In It For Health

Where health and psychology intersect

Archive for January, 2007

Girl fights

Posted by Dr. Susan on January 30, 2007

I’ve been inundated lately with requests to comment on the latest “girl fight” that has been discovered on the internet. If you click here and go to “Unanswered Questions” you’ll see the interview I did last night with Bill O’Reilly.  What’s interesting to me is that what most of the interviewers want to focus on is the fights between the girls–why they’re fighting (girls have become much more violent in recent years), why fighting amongst girls has increased (it is spurred on by boys, it is modeled in the media, parents don’t discourage it–or they’re in denial). But for some reason, there doesn’t seem to be much interest by the media in WHY kids are so fascinated with posting their fights online–even risking being caught to do so–this is a new form of entertainment, it seems to me. Why isn’t this alarming to people, why isn’t the media more concerned about this? This is the biggest worry as far as I’m concerned! Fighting and beating each other up is a problem–absolutely! But to be so proud that you have beaten someone to a pulp that you want to post it for the world to see–that sounds a bit sociopathic to me–isn’t THAT newsworthy??? Is the media not paying attention to this scary factor??? What’s up with that. Why aren’t we, the parents, the general population worried about that part of it?? What’s going on that kids need to not only be so violent, but make sure that as many people as possible are able to witness it? 

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Is it really Oprah’s fault?

Posted by Dr. Susan on January 19, 2007

Yesterday I was interviewed on CNN about whether Oprah should have had Shawn Hornbeck (the teen that was found after being kidnapped for four years) on her show on Thursday. Oprah has received a lot of bad press about having allowed the teenager to be made so vulnerable so soon (or I suppose ever) after having been through such an ordeal. But, really how is this Oprah’s fault. She is not the boy’s parent or even his therapist–and I certainly hope he has a good one by now. She is a media mogul. It is her JOB to try and get as many interesting, newsworthy and fascinating people on her show as possible. It is not her job to decide whether they should be on her show. And, in fact, she handled Shawn extremely sensitively and did nothing to compromise his mental health as far as she was able, given that he was on national television just days after he was rescued. But this was the choice of his adult caregivers, not Oprah.

It’s time for people to stop blaming the celebrities of the world and start holding parents responsible for their own children–for their children’s behavior and also for making sure they are doing right by them. Should Shawn have been on Oprah’s show–absolutely not. If the Akers wanted to go on TV themselves to discuss the issue of Missing Children or to talk to Oprah, they could have done it without making Shawn so vulnerable. But was it Oprah’s fault? Well, since she’s not his parent or a mental health professional, it was not her decision to make. Leave Oprah alone. Lay blame where it belongs–with Shawn’s parents.

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A teenager in the house

Posted by Dr. Susan on January 18, 2007

Today is my son’s thirteenth birthday. When I woke up my nine-year old daughter this morning, I suggested that she reconsider…perhaps she wanted to stay in bed, snuggle back under the covers and go back to sleep. After all, having a teenager in the house is the one challenge for which I have been bracing myself for…well, for thirteen years! I’ve been working with teenagers–specializing in them for about fifteen years. I’ve given lots of advice to their parents too and so far so good. But, I haven’t had one of my own. Well, now I do. And to tell you the truth, so far–as of 9:30 p.m. it’s a piece of cake!

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kidnapped kids

Posted by Dr. Susan on January 13, 2007

It’s an incredible story–Ben Ownby had been missing for four days, and Shawn Hornbeck had been missing four years, when the police found the two boys in their kidnappers apartment in Missouri. Needless to say, their parents are ecstatic–how coule they be anything but relieved and, especially Shawn’s parents, feeling like they had just been delivered of their greatest prayer. I read countless reports today on the case, and other similar cases (Elizabeth Smart, Steven Stayner), in preparation for an interview I was doing on CNN to discuss the psychological impact the kidnapping would have on the boys. It is incredible that they were found, but both boys are going to have an emotional recovery that will last the rest of their lives. And the fact that Ben was taken for only four days won’t necessarily make his trauma any less–it may seem like a “better” situation to us because, hey, being kidnapped for for days is definitely better than four years. But for Ben, the long-term impact could be just as horrifying. I feel for these kids and these families. I hope they reach out for as much good professional support as they can–they will all need it.

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model thin

Posted by Dr. Susan on January 11, 2007

Yesterday’s NY Post had a really well balanced piece about how the Council of Fashion Designers of America is trying to create a healthier working environment for models (including providing healthy snacks, educating designers about eating disorders and not allowing models under 18–especially those without gaurdians– to work at night.) This of course, comes just before Fashion Week in February and on the heels of the deaths of two models from eating disordered related deaths. The article indicates that–of course–the designers and models are none to happy about these new guidelines.

But, what really struck me as fascinating about this article, was the under-18 year old model that Danica Lo profiled. She was particularly upset because, since she had moved to NY from Boston six months ago without a gaurdian, to work as a model, these new rules might result in her working much less than other models. As I read, I kept asking myself what an under-18 year old was doing working in this industry without a gaurdian. Don’t the adults in her life know what it’s like out there? Haven’t they been following the news? It almost seems that she’s doomed to become one of the fashion world’s eating disorder statistics if no-one is there to watch over her and keep her safe in that environment. How can she possibly have the judgment–even if she thinks she does–to keep herself safe. It’s time that the members of the fashion industry (not just the CFDA)–stepped out of denial and stepped up to take care of their own, because there’s no guarantee that anyone else is doing it.

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In the beginning

Posted by Dr. Susan on January 7, 2007

In the olden days, as my kids call them, no-one gave much thought to the idea that what they ate might be killing them and how quickly, whether they were parenting their kids “correctly”, or to being in a relationship with someone that would satisfy them on many different levels, other than the basic few: would he be a good provider? Would she keep a good home and be a good mom? And is s/he good in bed–well, maybe not even that–most people didn’t think of that until it was too late. But now we know better–in fact, we know so much that we don’t know what to worry about first! And in case we’re not worrying about something, there’s someone out there worrying for us…or at least making us feel guilty that we’re not worrying enough.

An article in today’s NY Times discusses the trend, in many states,  towards sending home BMI (body mass index) report cards for overweight children. Parents and children are outraged–and, I think, in denial–the children receiving them are, likely significantly overweight. But, of course, the question is whether it is the schools business to be getting involved? In my opinion NO–until schools start serving decent food in the cafeteria, in snack shops, at “bake sales” and at in class birthday parties, then it seems incredibly hypocritical to be sending home these slap on the wrist report cards. What’s more, the No Child Left Behind Act, has greatly reduced time for physical activity in many schools, making it even more difficult for kids to find time to be healthy in school which is where they spend most of their day. Maybe parents should be sending report cards to schools instead of the other way around.

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reading isn’t always good for your health

Posted by Dr. Susan on January 4, 2007

A brand new study has discoverd that when middle and high school girls read too many magazine articles about dieting and weight loss they are more likely to develop unhealthy ways of trying to control their weight–like skipping meals, smoking, fasting– as they get older. What’s more, eating disordered behavior like throwing up and taking laxatives is also much higher in girls who read the most magazine articles compared to those who don’t read them at all!! What does this study tell you?? It tells me that kids and teens are allowing the media (magazines in this case, but also TV, movies, internet) to have too much influence over the way they feel about their bodies!

So, what can kids and parents do? First remember that magazine articles are written to sell magazines, so the promises that diets and weight loss articles (and the accompanying pictures) offer, tempt you to choose one magazine over another–but they may not be possible to achieve. This is a great discussion for parents to have with kids as well.

In addition, the diets and weight loss plans for adults are often not well balanced enough for teens. Therefore, parents should be cautioned to bring as few women’s magazines into your home as possible during the preteen and teen years and strongly dissuade your child from reading and buying these magazines. When it comes to dieting and weight loss articles, the magazines that cater specifically to teens, are far better than the women’s magazine’s that many teens often read.

Keeping the lines of communication open, and keeping your eyes and ears open is also important. If you even suspect an eating disorder, seek immediate professional help because early intervention is critical. February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month.

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