Disney Characters Get an (Unhealthy?) Makeover

One of my colleagues, Dr. Elaine Ducharme, recently alerted me to an announcement by Barney’s about an upcoming ad campaign featuring

Image via Barneys.com

Disney characters.  She was pretty upset about the drastically slimmed-down Minnie Mouse among others.  Dr. Ducharme’s concern got me thinking, too.  Are the plump characters of old really out of date?  Have we become so used to super-thin models that our beloved cartoon characters need to put in time on The Biggest Loser?  To read Dr. Ducharme’s complete article about the dangers and signs of eating disorders and distorted body images, click here.  Here’s a glimpse of her article:

We have developed a society that shouts to us all from billboards, television screens, movie theaters, magazines and just about everywhere we look, that happiness comes only with being thin. The old saying that “you can’t be too thin or too rich” is just not true. And now, even Disney characters will be shouting this message to our kids.

What can you as a parent do when you see a child struggling with these issues? First, you can consistently and throughout your child’s life encourage independent thinking and have open discussions about healthy life-styles. Be aware of your own problems and concerns about weight and eating. Be wary of sports or dance coaches that encourage your child to lose just a few more pounds. Because most eating disorders begin while patients are in their teens or early 20’s be particularly aware of excessive exercise patterns and unusual restriction of caloric intake. Be aware of distortions of body image, signs of depression and low self-esteem. Many teens struggle with identity issues and in today’s highly competitive world, many achieving kids feel they should still be doing more. Help your child set realistic goals for themselves and strive to keep open lines of communication. If they frequently appear upset, and most teenagers do have down periods, ask them if they are just having a bad day or if they have been feeling depressed for a long time. And, if you suspect an eating disorder is developing, consult with your child’s physician, a psychologist or other mental health professional that has experience working with eating disorders. Once an individual admits they have a problem and are willing to seek help, they can be treated effectively through a combination of psychological, nutritional and medical care.

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