It's not about my health," Amy insisted. "She's obsessed with appearance. Mom can't stand for people to see that she has a fat daughter. She listens to you," Amy added. "Tell her to stop nagging me about it."
And so it went, for years; mother and daughter each tried to recruit me to join her camp in their private war over Amy's excess weight. Bound by my Hippocratic Oath (and ever stricter medical privacy laws) to maintain patient confidentiality I did a lot of nodding and muttering of noncommittal banalities including the all-purpose "Yes, I can certainly understand why you feel that way."
But I found myself thinking, whenever I saw Amy or Sybil, about the weight of weight in mother-daughter relationships. There has been lots of research on the genetics of obesity, the likelihood of having a weight problem if one or both of your parents did. Much less has been written about the role of weight in the emotional life of families. Particularly between mothers and daughters, weight is a kind of secret code, an inscrutable shorthand for concern, control, and rebellion. Most women I know-even many who are not heavy-tell me that when they see their mothers they are greeted with a quick but unmistakable up and down look. I believe Has she gained weight? is the mother's reflexive check of Is my baby doing okay? And, in turn, the daughter searches her mother's weight-scanning eyes to learn, Does she love me? Does she approve of me no matter what? Mothers and daughters, even when they don't speak, communicate fluently in the language of fat.
Amy and Sybil finally arrived at a truce of sorts...
Mothers, daughters and body image – it’s an emotional and sometimes volatile mix. Our parents’ attitudes about eating and how we should look weave their way into our childhood and continue to affect us well into adulthood. A seemingly harmless word here or there from our mother can have an emotional charge whether intended or not.
In the case of my Mom, while she’s a sweetheart and is usually very considerate and thoughtful before she speaks, she sometimes refers to people as fat, balloon, or pig – even when they aren’t really overweight. I’m not entirely sure where this comes from. This is particularly odd and hurtful at times since my sister, brother and I are more on the ample size; not nearly as thin as our mother. My sister is about 5 feet 7 inches tall and plus size (24-26). I’m a size 12-14 these days at 5 feet 2 inches tall. Mom is 5 feet 1 inch and not quite 100 pounds soaking wet; she used to be closer to 115 pounds for most of her adult life. With her weight loss she is a very lean size 0-4 now.
Although infrequent, there are those occasional weight-related comments directed at me. Mom has told me a few times in years past that my face looked full. I took it to mean fat…what else could it mean? I don’t have a very thin face; it’s round even when I’m 10-15 pounds lighter than I am now. I will never look like the pencil-thin supermodels of the day.
Even my brother and sister have at times echoed our Mom’s unkind comments about weight. As siblings, we don’t ever talk about each other’s weight, but larger-sized celebrities or ordinary people out in public often draw unflattering comments. Just recently, while my brother, mother and I were traveling in his car, a classic Aretha Franklin song started playing on the radio. My brother quickly said: “That was before she got to be huge”—meaning in size, not popularity. His comments continued with an observation that she was now about three times bigger than she was early in her career. My brother is 6 feet 2 inches and 220+ pounds so his remarks about Aretha aren’t coming from a guy who is svelte or the model of fitness.
I didn’t say anything but I was thinking the whole time about the hypocrisy of my brother’s comments and wondering if Mom’s unwitting message to us growing up was that being heavy made a person fair game for comment. Also, on some level, I wonder what Mom thinks when I gain weight. Does she judge me as harshly as she does others?
In her new book, "Do I Look Fat in This?," Jessica Weiner says moms who fixate on dieting can influence their daughters' behavior.
There’s no denying that mothers and daughters have always shared a special bond with each other. Mothers have a powerful influence on their daughters that can be positive — or, sometimes, negative. Recent studies indicate that mothers who fixate on diet and body image can have a damaging influence on their daughters. Jessica Weiner, author of Do I Look Fat in This? was invited on Today to discuss this aspect of mother-daughter relationships. Read an excerpt and take a quiz:
It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing
A girl’s relationship with her mother is a complicated and beautiful thing. We are born from her body, literally connected to her in the womb in a way that ties us early on to her nourishment: A baby feeds from its mother to live. It makes sense, then, that body-image issues and food issues between mothers and daughters are so prominent in our society. You are still feeding off your mother, in need of her approval, support, and unconditional love. Some of you get it. Some don’t.
My own relationship with my mother has taken many shapes and forms over my life. Early on I began dieting with my mom, becoming her body-loathing buddy. And I hated the way my mother hated her body. So I turned her inner rage and dissatisfaction about her body toward my own body and developed eating disorders that rocked my adolescent world. What I eventually learned about my mother — who now, at sixty, is zooming along in life with a healthier mindset about her physical shape — is that her own body-loathing was formed at an early age.
At the age of nine, she remembers, she was taken to the family doctor for a checkup. The doctor revealed that she was about fifteen pounds overweight. He immediately urged my grandmother to put her on a diet to take off the weight. What the doctor blatantly failed to notice was that my mother had matured early and was in fact going through puberty. So the extra weight gain was normal and would most likely work itself out as she continued to grow up.
But it was too late. By the time the doctor passed down the declaration for weight loss, my mother was sucked into the shameful and restrictive world of dieting. This pattern of bingeing, restricting, and punishing herself for being overweight — for being “bad,” in her point of view as a child — ended up staying with her for more than fifty years.
Help! My mother is driving me crazy! She criticizes me because of my weight. She reads the menu to me when we go to the restaurant; she tells me what she thinks would be “healthy” to order. She is constantly on a diet, but she doesn’t have any weight to lose. And I am not alone in my misery. She makes my poor father go on a diet with her. I swear, even the dog is on a diet. (I’m not kidding!)
She makes everyone in her life crazy with her incessant complaining about her weight. And when you try to tell her that she looks beautiful or that she doesn’t need to lose any weight, she goes berserk and talks about how fat she is and how we can all stand to lose a little weight.
— Frustrated in Tennessee
Our mothers are supposed to be our infallible family leaders. But they are also women, who are just as susceptible as anyone else to the messages of weight loss and to the beauty myths that our culture carries. Mothers can be quite damaging without intending to be. It is in these good intentions that your sense of self can get crushed. You cannot fix your mother. Just as she can’t fix you, and just as you can’t fix anyone who isn’t ready to face their issues and take some action. You will have to learn how to decode the Language of Fat with your mother — or any family member, for that matter.
You can’t deal with your mother in logical terns until you realize that she is speaking another language. It’s painful for a family to watch their mother/wife be disrespectful to herself. Try sitting down with your mom one-on-one and telling her that it pains you greatly to see her so obsessed with dieting. Try to speak with her in a space that is not around food and not at a time when you are really angry or fed up with her. Tell her that she may not be aware of how much her own body-loathing spills out to others. Recognize that there is something deeper going on. If your mom wants to talk about it, great. Otherwise you are going to have to learn some simple self-defense moves in how to respond to her.
The next time she tries to tell you how fat she is — or you are, or your dad is, or the dog is — you can simply say, “Mom, I don’t want to speak the Language of Fat with you. What else are you feeling?”
Or you can tell her, “Mom, I love you so much, but when you speak like that it drives me nuts. Can we please talk about something other than your weight?” Use your own words, but the point is to say something in the moment and also to find time to talk in quiet, where some other truths may be revealed.
Rather than putting all the focus on losing weight, why don’t you focus on repairing this relationship with your mother? If you are finding that your relationship with your mother is getting in the way of you taking care of yourself, then it is your responsibility to do something about it.
More important, remember that you have to find some peace and solitude with your body — whether Mom approves or not.
Maternal Mirrors: Two new books look at the influence mothers have on their daughters' body image - and how women can instill confidence instead of insecurity. By Barbara Kantrowitz & Pat Wingert, Newsweek
My Mother Was the Fatter One:Bonding with mom over comfort foods. What happens to the mother-daughter relationship when one loses weight? By Rene L. Todd, Self Magazine