Barbie’s secret to weight loss was “don’t eat”: Is that your teen’s philosophy?
The 1965 Slumber Party Barbie came with her very own “How to Lose Weight” book. The main message was “don’t eat.” Along with this book came a bathroom scale always set at 110 pounds/49.9 kilograms, says Teen Beauty Tips. According to Malisa Morsman, “Barbie is the plastic equivalent of a 5-foot, 9-inch (1.75 m) woman with a 36-inch (91.5 cm) bust, 33-inch (83.8 cm) hips, and an impossibly small 18-inch waist (45.7 cm).”
Ken, on the other hand, came with his own milk and cookies, and no scales.
Unhealthy message to teenage girls that has persisted
Unfortunately, women of all ages gradually started to perceive Barbie’s body as ideal, and teenagers often follow, even now, Barbie’s 1965 instructions on how to lose weight. Some purport that Barbie is even responsible for the increase in eating disorders.
In Europe, a correlation has also been made between women of all ages who smoke and have eating disorders. Smoking cuts the appetite, and is used as a way to keep from eating.
Ironically, the problem often becomes not only of a problem of getting your teenage girl to eat properly, but also a problem of eating at all.
As for the boys, is the message still that he can eat milk and cookies to his heart’s delight?
Now that Barbie is 50
Now that Barbie is 50, shouldn’t she be over her anorexia? In their article of 06 March 2009, France 24 says “Barbie has had more than 100 different careers, 50 nationalities, 300 Facebook pages, 1,000 YouTube clips and close to a billion different pieces of clothing. With all that, she still doesn’t appear to have changed her habit of not eating. So the message on how to diet lingers on.
Coping with eating disorders or weight problems
If your daughter (or child) basically refuses to eat, cognitive-behavior therapy is strongly advisable. Get informed by looking at sites like National Eating Disorders. Contact your doctor for that.
If your child or young adult is overweight, there are several options, depending on just how serious it is.
The first comprehensive, scientifically-based weight loss camp for teens and young adults opened recently in the UK, after the success of the Wellspring Camps in the US. These are run by Aspen Education Group, which operates “a range of therapeutic interventions, including boarding schools, residential treatment and wilderness therapy.” All these are based on lifestyle change, and include a low-fat, low-calorie-density diet combined with intensive sports and outdoor activities. Wellspring emphasizes behavioral changes, and therefore incorporates cognitive therapy as well as behavioral coaches, teaching participants to adopt “new, healthy coping skills, increase frustration tolerance, and work through underlying issues that might be contributing to weight gain.”
The aim is to get the message across that teenagers can eat healthy food that tastes good and still have plenty of energy to have fun, in hope that they will continue these good habits when they leave the program. Parents of course have to educate themselves about these methods so as to provide proper support after leaving camp.
Teaching your daughter (and the whole family) how to have a healthy approach to eating
Our articles A fun, interactive guide for teaching your children good eating habits of 9 May 2009 and Getting your kids into the kitchen: fresh fruit smoothies of 25 May 2009 are a good way of getting into the spirit.
Make sure everyone eats a healthy breakfast. Dieticians say it is the most important meal of the day, not only because we haven’t eaten since dinner, but also because it gets our metabolism up and going. Always keep plenty of healthy breakfast food that your child will actually eat in the house.
Do not buy snack food. You can be sure they’ll buy it when they’re out with their friends, so they won’t be deprived. Buy nice fruit bowls and always have fresh fruit on hand, carefully placing the bowls in strategic, high-traffic places in the house.
Do not buy soda. Encourage them to drink water with their meal, or failing this, fruit juices. Buy a juicer and make fresh fruit juices or use the blender to make fresh fruit smoothies. Make sure to always have the necessary ingredients on hand.
Paste a food pyramid on the front of the refrigerator. Use it to gradually educate them about how they should be eating. The Swiss food pyramid can be found online in pdf format, which you can print out. Talk about it from time to time, when the moment seems appropriate.
Dinner conversation can sometimes be focused on how tasty yet low-fat the meal is, or how on much fiber it contains, so that your teen gets in the habit of thinking about these aspects of eating.
If you can manage, try to get them to help do the food shopping or cooking. This also makes for an occasion to talk about how you have planned the meal so that it is well balanced, and that it is not just thrown together. Once again, you might make reference to the food pyramid.
Numerous sites offer excellent teen-friendly advice, ideas and approaches, such as Parenting Teens, the UK Food Standards Agency, Keep Kids Healthy, and the International Food Information Council. And if you want the full scoop on Barbie’s 50 years of unending skinniness, you can get a full, chronological rundown on MentalFloss or YouBentMyWookie.