'Don't Eat That Piece of Bread'

Teen Vogue Asks: Are Parents Pushing Their Teens Toward Body Anxiety?

Jun 30, 2004, 01:00 ET from Teen Vogue

    NEW YORK, June 30 /PRNewswire/ -- "A girl I know was looking in the mirror
 and she asked her mother if her nose was big," says Jean, a seventeen-year-old
 from New Jersey. "Her mom's response was, 'You could get a nose job the summer
 after your senior year.  No one would know when you got to college.'"
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     In the August issue of Teen Vogue, Kara Jesella, beauty and health editor,
 writes about the harsh criticism teens face from their own parents. ("Parent
 Trap," page 178).  Jesella notes that you know your parents are going to nag
 you about your reckless driving or your less-than-stellar English grade or
 your sullen boyfriend.  But, it hurts to have your mom and dad appraise your
 looks the same way they would a car or a stereo.
     Virginia Blum, author of Flesh Wounds:  The Culture of Cosmetic Surgery
 who at age 18 was pressured by her own parents to get rhinoplasty, which led
 to a botched nose job and a preoccupation with body image states, "The parent
 is supposed to protect the child against the anxiety.  The parent isn't
 supposed to be a teenager, too."
     Jesella speaks to personal trainers, plastic surgeons and teens who tell
 her that this is a growing problem between teens and their parents -- one that
 may be spiraling out of control.  Oz Garcia, head of health and nutritional
 services at Equinox Health Clubs in New York City, has had mothers bring in
 their daughters, aspiring ballerinas, "They're sixteen, seventeen, eighteen,
 and as thin as they're going to get, and Mom wants them to take off five more
 pounds so they'll get into the ballet corps."  Or there's the mother who
 marched into his office with her arms crossed and outed her daughter's secret
 bingeing by asking, "Did she tell you about the candy wrappers behind the bed
 and in the closet?"
     Jesella speaks to a plastic surgeon who met with a girl to discuss getting
 a mole removed. "The mother started worrying about the scar, then asked, 'What
 about getting her chin liposuctioned?'  The daughter was so embarrassed."
     "Parents don't realize the role they are playing in destroying the self
 image of their teen when they criticize their looks or what they are eating,"
 Jesella explains, "Teens are fighting so hard to establish a positive self
 image and parents need to help reinforce positive beauty messages to their
     Carrie, a sixteen-year-old from Rye, New York shares the story of her
 friend Jennifer who gained a couple of pounds in college, nothing to raise an
 eyebrow over.  But, Jennifer's mom did more than raise an eyebrow when she saw
 her daughter at the end of her first semester away.  Her mom pointed to
 different parts of Jennifer's body -- her thighs, her hips, her tummy -- and
 indicated exactly what kind of damage had been done.  "She'd say, three pounds
 there, five pounds there, three pounds there."
     Jesella observes that some mothers may get upset when their daughter is
 overweight-feeling as though she is not representing the parent correctly.
 They may fear being judged as being a bad parent.  Parents may feel like they
 are doing it out of love for their child or their comments may be fueled from
 their own struggles with their looks and weight.   And some just simply do not
 have the patience to wait until their child grows into their looks.
     As seventeen-year-old Lara from Brooklyn says, "Teenage girls think that
 everyone thinks they're fat.  Parents have to be really careful about what
 they say, and a lot of times they aren't ... They don't know how heavily we
 weigh their opinions."

SOURCE Teen Vogue