Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Originally posted by Erica at Health on MSN, 5/26/09

The Jiggle Felt 'Round the World

If you think Miley Cyrus has body issues, try talking to a third grader.

Miley Cyrus recently rocked the Twittersphere, but not with anything musical. She posted a lament about her "jiggly" thighs.

Faster than you can type, "OMG," the world reacted with a vengeance. The upshot of many critiques? She's a role model—a height/weight proportional one at that—and should be more careful about what she says to her impressionable tween-age fans.

While Miley could have kept her body-image woes to herself, the fact is her fans are already battling huge self-esteem problems of their own. Get this: According to the National Eating Disorders Association, four out of 10 girls in grades 1 through 3 want to be thinner. And more than two out of three girls would rather be perceived as "mean" or "stupid" than overweight.Mother and daughter talking (© Tom Grill/Corbis)

This unhealthy mindset is manifesting itself in a rise in disordered eating in elementary school-age kids. Cheryl Dellasega, Ph.D., a professor in the College of Medicine at Pennsylvania State University, says, "our Eating Disorder Unit is treating very young kids—9 years and perhaps even younger."

As the parent of an 8-year-old girl, that's jaw-dropping and eye-opening. To keep tabs on your child’s body image, Dellasega recommends dropping everything that you're doing if your kid mentions any insecurity to you. Listen, actively. "Then, look for some ways to build their confidence in the days to come—and keep up the campaign with positive but truthful comments until you sense he or she is feeling better."

Define “healthy” as being having strong bones and muscles, not being thin. And if you are trying to drop a few pounds, she recommends, "Don't define it as a diet to lose weight, but rather [one for] better nutrition. Role-model contentment with your body yourself."

If that's a tall order, read the new book, You'd Be So Pretty If …Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies—Even When We Don't Love Our Own, by Dara Chadwick (Da Capo Press, 2009). Its practical advice helps cut through our "culture of criticism"—whether it's of your own thighs, or those of a famous young singer.

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