Thursday, June 23, 2011

This week's column:

This week I saw a report on “Good Morning America” on body image. It wasn’t through the eyes of a 30-year-old woman or even a teenager.
The story was about a 6-year-old who is already obsessed about her body image. What is frightening is that this was not a unique situation.
GMA reported that a 2009 University of Central Florida study found that nearly half of the 3- to 6-year-old participants said they worried about being fat. This is not about a healthy weight or keeping fit. This is about how they look.
To me, this is sad. Our society has become so obsessed with body image that anything resembling a healthy lifestyle has gone completely out the window and another situation has occurred.
If a girl begins developing a poor self-image at the age of three, what is the hope that she will have a healthy view of herself at 20 or 30? A lifelong discipline of low self-esteem and self-loathing is created.
There is a difference between a healthy body and your body image. A healthy body is linked to a good diet and proper exercise, not your waist size. A poor body image can not only lead to unhealthy practices to keep a certain look but can also lead to mental health problems where a girl associates her self-worth to her perception of what she sees in the mirror every day.
Part of the problem is the women the media throw in girls' faces to define what is beautiful. These are usually overly thin actresses or models who boys seem to adore. Older girls see who their favorite heart throb is currently dating and will go to extremes to look like them.
The GMA report also gave another culprit to the problem. Moms, obsessed with their own self-image, who are always talking about hitting the gym to be thin or dieting.
As a society it’s time to draw the line somewhere. Preschool and elementary age little girls should be having tea parties and playing, now worrying if the pretend tea they are serving will make them fat.
Developing an obsession about the outer persona at such a young age is far from healthy. It doesn’t lead to empowerment and it certainly doesn’t lead to a healthy lifestyle. It can lead to a life of depression and unhealthy eating habits or disorders.
To empower the next generation of women, let’s not enslave them to what an unchecked media says is beautiful. Let’s raise them up healthy and happy with who they are as a person and not how they look.
Societal definitions of what is beautiful change throughout time. In an age when size 2 or 4 seem to be desired, remember that at one time society considered a bit of a curve attractive. Marilyn Monroe’s dress sizes varied from 8 to 12 and men adored her. Rita Hayworth was also adored and she had a few curves herself.
My point in mentioning those two Hollywood divas is to remember that definitions of beautiful change throughout time and a young girl should not base her self-view based on distorted societal norms.
Be healthy, yes. But remember thin does not always equal healthy and it’s about how your body is functioning on the inside and not what it looks like on the outside that defines healthy. Just as it is not healthy to become obese, it’s equally unhealthy to obsess about being thin.
It’s time to raise up a generation of women who have pride in themselves for their accomplishments, inward beauty and character rather than what they look like.
The ever-classy Audrey Hepburn might have said it best.
“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It's the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This Week's Column:

Giving up the fear
Everyone is afraid of something. But sometimes what we fear is a bit silly. Anyone agree?
For example, one of my biggest fears is waking up in the middle of a surgery. In reality, what is the likelihood that will actually happen, especially when I’ve only had one surgery during my entire life?
Marionettes also freak me out. They’re just creepy.
Some people are afraid of sharks, which is especially silly if they don’t live by an ocean. Sharks in the ocean, OK, real fear. Sharks inland, not so much.
Some people are afraid of certain numbers. And clowns, who isn’t afraid of clowns?
People like TV’s Monk are afraid of germs.
How many of us are afraid of spiders? When you look at how small the arachnids are related to the size of a human and our ability to smash them, that fear is a bit crazy, too.
Crazy fears like this can often consume people's lives.
But recently I read about real fear. It was a situation I cannot imagine someone living through and I shivered thinking about it.
I was reading Jaycee Dugard’s statement from the trial against her captors. How this young women, kidnapped at age 11, survived 18 years of this torment still impresses me.
She was held captive in a dirty tent in the back yard where she was psychologically manipulated and repeatedly rapped by her captor, Phillip Garrido, eventually leading to a very young Dugard having two children by this man. She had the first child when she was only 14.
How could an 11-year-old even begin to process what was happening to her, or could she?
Equally scary were the times this situation was overlooked by authorities who could have gotten her out of this mess sooner.
To me this is real fear, something extremely horrible. How many times do we — and I include myself in this — overreact to silly fears and frustrations when real horrors are going on in the world, sometimes right under our noses.
She was an 11-year-old girl who for years was paralyzed to change her outcome, surviving horrors none of us want to face. This is a situation much more frightening than a spider, clowns or sharks.
It just serves as a reality check or a check of our reality, whichever is more fitting.
How silly is it of me to be afraid of marionettes when there are people being abused, when children are starving and when nations live in fear of their oppressive governments?
Fear and worry of the little things are often what distract us from hurts and pains that people experience all around us. When we can’t get passed our fear of the irrational, how can we deal with the reality of a friend who’s battling cancer, a child being abused or a family mourning the loss of a soldier?
It reminds me to stop focusing on my selfish irrational fears in life and think about real things people are going trough and the real fears they face. At least I hope I will remember that.