Some of the more lively discussions we had included:
We spent a long time talking about body image, particularly for adolescent girls. The biggest discussion here was around the issue of how we protect adolescents from feeling negative about their bodies, given the culture we live in. How should parents, for instance, who want their daughters to grow up to be confident young women, approach this issue? The idea that we should focus on what the body can DO rather than what the body LOOKS like was discussed. This perspective reminded me of a blog post that was rampantly posted on facebook last summer. On a personal note, I’ve struggled with this issue extensively as a parent. When I saw that blog post, I thought there were great points about discussing what the body can do, avoiding fat/negative self-body talk, and teaching about healthy eating but not completely avoiding treats. As a parent, I'm extremely careful about discussing dieting/weight loss, I never say anything disparaging about my own body in front of her, and I even just deal when she squeezes fat on my body and says "squishy Mama!" But a decision I came to years ago was that sometimes I SHOULD tell my daughter she's beautiful or cute or looks good or whatever. Not focusing on size or someone else's ideals, but letting her know I think she’s gorgeous. But some day (and it's there already of course), no matter what I do, she IS going to care how she looks. And if I don't tell her she's beautiful, who will? And if I don't tell her she's beautiful, but I do tell her she's smart and funny and thoughtful and strong, at some point she's going to wonder whether I think she's NOT beautiful.
Even in our household where we are extremely careful not to talk about size or weight or dieting, and are very careful about how we discuss food, I have seen how culture can impact my daughter’s perceptions. We now keep one carton of multigrain cheerios, and when we buy more, we take the bag out and put it in the old carton, because my daughter had noticed that on the back it says “People who choose more whole grain tend to weigh less than those who don’t…. more grains, less you.” Soon after she wouldn’t wear one of her winter coats because it “makes me look too big.”
We discussed drive for muscularity vs. thinness, and the fact that obesity cutoffs are generally based on BMI, which doesn’t account for muscularity vs. fat.
We discussed a couple of papers from my research group about associations between body image and sexual behavior, and how, for young men, body image increases after first intercourse, whereas for women it remains stable or slightly decreases.
And we talked about work on affluence, much of it by Suniya Luthar, suggesting that although there are benefits of being affluent, there are also costs, such as high rates of substance use and anxiety.
“The post This week in Adolescent Development: Internalizing behaviors and eating first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on April 14, 2014.”