Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Growing Older

Here is a brief look at an Australian body image related radio broadcast (ABC Local Radio special).

Presented by Richard Stubbs and Richelle Hunt, the programme discussed with Professor Susan Paxton ( La Trobe University School of Psychological Science), the findings of her study into body image and disordered eating for women aged thirty and above.

One of Professor Paxton’s main findings is that body image pressures did not decrease and may increase as women get older.

"When you think about it we have a very young ideal”, she said continuing:

"Work that has been conducted in South Australia shows that there are almost the same amount of disordered eating symptoms in people in the 45 - 54 age group as there are in the 20 to 30 year old group.

"In fact people are growing older with their problems."

In response to Richelle Hunt’s comments that the issue was extremely challenging and difficult to ignore, despite an individuals better judgement, Professor Paxton replied:

"You have that rational part of your brain that doesn't want to think like that. What you get frustrated with is that you are thinking like that when you know when you shouldn't."

She added that the people, who were happiest with their body image, were those who had learnt to accept age related changes.

A women in the over 50 and over age group who the professor interviewed for the study, is a good example of an individual is this group:

"As I passed the 50 stage I thought there's no point in being conscious of it because that's the way you are. You're healthy and that's far more important than thinking about how you look compared to other people.

"It puts things in perspective when you have friends that are dying of cancer. Your body image goes out the window."
Facebook responses (many) to the show included:

Mary: "I'm 55. I look in the mirror some mornings and don't recognise the person looking back. I still feel 18 but the mirror tells me different.

"Age is a state of mind... when you feel good you look good... when feel down you look it. The mind is the most powerful beauty tool in your makeup bag."

Leah: Wants "to be a role model for them [her daughters], and teach them their worth is not based on their looks, and we are all perfectly ourselves.

Then commenting on her own journey to self acceptance Leah said:

"When I had a better body 20 years ago I was obsessed with its flaws, and what others thought. Now I have many many more "imperfections" and I can't say I embrace them but I do my best to accept them and rock whatever outfit I choose for the day."


Friday, May 24, 2013

Rise in eating disorders

This week the British Medical Journal published the latest statistics on eating disorders.

In the last nine years, the number of people diagnosed with an eating disorder has increased by 15%.

Each year approximately 12,400 new cases are diagnosed. Of these, the largest group accounting for 4,610 individuals is made up of girls aged 15-19. Eating disorders are now one of most common mental health problems that affect teenage girls.

There has also been a steady increase (relatively small number) in the number of boys aged ten to 14 diagnosed with an eating disorder.

Dr Nadia Micali, of the Institute of Child Health, University College, London, which carried out the research said:

“Modern society exerts pressure for children and young people to be perfect, to look perfect and be high achiever…. Boys are starting to suffer as girls did in the past”.

"It’s a mix of genes and environment, nature and nurture, but the reality is we don’t know enough about what causes eating disorders yet.”

Eating disorders affect 1.6 million people in the UK.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Too attractive to work

Yesterday Mathew Wright (The Wright Stuff Channel 5) commented on a story about a woman that said that she was unable to find work , because she was too attractive.

I’ll let you into a secret”, he said, “she ain’t”. Later he added that the woman was

My interest stirred, I decided to find out what lay behind the story, in particular what the woman herself had to say about the issue.

In an interview with ITV’s This Morning, Laura Fernee, explained that she had worked in a medical research lab between 2008 and 2011. At this point comments from work colleagues about her attractive physical appearance caused to resign from her £30,000 a year job.

Laura elaborated on the situation, explaining that the constant attention and "romantic gifts" left her "traumatized."

"In the end, as much as I loved my work, going in to work became very, very difficult because of the psychological impact on me," she said.

"I’m not lazy and I’m no bimbo," Fernee stated in another interview with The Daily Mail. "The truth is my good looks have caused massive problems for me when it comes to employment, so I’ve made the decision that employment just isn’t for me at the moment. It’s not my fault...I can’t help the way I look."
It was not only the attentions of men that caused her issues; women were problematic too.

Women said Laura, “assumed [that] because I was pretty, I was stupid, so didn’t take me seriously at first and, because of their own insecurities, were jealous of my looks.” She added that the women also got angry when they found out she was better at her job than they were.

Fernee is currently receiving financial support form her affluent parents.

This is not the first time we have blogged about [a woman complaining of] the negative affects of being attractive. See Samantha Brick.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Too much hair

In this article, I will recount a story that a concerned mother (a black woman) recounted to me .

At the end of the school day, her daughter (age 10) arrived at her car looking upset. The ensuing conversation went something like this:

What’s wrong”, she asked her daughter in concern.

“My games teacher said that I’ve got too much hair" (see picture), came the abrupt reply. The mother looked into her daughter’s tearful brown eyes.

“Too much hair?” she questioned taking in her daughter’s, long, thick, black curly hair. “Why did she say that”?

“My hair bobble came out during games and my hair got loose. When she saw my hair out she just said ‘you have too much hair.”

“What a stupid thing for your teacher to say”, the mother replied angrily. “You have beautiful hair.

“You don’t have too much or too little, you have exactly the amount of hair that you are supposed to have; it is supposed to look like it does. I am going to have a word with your teacher, how dare she say such a stupid and insensitive thing”.

Read article


Monday, May 13, 2013

Abercrombie & Fitch exclusionary

Image conscious clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, is in the headlines yet again with its penchant for courting controversy. Eg. It had to pay £9000 compensation after losing a legal case brought by a student who wore a prosthetic arm, who claimed she was discriminated against for not conforming to the firm’s policy on staff appearance.

This time they have hit the headlines for their policy not to stock larger sizes.

In an interview with Business Insider, Robin Lewis author of The New Rules of Retail, said of Mike Jeffries ( CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch):

“He doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people….“He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids.’”

Lewis comments have their origins in a 2006 article (The man behind Abercrombie & Fitch by Benoit Denizet-Lewis) when CEO Mike Jeffries was quoted as saying:

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids.

“Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? …. Absolutely.”

In response Mike Jeffries stated on the company website:

“Diversity and inclusion are key to our organization’s success….We are determined to have a diverse culture, throughout our organization, that benefits from the perspectives of each individual.”

There is an online petition on Change.org with over 3,670 signatures; the objective of which is to pressure the company into changing its ‘no large sizes’ policy.


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Helping others build their self esteem

Every now and again we get asked a question that we think is worth repeating here.

The question was asked by a 15 year old school girl, who wanted tips on how she could help build the self esteem of her friends and help them feel good about themselves.

We responded as follows:

Self esteem is a person’s sense of self-worth.

It relates to how much you value and accept yourself, how worthwhile you feel and the extent to which you feel loved and accepted by others.

Your self-esteem is strongly influenced by the experiences and relationships you’ve had in your life.

The best thing you can do is to show others how much you value them and how much they contribute to your happiness and to the happiness of others.

It's about letting them know that they are accepted unconditionally. That their worth is not determined by factors such as physical appearance, educational achievement, what they wear or what gadget they have. That they are acceptable and valued just they way they are.

In addition, she could also tell her friends about our 10 Positive Affirmations that are also aimed at helping individuals improve your body image and build self confidence.


Monday, May 06, 2013

19th and 21st Century Women

At the present moment, both my children are revising for their summer term assessments. While assisting my son with his history revision, about the Victorian Era, I was reminded of the book The Body Project: An Intimate History Of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg 1998.

Ms Brumberg looked at a number of diary entries scribed by girl’s in the nineteenth century.

Unsurprisingly, she discovered that the concerns of girls of the day, are very different to the issues that affect girls and women in modern day society.

"Nineteenth-century girls often noted in their diaries when they acquired an exciting personal embellishment, such as a hair ribbon or new dress, but these were not linked to self-worth or personhood in quite the way they are today... character was considered more important than beauty... And character was built on attention to self-control, service to others, and belief in God, not on attention to one's own, highly individualistic body project."

Firstly, I should note that today’s modern women have the vote (they can even be Prime Minister), can be financially independent, are equals in relationships and can decide whether or not they are going to have children. Social and political empowerment that their Victorian counterparts could only dream about.

In regard to what 19th century girls and women found important, it the emphasis at the time was on inner beauty; where the focus was on being virtuous, of good character and having a pure and kind heart.

I am certainly not saying that physical appearance did not have an important part to play e.g. Ms Brumberg's highlights the shift in attitudes about acne and complexion and documents how the beauty industry (targeting the middle-class) first influenced and then capitalised on appearance.

Today, the focus has shifted to valuing outer physical beauty much more and often more than inner beauty.