Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

Breasts: If you’ve got em’….why not use them? My take on the great breastfeeding debate.

June 17, 2012

Source:wellness.inside.tru.ca

I have always associated my above average intelligence with the fact that I was breastfed as an infant. The general consensus while I was growing up was that breastfeeding resulted in babies with higher IQs than those who were formula fed. A recent article by Elisabeth Badinter in Harper’s Magazine informed me that this theory has since been debunked, along with some other research on the benefits of breastfeeding. Her article, titled “The Tyranny of Breast-Feeding;New mothers vs. La Leche League” is a scathing criticism of the organization La Leche League (LLL) which she basically accuses of using unfounded facts, scare tactics, maternal guilt and other forms of bullying to manipulate women into feeling compelled to breastfeed. The article has stirred up a storm of controversy and discussion, with many women siding firmly with Badinter, feeling like the message pushed by LLL is at odds with the modern version of motherhood, and others horrified that she would dare call the superiority of breastfeeding into question.

Source:harpers.org

Not familiar with La Leche League, I perused their website. I didn’t find it quite as offensive as Badinter seems to. Of course, I’m barren at this point in my life so perhaps I am not as sensitive to the coercion tactics buried among the site’s pages. I did, however, find it a little over-the-top in it’s proclamations regarding the merits of breastfeeding, and quite frankly, a bit cheesy. I could also agree with Badinter’s criticism that the LLL seems to promote and support a stance that women who breastfeed are superior and hold a superior role in society to those that choose not to or cannot, and that women are the primary and most important child rearers in the family unit. “The loving help and support of the father enables the mother to focus on mothering so that together the parents develop close relationships which strengthen the family and thus the whole fabric of society. LLL further believes that mothering through breastfeeding deepens a mother’s understanding and acceptance of the responsibilities and rewards of her special role in the family. As a woman grows in mothering she grows as a human being, and every other role she may fill in her lifetime is enriched by the insights and humanity she brings to it from her experiences as a mother.” This seems to imply that the father’s role in parenting is simply to financially support mother and child so that mother is able to adequately nurture her child. This is reminiscent of the Don Draper type of father of the 1960s and 1970s who is successful and a good financial provider but is basically absent from his children’s lives. Many women and men have fought hard to change these gender stereotypes and create a new family ideal, one where the responsibility for the child’s development falls on both parent’s shoulders if possible. Furthermore, what does this statement by LLL say about single mothers? Widows? Low income families? God forbid the mother must work and she can’t focus solely on mothering as her single role in life. She will surely contribute to the downfall of society. Give me a break.

Badinter certainly makes some good points in her article. Many women simply can’t breastfeed. There are latching difficulties, they can’t produce milk, they develop infections in their mammary glands, etc. Many women breastfeed for as long as they can, but have to stop to go back to work, either out of personal choice or out of economic necessity. Women who adopt babies obviously can’t product milk to breastfeed their babies. LLL would like to make women think that by not breastfeeding, mothers will lose the chance to form important bonds with their children, thus making women who are not able to form this physical attachment to their child feel like failures as mothers. This is not fair, and it is also not true. Maternal bonding can and will occur whether or not a child breastfeeds or not as long as the mother is meeting her childs emotional, physical, nutritional and cognitive needs. I don’t have a statistic for you, but many formula fed infants have bonded with their mothers.

This is essentially where I stop agreeing with Badinter. Now, generally I roll my eyes when someone makes the argument that something is better for you because it is “natural”. This is true for most herbal products, organic pesticides, natural sweeteners like Steevia, natural soaps and deodorants (P.S.-they don’t work-you smell bad), and magic mushrooms. However, when it comes to breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, I am of the staunch opinion that breast is best. Our bodies were made to do many things. This is not to say we have to do them. As females we are designed to bear children often as early as 11 years old. This is because at one point the average life expectancy was under 40 and many women died in childbirth. We women had to get an early start to keep the human race alive. There was no such thing as formula, and women breastfed or their babies died. Obviously times have changed. We don’t need to birth children when we are still children ourselves (though unfortunately this still occurs), and as a matter of fact many women are waiting later and later to have children. And we have alternatives to breastmilk to nourish our children. The problem is that no matter how much you want to argue about it, study after study has proven the advantage of breastfeeding. It decreases the incidence of infections in the infant due to transferred immunity, it may decrease incidence of a variety of diseases, may improve speech development and prevent cavities. It also benefits the mother by reducing the risk of postpartum depression, anemia, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis due to lack of estrogen. Badinter notes that the research showing that babies of breastfed mothers have higher IQs and a lower risk of asthma have has proven unfounded. But these are only two of the purported benefits. It is not as if the vast number of other benefits are inconsequential. In her article, Badinter quotes sociologist Linda Blum who says that “formula is constantly being improved to reproduce the advantages of breast milk.” This is true. It seems that scientists are continuously finding new components of breast milk that are imperative for childhood development. It wasn’t until between 2003 and 2008 that scientists discovered that the addition of DHA to infant formula was important for eyesight and cognitive development. So how can we be sure that there are no other undiscovered molecules in human breastmilk vital for infant development that aren’t present in artificial formula?

Badinter also seems quite resentful towards the LLL about the fact that they have support from numerous medical organizations. As if there is some type of conspiracy against women everywhere, an evil puppeteer in the sky just itching for control of every mother’s breasts. She doesn’t seem to consider the idea that perhaps all of these organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics are making their recommendations based on available research and in the best interest of children. She notes that currently the WHO recommends infants be breastfed exclusively for 6 months, and supplemented with breastmilk until 2 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends breastfeeding for the first 12 months of the infant’s life. The LLL on the other hand recommmends tha women breastfeed until the child decides he or she should be weaned, and furthermore, the ideal is on-feeding, meaning the mother must be available anytime, anywhere. I agree with Badinter that for working mothers this is not feasible. A recent Time Magazine article titled “Are You Mom Enough” discusses this further. According to the article, the natural age of weaning is between 2 and 7, with the average worldwide weaning age being 4. Of course in North America this is not the norm. It would be extremely shocking to see a woman breastfeeding a 4 year-old as evidenced by the controversial cover of said Time issue featuring 26 year-old Jamie Grumet breastfeeding her 3 year-old. Many called the cover sexualized and inflammatory. In our modern society where many women have careers, and children are often in daycare prior to 2 years of age, breastfeeding often ceases much earlier than these recommendations. Even still, many health benefits of breastfeeding can be seen as early as 6 months or even earlier.

Source:Time magazine

What is most disconcerting about Badinter’s argument is not that she feels somewhat hostile towards the LLL for their superior attitude. This is entirely understandable given the organizations old-fashioned and unforgiving philosophy. It is also not that she discounts years of research, although this is just plain ignorant. What rubs me the wrong way is that she does not seem to have any valid argument in defense of choosing not to breastfeed. In fact, her statements almost ruin her case. She says “As far as LLL is concerned, all mothers should be able to breast-feed. There are no naturally insurmountable difficulties, physical or psychological. It would seem there is no such thing as maternal ambivalence and that women who balk at submitting are simply reckless or bad.” Maternal ambivalence? What is that to be taken to mean? Why would a woman be unsure of? Whether she wants to breastfeed? Whether she should? If it is the right thing to do? The evidence is clear. The medical associations have given their opinions. There seems to be no clear reason not to breastfeed your child if physically able. If a woman hesitates in the face of the decision between whether to take the responsibility for the nourishment of their child or not then perhaps she should rethink her decision to have that child in the first place. We live in a society that gives women many personal freedoms. No woman is forced to have a child she doesn’t want. When making the decision to take on the huge responsibility of bearing and raising a child you should be aware of all that encompasses and part of that is sometimes putting your child before yourself order to ensure that he or she is having their physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs met. That is being a parent. Badinter doesn’t think this is reasonable. Badinter says about recommendations that women returning to work expell their own milk with a pump for their child to consume in her abscence versus using formula that “many women find pumping repulsive”. I’m sure that breast pumping is not comfortable, but I would hope that most mothers wouldn’t think that providing the best food possible for their child to be a ‘repulsive’ activity. The author’s statement that breastfeeding is associated with “loss of freedom and the despotism of an insatiable child” is probably most concerning. What does she expect? Whether breastfed or not, a child will hugely impact a woman’s lifestyle. All babies need to be fed, burped, be coddled when they cry, etc. Unfortunately babies demand a lot more than milk, and will continue to do so for years after they cease relying on a liquid diet. Get used to it or get a plant instead.

I believe in women’s rights. I am firmly pro choice. But if you make the decision to bring a child into this earth, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do everything in your power to ensure he or she has the best start possible. While I can understand resistance to conservative and seemingly old-fashioned notions about motherhood roles, especially in these times when the family unit is often less than traditional, I also believe that the role of mother as  provider of nutrition to her infant has been long-studied and is the subject of much hard research data. Organizations like LLL can provide  information and support but women need to stay true to themselves and keep their own values and lifestyles in mind when reviewing the recommendations and data quoted on such websites. Above all, use common sense and critical thinking to decide what is best for you and your family. The decision to become a mother is not an easy one, and consequently being a mother will be the hardest job you will have. There will be many sacrifices but many gains. I have not yet been on this journey, but I hope to one day. I can’t say with any certainty what decisions I will make, but I can only hope that I will have my children’s best interests at heart.

If that was my kid I’d…(Will I be a good Mom?)

April 25, 2012

Source: sheckys.com

Today while running on the treadmill I observed a boy of about 6 or 7 years old from our apartment building riding his scooter around the park right outside the window in front of me. There was a pair of ducks at the edge of the park that caught his attention, and he proceeded to stop and stare at them for some time. They did not move, so he started to circle them repeatedly. When they still did not move, he kicked his foot towards them. They remained still. At this point he picked up a rock from the ground and threw it towards the birds. As there was no response, the boy continued to torment the birds by alternating between circling and rock throwing for about 15 minutes. My rage steadily built as I thought about how scared the ducks must feel and wondered why they did not fly away. Finally I had enough, jumped off the treadmill, opened the door of the workout room and walked onto a small patio and yelled to the boy “Throw one more rock at those ducks and I’ll come over there and throw a rock at you!” He quickly rode away. I am expecting to hear about this tomorrow from one of his parents.

Thinking about my response afterwards, I realize I could have probably handled the situation better. I realize it is likely not appropriate for an adult woman to threaten physical harm to a child. In my defense, I did refrain from sticking out my tongue. But it did make me wonder, if at 31 years old this was how I felt the need to teach a child a lesson (I’ll show you how it feels to have someone bigger pick on you!) what kind of mother will I be? I am quick to judge others when I feel they are making mistakes when it comes to parenting. I find this to be true of many people, whether they are parents or not. When I see a child throwing a tantrum in a grocery store or running amok in the mall I am quick to throw a disapproving eye at the parents. If I see a child drinking a grande hot chocolate or eating a huge hunk of chocolate I tsk tsk at the mother who would allow their child to consume so much sugar. You didn’t breastfeed? Criminal. Is that baby food organic? Is that freshly squeezed orange juice? Do you have an RESP? I can tell you exactly what you should be doing in all of these situations. But what do I really know about raising a child? Nothing.

I am a pharmacist. I know very practical things about children. I know how many milligrams per kilogram of many medications a baby should receive.  I know what to do in case of dehydration. I know what to give for fever, constipation, upset stomach, colic etc. I have growth charts showing typical heights and weights for children at various ages. But I have no practical knowledge of babies whatsoever. I have never changed a diaper. I have held exactly two babies, and my foremost thought was “If I drop you, your head will break”. I do not have any clue how long a child should breastfeed for, or how often. I don’t understand what “pumping” means. I have seen a breast shield and I am still confused as to how it is functional. I don’t know when a child should be able to hold their head up, sit, crawl or walk, but I know I am terrified that my child will not do any of these things at the right time. I don’t know when a child should begin to talk, read or write, or what to do to encourage these things. I don’t know when they should be toilet trained. I don’t know how they should sleep in a crib so they don’t die of SIDS. I don’t know if SIDS exists anymore, my mom told me about it a long time ago and that is why I never babysat an infant. When asked how you know what to do when you have a baby, people always say “You just know”. I think this is crap. Animals “just know’ instinctively how to care for their young. This is because all they have to do is protect them from predators and the environment until they can survive on their own to be considered good parents. Humans have to do this as well as nurture them, mold them into good human beings who are well rounded, well-adjusted, happy, healthy and successful in order to be considered good parents. This is a big challenge. I am hyperventilating just thinking about it, and I am an educated adult woman. I don’t understand how women 10-15 years my junior can do it. Some argue that in the ‘old days’ women got married and bore children when they were children (13-15 years old). But they also died very young, so they didn’t have to live to see their failures. Child parents now have the advantage that their parents are often still alive to help with child-rearing, and if not, well, let’s not pretend their offspring are at any sort of advantage. Has anyone seen 16 and Pregnant?

Even if I can overcome all of my fears of becoming a mother, I wonder, when is the right time? What is the “maternal instinct? Is it something that every woman has? Do I have it? What about the biological clock? How loud does it tick? I have always seen my distant future with children. But there was one point that the sight of a baby would not even phase me. I would be at work and a woman would come in with her newborn baby, and everyone would Ooh and Aah. They would pass this creature around from colleague to colleague while it squirmed and squished it’s red wrinkled face together. When it reached me I would always politely decline the chance to hold the little imp, never understanding the draw. Similarly, I could never understand the appeal of the newborn pictures where every baby looks the exact same, red face, black hair, alien face. And why show off the sonogram? Nobody can see anything. But something has changed. Now when I see a pregnant woman I feel an overwhelming urge to rub her belly. And I suddenly want to hold babies. Every baby! And take them home. I see the appeal. I realize my baby making window is narrowing. But I still don’t feel urgency. I don’t know if years of working with women, hearing pregnancy stories of heartburn, hemorrhoids, gallstones, enemas, 60 hour labors, pain, and stitches in unimaginable places have tarnished my viewpoint.

So am I missing a mother gene? Is there something wrong with me that I am over 30 and not dying to bear a child yesterday? Or is there something wrong with a society that pushes the idea of maternal instincts and biological clocks on women and makes them feel like if they do not fulfill a mother role by a certain point then they are flawed? It seems like pressures continue to be mounted and it is difficult to prioritize in this day and age. Be educated, have a career, be independent are the modern goals. But also get married and have children. We want it all, but often it is hard to find time for it all meaning some things need to be placed on the backburner. Women are increasingly choosing to get their careers and lives in place before having children and so perhaps it is not that this goal has decreased in importance but only that it has slipped from the forefront of the priority list. I feel that as I check other goals off of my list, I get closer to feeling ready to make the big step. Hopefully by that point I will mature a little more as well and not be picking fights on the playground.

Easter spells EAT!!

April 9, 2012

Source:1funny.com

 

This year I thought a bit about what Easter means to me. I’m not a religious person. I wouldn’t quite say I’m an atheist, because I think I believe in ghosts and spirits and if there is an afterlife then maybe there is a big cheese there, some head honcho, a ‘divine ruler’ if you will. But I have had enough dalliances into the Christian faith in my lifetime to seriously doubt that the answer is there. The only grandparents I have ever met are of the Mennonite faith and went to church every Sunday. My Oma does not question the existence of god, only the likelihood of seeing her family members in his kingdom of heaven in the afterlife. So far I have no chance, as I have never been baptized. (In the Mennonite faith you are baptized as an adult). It looked promising for me when I was quite young. There were a few Sunday school lessons as a young girl until my parents finally had their fill of having to go to sermons themselves so I could attend. My sister and I owned a children’s book of bible stories which I enjoyed reading. One summer my parents even sent us to a camp with a religious component. We came back thoroughly brainwashed and convinced they were going to hell for all of their sins: getting divorced, drinking alcohol, using the lord’s name in vain, swearing. They were surely going to burn. It didn’t take long to reverse the damage, we quickly realized that being a devout Christian wasn’t a lot of fun. Anyway, I have a basic understanding of the Easter story, and what it means to those of the Christian faith.

What Easter means to most people I know: FOOD. For as long as I can remember, Easter has been another reason to gather, celebrate, and eat. Much like every other holiday, it is an excuse to overindulge. Food brings people together like nothing else, and many people have holiday food traditions that have existed since they were children. For our family, the Easter meal is ham. When I think of ham, I think of Easter. But family gatherings have not always been a positive experience for me. When I was suffering with an eating disorder, the idea of family dinners terrified me. I knew there would be expectations placed on me to eat all of the delicious food, the bread, the meat and potatoes and the fat-laden gravy. I could just visualize the fat depositing right onto my stomach and my ass. I would try all of the anorexic tricks. Eating slowly, filling up my plate with vegetables, cutting things up in small pieces. But when it comes to a Mennonite feast, you can’t get out of there without a full stomach. Which meant of course that I had to throw up afterwards, which always made me feel guilty and worn out. Even in recovery, family dinners can be difficult. I still feel at times that people are watching what I eat, making sure it’s enough, but not too much. Sometimes when I go to the bathroom after a meal, I feel like I have to prove I’m not purging. Sometimes I just try to pee at record speed, even skipping washing my hands. I think “No one will think I could have thrown up that quickly!!” Other times I will try to have a conversation with someone outside of the bathroom, or sing or talk to myself loudly. No one can vomit and talk at the same time!! I have gotten over most of this now, and can just enjoy a holiday meal for the good food, and the good company. But what I’ve discovered is that for a lot of women holiday feasts can bring about feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame. People tend to eat and drink too much, abandon their diets, regain lost weight. Not to mention the stress women can be under to prepare these elaborate meals. With family dynamics shifting away from the ‘nuclear family’ idea of 2 parents, 2 ½ kids and a dog, people may have multiple meals to attend in a day or over several days. I have a friend who went to 4 dinners this weekend. She claims to have gained 10 pounds. While I doubt this is true, this 4-day gorge-fest has certainly affected her self-esteem, if not her waistline.

It’s interesting to me that in the Christian faith, Easter is a celebration of God sacrificing his only Son to pay the penalty for our sins so that we can have eternal life. This sacrifice is celebrated with gluttony. (I will note that for some Christian faiths this gluttony follows a period of fasting, I just don’t know anyone who actually does this). In the Jewish faith, the Passover feast which celebrates the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt, consists of a much less appealing spread. Each component is representative of some part of the story about the Jewish people fleeing Egypt. Matzah, or unleavened bread to represent the haste with which the Jewish people fled, maror, bitter herbs to symbolize the bitterness of slavery, karpas, a vegetable like parsley or celery representing hope and redemption served in a bowl of salted water representing tears shed etc. For the entire 8 days of Passover, nothing with yeast is allowed, and there are several other food restrictions. It is a time of respectful sacrifice. Again, I’m not a religious person, but it sounds like by rearranging their philosophy a bit, Christians could seriously decrease their caloric intake.

For the rest of us agnostics, we just need to remember that it’s only a meal. Food is to be consumed, it shouldn’t consume us. If you eat more than you meant to, don’t beat yourself up over it. Here are some rules that might help you: If you ate an entire family-sized bag of Mini Eggs over the long weekend, don’t sweat it!! Nothing with the word mini in the name can affect your waistline significantly. Remember, red wine is good for your heart, and I read a study once that showed women who drink a glass of red wine daily are on average thinner than those that don’t. I’m sure the same is true for multiple glasses of red wine, white wine, tequila, gin, beer etc. One serving of vegetables cancels out one serving of carbohydrate. The same goes for a glass of diet soft drink. If you cook with olive oil you don’t count that as fat, because it’s “good fat”. Same goes for any fat in olives or avocados. Finally, anything you eat while cooking doesn’t count because you are doing manual labor and you are burning off all of those calories. If you feel better, it is probably a good time to mention that all Easter chocolate is now 50% off. Please, someone buy up all the Mini Eggs!!! They are my Achilles heel!

Will you buy what the kids are selling?

March 27, 2012

Dakota Fanning for Marc Jacobs Lola perfume

 

There has been a lot of controversy lately surrounding the use of very young actresses as the faces of campaigns for everything from makeup to perfume to high end designer clothing. Dakota Fanning was the cover girl for a Marc Jacobs campaign at the age of 12, and now at the age of 17 she is the face of his Lola perfume ads. Her younger sister Elle (13) is showcasing his Marc by Marc Jacobs line. 14 year-old Hailee Steinfeld, best known for her Oscar nominated role in True Grit was the face of the 2011 Miu Miu campaign. 15 year-old Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass) has just been named the MaxMara 2012 face of the future and is doing an advertising campaign for them. 19 year-old Emma Watson has been doing campaigns for Burberry since 2009. Using young celebrities in advertising isn’t a new concept. In 1980, a 14 year-old Brooke Shields was the young centerfold in Calvin Klein jean ads, alongside the very suggestive logo “Nothing gets between me and my Calvins”. However the number of underage girls in the media seems to be increasing, and their age decreasing. Also, with the technology of today, media reaches a much broader demographic of people. It is hard to believe there is any race, culture, economic class, religion or age of person who is not affected by advertising today.

Hailee Steinfeld for Miu Miu

 

It is true that a lot of models are ‘discovered’ at a very young age, sometimes as young as 13 or 14. They can be doing runway shows and booking fashion shoots while still going through puberty. But let’s face it. When you see a stream of models walking down a runway, one angular, expressionless girl after another, you can’t really distinguish a teenager from a 25 year-old.  No one has any of the features that distinguish them as women, such as breasts or hips. These girls and women are alike in their androgeny. Case in point: one of the biggest models in the runway world right now is Andrej Pejic, a gorgeous Serbian who has walked numerous high-end women’s runway shows this last season. He is a man. Looking at him in the stream of other models, one would never guess he was any different from any of the female models on the runway. It is bizarre that designers believe their clothing looks best on women who look nothing like women at all, but instead like prepubescent children.

So why is hiring very young celebrities for designer ad campaigns any different? First, my soapbox: In general, I think that the modeling world is very hard on young girls, and when a teenager is put in a position where her success is based solely on how she looks, it can set her up for a lot of disappointment, rejection, and self-esteem issues. It can also send the wrong message to girls regarding what is really important. But if a parent wants to allow her daughter to model at a young age, I think it is important to look at the appropriateness of each job with respect to what that girl is selling and how she is selling it. It’s appropriate for a teenager to model a teen clothing line. If a teenager is modeling for an adult line and she is made up to look like an adult as many teens can, it may be appropriate as long as she is not placed in inappropriately adult or sexualized poses. When it comes to celebrities, these girls are household names. People are aware that they are young, underage girls, so automatically people are going to question the appropriateness of hiring them for adult clothing lines, even if they are made up to look older. The reality is that for a lot of these campaigns these girls are purposely painted and posed in order to highlight their youth and innocence. They are put in pretty dresses, or in silly, childish poses. In some of the more sinister photos, such as the Lola perfume ads featuring Dakota Fanning, there is a juxtaposition of Dakota’s youthfulness with her ‘sexuality’ where she is sitting in a cute frilly dress looking innocently at the camera, holding the bottle of perfume with a large flower top in between her legs. There are other ads that use a similar juxtaposition showing extremely youthful celebrities wearing very adult clothing and posed in a very adult manner. The Lola perfume ad was banned in the UK for sexualizing a child. The company that makes the perfume, Coty, responded that it did not feel the perfume was inappropriately sexualized because Fanning is over the age of consent (16), and also because no body parts and no sexual activity is shown. To them, the ad is “provoking, but not indecent”. Hmm. A Miu Miu ad featuring Hailee Stenfeld was also banned in the UK because it showed her wearing a very short skirt and sitting on a train track. It was banned not for the skirt, but because it showed the child in a hazardous or dangerous situation. They are referring to the railway track and not the fact she is 14 and already a sex object.

Casting a celebrity for an ad campaign is very different from hiring a beautiful yet unidentifiable model. When hiring a model, the designer is only looking for the person whom they feel will best showcase the brand. Is she beautiful? Will the clothes look great on her? When hiring a celebrity, that person will be recognizable to the general public. Celebrities have predetermined reputations to take into account, and designers have to additionally think about whether the person will affect the integrity or image of the brand. Often that is why celebrities are used, to reach their vast number of fans and help to expand the brand’s consumer base. One has to wonder what a designer is thinking when he decides to hire a child for a women’s clothing campaign. What message is it designed to send, and what message are women receiving? I can only speak for myself, and when I see a 14 year-old in a dress on a billboard, it doesn’t make me want to go out and buy that dress. It might make me say “Awwwwwww…”, but I don’t know any 30 year-old women who want to show up at a party in the same dress as their 15 year-old niece. Are these designers then trying to reach out to a younger client base? Are they trying to expand to the preteen/teen crowd? This could be a risky move. While these starlets will likely attract the attention of girls in this age range, I don’t know that a lot of them will have the allowance to purchase the digs from Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu, or  Burberry. The demographic most likely to buy these brands would relate much better to actresses that have been in movies that do not begin with Twi and end in light. Many women who covet these labels may not even know who these younger stars are, and therefore would not be swayed by their use in ads. It has been suggested that a reason for using such young stars in ads is because our culture is obsessed with youth. There may be some truth to that. But I certainly have no desire to relive my teenage years. Looking at a girl in an ad campaign who is 13-17 years of age doesn’t make me think: “Oh, to be young again”. It makes me think: “That poor girl, she doesn’t know what’s going to hit her”. (I mean emotionally, as in those hard teenage years, not literally, as in that train that is apparently going to hit Ms. Steinfeld on the railway track). Show me a 20 year-old in an ad with gorgeous, wrinkle-free, flawless skin, hair that shines, and a radiant, youthful glow, and yes, I’ll buy what she’s selling. I may even get the urge to run to the next Botox clinic. But when I see a kid gyrating against a bottle of perfume in a magazine? I just want to call her mother.

Chloe Moretz for Max Mara

 

Leave the Children Out of It!!

March 22, 2012

Almost at my goal weight!

The other day I was at Whole Foods buying some overpriced organic groceries when I overheard a mother telling her elementary school-aged daughter to put the  Snickerdoodles  she had picked up back because they were too “fattening”.  Now I understand that in this day and age gluten and refined sugar are the body’s enemy, clogging up your system wherever they go, but as far as I know no child has ever porked up from a single Snickerdoodle. It is far from my place on my childless pedestal to judge, but it hit a nerve to hear this woman force her food issues onto her young child. While I agree that parents should be concerned with their children’s nutrition, and certainly there should not be a free-for –all mentality when it comes to junk food. But what message does it send to young girls when their mothers tell them they should fear certain foods? Do these children have the skills to think critically and understand that their parents don’t want them to become obese and unhealthy, or will they start to think that they must be as skinny as models in magazines or the thinnest girl in their class in order to please?

I came across some pretty startling statistics:

Among children in grades 1-3, 42% want to be thinner

Among 8-10 years old, 50% are dissatisfied with their body size

Among 10 year olds, 81% are afraid of becoming fat

Among 9-11 year olds, 46% are on diets “sometimes” or “very often”

82% of these 9-11 year olds families are on diets “sometimes” or “very often”

Among 13 year olds, 80% have tried to lose weight

Among 9-15 year old girls, 50% exercise to lose weight, 50% restrict their calories, and 5% steal laxatives or diet pills from their parents

35% of people on a diet develop some sort of pathology around food

Of this 35%, 20-25% develop a full-blown eating disorder

Why do our kids have such low self-esteem and body-image? Similar to the rest of us women, they are exposed to the endless stream of media images depicting unrealistic depictions of women. Children are likely even more susceptible to these images because they are less likely to be able to appreciate the discrepancy between the women in the media and real women. Young children may not realize the extent of the retouching, plastic surgery, makeup, dieting, personal training etc. that goes into making the models look like they do. Children and teens are also highly influenced by their peer group. Often groups of kids will engage in fat-talk which only feeds into their low self-esteem. They may feel pressured into dieting along with groups of friends, or forced to “compete” with smaller friends.

Parents cannot control the media or peer pressure. However, the influence of parents and home environment on children’s behavior and attitude towards food cannot be overlooked. It is well established that how parents, especially mothers, feel about themselves and their approach to weight issues will influence their daughter’s self-image and tendency towards disordered eating. Statistically, young girls who report they have dieted or are dieting are more likely to report that members of their families are also dieting or have dieted.  A study in the European Journal of Child Adolescent Psychiatry in 2009 called Influence of Parent’s Eating Attitudes on Eating Disorders In School Adolescents examined 258 boys and girls with a mean age of 11.37 being either at risk of an eating disorder or a control. The study looked at disordered eating attitudes, body dissatisfaction, BMI and eating disorder diagnoses in the children at beginning and 2 years later. The parents were also examined for disordered eating attitudes. The results showed that mother’s drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, and father’s drive for thinness and perfectionism were related to long-term eating disorders. Predictors were being female, mothers drive for thinness, social insecurity and adolescent body dissatisfaction, and father’s perfectionism. BMI was not a predictor.

So ladies, remember when you were a teenager and you screamed at your mother that you were going to be a better parent than her? I know at the time you meant you were going to let your daughter stay out late and date all the boys she wanted and have her own phone in her room, but now you have the chance to do something better. You can shut up about how fat you feel today or how many calories were in the grande chocolate macchiato extra whip you just drank and how disgusting you feel, or how you need to go on a diet. It’s no good for you, and it’s toxic for your daughters. Both of you deserve better.