26 October, 2010
Review: Good Girls Don't Get Fat by Robyn Silverman
Are you the parent, grandparent, friend, teacher or caregiver of a girl?
Do you know any girls?
Go ahead and buy Good Girls Don't Get Fat. (You might even couple it with another fairly recent release, The Hundred Year Diet by Susan Yager.) Reading Dr. Silverman's guide on helping children avoid eating disorders is like a window into your own damaging programming. In America, we do equate size with value. In a human, the lowest possible volume has the highest value. It's good to be hungry, it's good to be unhealthy if you can show the right silhouette. Good Girls Don't Get Fat points out how this message is turned into self hatred by young women every day. Nothing tastes as good as chasing the approval of others is supposed to feel.
Dr. Silverman points out things the average person might not consider. If a father praises a stepmother with a different figure than the mother, a child sharing that body type hears that she is unattractive. In her mind, her mother's appearance and her own are tied together. Her stepmother's physical type replaces her mother's as an ideal to strive for. If a mother talks about her own weight concerns, the child adopts those as her own as well. An unthinking comment about outgrown clothing can be twisted into a message that the child needs to lose weight. Even the natural weight gains of puberty, the puppy fat years, are made undesirable by the increase in images of undersized tween starlets.
Dr. Silverman's book is easy to use, practical and so very important to understanding how our attempts to foster a positive body image can occasionally be the cause of the child forming a negative one. Really, the only thing Dr. Silverman does not cover is how to model healthy body image if a parent is morbidly obese. Not every parent reading will be able to model body acceptance or healthy weight control.
Reading Good Girls Don't Get Fat reminded me of The Hundred Year Diet in that both deal with artificial media images causing real health concerns. For the former, it's beauty images. For the latter it's scare tactics. Every diet under the sun has it's roots in an earlier diet that didn't really work for that generation either. Long before America actually had a weight crisis, it believed it had one and manufactured chemical food substitutes to answer a weight concerned market. Without fad dieting, there is no diet cola. While Good Girls Don't Get Fat has only a minor flaw, The Hundred Year Diet is a less perfect read. It's information is also compact and usefully categorized, but it fails to feel as vital. Taken together they're the perfect tools helping your tween understand how the diet industry teaches her to hate her body.