Calling Dr. Barbie

Here’s a truly provocative study – looking at whether or not reading a novel about positive images and weight loss can affect the weight of severely overweight tweens. And the answer is…(envelope please) YES. Turns out that girls who were randomly assigned to read a novel with positive messages and information about healthy weight loss (buried in an interesting plot) lost weight and maintained their weight loss. The weight loss was statistically significant (not likely to be due to chance alone) but not huge – what’s more impressive is the fact that, compared to the other groups, the girls didn’t continue to gain, and that all it took was reading one good book to get the results.

For me, this is a reminder, as we head into the holiday season, that it’s important to keep in mind what message we may be subconsciously communicating to our kids. One holiday when my children were 6 and 8 (old enough to be quite opinionated about what they wanted), I got out my gifts for my daughters and realized that I had unintentionally bought presents that were all pink, pretty and glam. While there’s nothing wrong with a bit (or a lot) of that, I realized on Christmas Eve that there wasn’t one single present that communicated power or a belief that girls could get dirty or tough it out mentally – so I ran out and bought “weird” stuff that I was pretty sure they wouldn’t like. None of it was on their gift-list. Cars, high-bouncing balls, complicated 3-D dinosaur puzzles, hammer sets (you get the picture). So how’d it turn out? They stared at the unexpected gifts a bit (those are for boys) and then, when things got boring, ploughed in and enjoyed themselves. I’ve been even more aware of this issue lately, because I went to several department stores this week looking for a teeny doctor’s coat to use as a prop in the (ta-da! soon-to-arrive!) upcoming Doc Gurley Lost Tampon video. I was surprised and dismayed to discover that it’s very hard to find Dr. Barbie anymore (or fire-fighter Barbie, or policewoman Barbie, or any variation of doll/Bratz like that…). Seems like all the dolls are now just…glittery. Which is too bad – we had months of Dr. Dolls stripping all the other dolls, and Police Dolls giving out tickets for all kinds of imaginary law-breaking. If you’re a young girl and all you’ve got to work with is a bizzarely distorted, insectoid (but presumably human) doll-body whose sole purpose in life is the choice between ruffles versus spandex, well, where do you go from there? So as we head into gift buying season, let’s take a moment to mentally pile up those asked-for presents and think about the message you (the gift-giver) could be sending to those you love. Is the pile all electronic and no human interaction? Is there anything creative/messy/going against type? Boy or girl, maybe it’s time to toss in one empowering/unasked-for gift. Hey, if reading only one book can help girls with self-esteem and weight issues, choosing an unexpected present could possibly make a difference in someone’s self-image.

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