Osbourne’s response was a textbook defense mechanism: She opted to act tough and spew venom at those who dissed her body. In England, she notes, well-rounded actresses like Kate Winslet are revered as beauties. In L.A., however, “you have to be anorexic,” Osbourne told “Marie Claire” editors. “What these girls put themselves through to be that way is disgusting…I don’t want to be that kind of person.”
When Osbourne left the Golden State for London in 2005, she dropped 30 lbs. and now wears a size 4. The tabloids’ response? “Us Weekly” presented her with the “Best Makeover Style” award, leading Osbourne to colorfully note, “Part of me is like, ‘F— you!’ Suddenly I lose weight…and now I’m an ‘it’ girl? I think it’s hypocritical, and it proves to all those little girls out there that you have to look a certain way to be accepted.”
While your daughters are unlikely to be grist for seedy news rags, their struggles are no less painful than Osbourne’s. Amid skyrocketing obesity rates, other epidemics threaten today’s teens: eating disorders spurred on by the media’s overwhelming obsession with Hollywood’s stick-thin movie/TV stars. According to the nonprofit educational organization Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc., 1% of teenage girls have anorexia nervosa (starving themselves), 4% of college-age females battle bulimia nervosa (bingeing and purging), and 2% have body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD (excessive focus on, and distorted views about, their appearance—often centered on a specific body part). Tragically, 20% of patients with serious eating disorders will die.
So, what relevance does this have for readers who thrive on organic food and live an organic lifestyle?
If you’re a parent, you need to recognize that there’s a fine line between encouraging your children to eat healthfully and nagging them so relentlessly that they develop self-image problems, which can lead to eating disorders.
“Parents should teach children and adolescents to eat properly by serving as role models,” says Dr. Fugen Neziroglu, clinical director of the Bio-Behavioral Institute in Great Neck, New York. “Buy and serve healthy foods—but everything in moderation,” she tells Organic Authority. “It is all right, once in a while, to have one or two cookies or a scoop of ice cream, providing it is not in excess.”
At the same time, “do not concentrate on any specific body parts, and try to promote healthy values, such as family, friends, trustworthiness, giving and caring,” she adds. “Do not put excessive emphasis on the value of attractiveness. Moderation will keep your child away from eating disorders and the lack of emphasis on beauty away from BDD.”
“Eating-disorder specialists consider our culture to be a hostile environment for developing a healthy attitude toward food and our bodies,” says Dr. Theresa Fassihi, a staff psychologist with The Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas, and primary clinician with the institute’s eating disorders program. “There is evidence that rates of body image dissatisfaction are increasing in both men and women and at increasingly younger ages. One recent study of girls aged 5 to 8 demonstrated that watching appearance-focused television programs increased their desire for thinness and increased their risk for developing low self-esteem.”
As a parent, one of the most important ways to counteract such media madness is to set a good example—and avoid turning the kitchen into a battleground during family meals.
“The best way to promote a healthy attitude toward eating in your children is to have regular family meals and model a healthy attitude toward food and your body,” Dr. Fassihi tells Organic Authority. Eating together as a family “reduces the risk of problematic health behaviors in adolescent girls, including disordered eating and substance abuse,” she explains. “A recent longitudinal study conducted by researchers with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute also found that family meals enhance a child’s coping skills and increase family cohesion.”
Meals should be nutritious and appealing, Dr. Fassihi notes, and children should have a say in what they eat as they mature. Be sure to include favorite foods during mealtimes, and let your kids help plan family dinners.
Finally, “be aware of the example you are setting,” she cautions. “Avoid dieting or rigidly limiting your own food choices.”