Category Archives: Health

Gendering responsibility for child obesity

The Daily Mail’s recent article ‘Has feminism killed the art of home cooking?’ serves as an example of the mediated discourses which hold feminist values and therefore women, as responsible for the so-called child obesity epidemic (WHO, 2010). The argument centers on three discourses – morality, science and gender.

In contemporary societies the responsibility for health is increasingly that of the individual (Petersen 1997). That is, we are held morally responsible for the quality and quantity of food that passes our lips, the amount of exercise we take and so on. So weight gain is presumed to be a result of health-defeating practices. However unlike adults, children are clearly not able to self-regulate and manage their own health because children cannot be responsible for food production and consumption themselves. That responsibility, it is argued, resides with parents and specifically with mothers. Drawing on natural science discourses, advocates of this position argue that due to biology ‘women possess a greater nurturing instinct than men’. Therefore mothers are presumed to have primary responsibility for their children’s health. If children are overweight it is mothers and not fathers who are held accountable.

Maher, Fraser and Wright’s (2010) research on media representations of mothers has identified two ways in which they are held accountable. The first, like the Daily Mail, points to the increasing absence of the family meal. It suggests that if women didn’t follow feminist values and work so long or so hard, then they would have more time to spend at home creating nutritious meals. It is their absence from the home that is blamed as the reason children eat at junk food outlets far too often, survive on processed meals and eat too many snack foods. The second way mothers are held accountable is through pregnancy. Scientists argue that ‘diet, exercise and women’s attentiveness before and during pregnancy are linked to specific disabilities, to childhood health generally and, more recently, to childhood obesity’ (Maher, Fraser and Wright, 2010).

It is these mediated discourses that hold mothers specifically responsible for the battle of the bulge, but more generally they argue ‘it’s feminism we have to thank for the spread of fast-food chains and an epidemic of childhood obesity.’

Has feminism killed the art of home cooking?

Is it really women’s fault our kids are fat?

WHO – Obesity and overweight

Obesity

Are we what we eat?

Having read the previous post ‘Dining with death’ I thought I’d offer a short gendered perspective on vegetarianism.

It is no accident that in Western cultures the vast majority of vegetarians are women – only about 30% are men. One of the key reasons for this is that there is a strong link between the eating of animal flesh and maleness (Potts and Parry, 2010). So entrenched is this connection that men’s consumption of meat is seen as an exemplar of normative masculinity (Sobal, 2005). Indeed it is widely considered to be an essential sustenance for the healthy male body. Red meat in particular is seen as important for men because it consists of muscle (much like the prototypical image of the male body), which provides for strength, energy and virility. Red meat is frequently eaten in a semi-cooked or near raw state with signs of blood thereby symbolising vitality and strength (Potts and Parry, 2010).

Eating red meat in a more or less raw state also enables a power relationship to be formed between the slaughtered animal and the consumer that links to masculine power and domination over nature (Fiddes, 1991). A refusal to consume meat thereby signals the opposite of red-blooded masculinity – femininity. Such gendered notions are often expressed in the media by ‘hunter-gatherer’ metaphors (Gough, 2007). Not surprisingly then, fewer men than women are vegetarian. Vegetarian men typically come under more scrutiny than women and often bear the brunt of ridicule for their choice of food.

Vegetarianism

Masculinity

Is it irresistible: How can we stop drinking?

When the economy is in the tank, more Americans drown their sorrows in alcohol. The number of U.S. adults drinking booze is at a 25-year high, according to a new Gallup poll. Gallup, which has been keeping track of U.S. drinking habits for the last 71 years, reports that while the numbers move up and down slightly each year, the statistics on American drinking are surprisingly steady. Is drinking a habit that is impossible to stop?

Well, one of the most consistent and robust findings in behavioral sciences supports the notion that our behavior is, to a great extent, habitual and that we encounter difficulties in changing our behavior for the better because we are creatures of habit. However, Chatzisarantis & Hagger’s (2010) recent study indicated that implementation intentions have been shown to be an effective self-regulatory strategy influencing habit performance. In general, implementation intentions are conditional statements of intentions, commonly known as if–then plans, taking the form “If a performance context z arises, then I will do x.” In the case of stopping drinking, implementation intentions were operationally defined as strategic plans linking socializing goals to strategies facilitating refusal of alcohol. For example, if it is Friday night at the local pub, as soon as a friend or a fellow student offers me an alcoholic drink, I will refuse it by . . . (report what you are going to do or say.). Their study demonstrated that goal-related implementation exercises linking socializing goals to behavioral tendencies to refuse alcohol reduced the acceptance of an offer of a free alcoholic drink among habitual drinkers, as well as nonhabitual drinkers. These findings indicate that goal-related implementation exercises are effective in obstructing habitual health risk behaviors, such as drinking alcohol.

Americans drinking alcohol hits 25-year high

Nikos L. D. Chatzisarantis & Martin S. Hagger (2010). Effects of Implementation Intentions Linking Suppression of Alcohol Consumption to Socializing Goals on Alcohol-Related Decisions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology,   40, 1618 – 1634.

RIP Cpt. Phil. You’ve earned it!

(image from deadliestcatchwiki.wetpaint.com)

Last night, Discovery Channel aired its tribute to Phil Harris, captain of the crabbing vessel Cornelia Marie. Cpt. Phil died of a massive stroke at the untimely age of 53 on February 9th, 2010, while tapping the latest season of the hit series Deadliest Catch.  While I enjoyed the series, I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard fan; I just learned of Cpt. Phil’s death earlier this week. However, I am an admirer of the man. When I did watch the show, I noticed something familiar about the grizzly captain. There was something about his spirit, his attitude, that seemed to shout “I’m going to do whatever the hell I want.” I liked that. But during last night’s show, learning about the man through the stories told by his closest friends, it was like reliving my own father’s death and listening to his friends tell similar stories.

Both men—my father, Joe, and Phil—where thickheaded men who lived the way they wanted. They both had two sons, but saw them far less than they would have wanted to. They both worked their ass off all of their lives. They lived hard and they played hard. They smoked, drank, and ate some of the best tasting, cholesterol-filled, artery-clogging foods that a person could consume. While their personal habits may be seen to some as crude or even selfish—in the sense that their habits lead to their untimely deaths—those who were closest to them seemed to admire their rebel spirits. That spirit that lead my Dad and Phil to continue working like dogs, drinking like fish and smoking like chimneys until their early 50s, when it finally caught up to them.

While I admire these men, I also remember that they were fathers who left their loved ones behind far to early. So I must ask myself, should we (me, my brother, Joe Jr., and Phil’s sons, josh and Jake) live like our fathers who we loved and admire dearly, or change? Should we realize the unbalanced natures of the rebel lifestyle, filled with packs of smokes, gallons of coffee and cases of beer every day, or embrace the rebel and say ”to hell with the consequences, I’ll live my life the way I God-damn please!” The same way I have for the past fifteen years? Can we? Though I can’t speak for the other sons in this story, I can speak for myself. I am changing.

I have recently learned of my own paternity. In the next six months my first son or daughter will be born. And for him/her I have quit smoking, cut-down on the coffee and alcohol, but my diet still needs some work; I love butter…. Every day I must ask myself if I want to be like my Dad and leave this earth never seeing my child venture off to college or pursue their talents, whatever they may be. I don’t. I don’t want them ask themselves the same questions about their father that I have. I don’t want them to make the same mistakes and to endure the pains of changing their entire lifestyle. It is very difficult, but I must. I want to see them grow up. I want to be a different type of role model.

Usually, I would include some applicable research to this story. Some article addressing how a son’s understanding of his father relates to his own identity and behavior would do well. Frankly, I couldn’t find any. It seems that fatherhood has been neglected in the literature (Samuels, 2007). I did find that even at an early age, our Father’s seem to be a source of a good time and congruent positive arousal (Feldman, 2003). And perhaps that is the difficulty in separating ourselves from our fathers: they know how to have fun. We must remember them for who they were, the great times they brought us, but try desperately not to make the same mistakes. I think they would want that. Perhaps there is a way to embrace the rebel while not ingesting the copious amounts of poison that seems to come with it. In the words of another fallen rebel father, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, I will ponder this rotten assignment and learn how to cope with it. Until then, I will close with an appeal to The Great Magnet: May these men rest and be remembered fondly. They’ve earned it.

A Relation Called Father Part 1: The Father in Depth PsychologyA Relation Called Father Part 1: The Father in Depth Psychology

Infant-mother and infant-father synchrony: The coregulation of positive arousalInfant-mother and infant-father synchrony


Zero size model is not popular nor ideal anymore

Designers will no longer be able to hire models with a body mass index that is deemed dangerously low because the Australian fashion industry is preparing to ban skinny models from catwalks and magazines. The new body-image standards will not only influence fashion industry but might also play a significant role in changing the way ordinary people see themselves, especially for teenage girls.

There is now growing empirical support for the proposition that idealized portrayals of women in the Western media have a negative impact upon how adolescent girls and adult women see themselves. In one major American survey of over 500 adolescent girls aged 9–16, nearly 70% believed magazine pictures influenced their idea of the ideal body shape, and 47% of the same sample wished to lose weight as a result. Body image is central to adolescent girls’ self-definition, because they have been socialized to believe that appearance is an important basis for self-evaluation and for evaluation by others. However, the media—magazines, TV, films, advertising, music videos—not only emphasize that female self-worth should be based on appearance, but present a powerful cultural ideal of female beauty that is becoming increasingly unattainable. For example, the body size of women in the media is often more than 20% underweight—exceeding a diagnostic criterion for anorexia nervosa of 15% underweight (DSM-IV-TR: American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Using an experimental method, Clay et al (2005) tested the impact of viewing ultra-thin and average-size female magazine models on body image and self-esteem among adolescent girls aged 11–16. They found that viewing ultra-thin or average-size models led to decreases in both body satisfaction and self-esteem in adolescent girls, with changes in self-esteem fully mediated by changes in body satisfaction. These findings demonstrate a causal effect of media images on body satisfaction, apparently spreading to global self-esteem, among girls in the age range over which these variables typically fall most markedly in Western cultures.

Australia to ban super skinny models on runway, in print: report

Daniel Clay, Vivian L. Vignoles, & Helga Dittmar. (2005). Body Image and Self-Esteem Among Adolescent Girls: Testing the Influence of Sociocultural Factors. Journal of research on adolescence, 15, 451-477.

Free love is innocent?Think clearly before you do it!

Free love has not ruled since the 1970’s but apparently unprotected intercourse among not only young adults but also older unmarried Americans is on the rise. According to a recent A.A.R.P. study of singles in the 45 plus category, only 12 percent of the sexually active single men and only 33 percent of sexually active women report using condoms. The behavior of having unprotected sexual intercourse provides a very interesting puzzle, as a high proportion of adults are aware of the possible negative consequences of having unprotected sex, and that individuals can greatly reduce their risk of causing a pregnancy or of  contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by using a latex condom. It is worthwhile to examine the reasons underlying this failure to use condoms as unprotected sex raises the risk of STD among people across all ages.

 According to previous research, intentions to use condoms clearly do not always translate into condom-use behavior. Ambivalent attitude towards sexual activity is one factor which could explain the inconsistence between intention to use condom and condom using behaviors. MacDonald and Hynie’s study (2008) indicated that participants who were ambivalent about sexual activity were more likely to engage in unplanned sexual activity than were participants who were not ambivalent. Furthermore, individuals who engaged in unplanned sexual intercourse were less likely to report that they used a condom than those who intended to have sexual intercourse. As a result, whether sexual activity was planned mediated the relationship between ambivalence and condom use. It seems reasonable that people who are less ambivalent about sexual activity are more likely to plan and correctly predict when they will have sexual intercourse, which allows for important preparatory behaviors (e.g., having condoms available).

More are doing it, less are using protection

MacDonald, T.K. & Hynie, M. (2008). Ambivalence and Unprotected Sex: Failure to Predict Sexual Activity and Decreased Condom Use. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38, 1092-1107.

Women must be slim?


Alice Dogruyol’s article ‘Big girl in a skinny world: Killer heels are fine for tiny girls, but I’m carrying 90 kilos on spikes’ (Daily Mail, 8 June 2010) lends itself well to feminist psychology, and specifically the ways in which the female body is socially constructed and the implications this can have for women’s psychological (and physical) health. For example, Dogruyol describes herself, after having caught sight of her own reflection in a shop window, as ‘shapeless’ and ‘huge’, or as the title suggests ‘Big girl in a skinny world’. Her self-perception mirrors the strongly entrenched view that in order to be considered attractive and of value in Western culture women must be slim (Bordo 1993). Dogruyol’s self-perception of her body is part of a medium of culture in which the physical body becomes a reflection of the social body, such that, the central rules and hierarchies of Western culture determine how the body is seen (Bordo, 1993). Therefore, the body becomes a direct form of social control, in which greater restrictions and less tolerance is imposed on girls and women than on boys and men (Lee, 1998). The significance of physical attractiveness means that ideals such as ‘women must be slim’ have psychological implications for women in that they experience some degree of dissatisfaction with their bodies and that this may lead to a sense of alienation from the body, a fragmented self and a lack of autonomy. In order to regain a sense of autonomy and self, Dogruyol opts to make her body appear ‘slimmer’ by purchasing new clothes that will produce ‘a stylish, confidence-boosting new look.’

Big girl in a skinny world: Killer heels are fine for tiny girls, but I’m carrying 90 kilos on spikes

Facing illness, belief helps.

Lady Gaga’s recent revelation that she had been tested for lupus had some fans worried that the pop star is ill. When asked in an interview how she’s feeling, the pop star, 24, responds with a simple, “I’m okay,” before adding that lupus, which took the life of her aunt Joanne, does run in her family. The singer also told the interviewer that “So as of right now, I don’t have it. But I do have to take good care of myself”.

This young lady seems calm and positive about her potential illness. It is very important and helpful for her health. Research has shown that individuals’ illness perceptions predict health behaviors and functional outcomes. There is wide variation between individuals in their health and illness behaviors. For example, how quickly they seek medical attention for symptoms, and whether they take medication as prescribed. Behaviors such as these can have large influences on subsequent morbidity and mortality. Research into the psychological predictors of health and illness behaviors helps us to build theoretical models to understand why people behave as they do, and inform intervention strategies (Elizabeth Broadbent, 2010).

According to parallel response model, that in response to situational stimuli (such as symptoms and the environment), people simultaneously form both emotional states (such as fear) and cognitive representations of the threat of illness, the illness perception. The illness perceptions include ideas about: identity (the name of the illness and which symptoms are associated with it), timeline (how long the illness will continue), cause (what caused the illness), control (how well the illness can be controlled), and consequences (the effects of the illness on life domains). Previous research showed that stronger beliefs about the identity and consequences of an illness were associated with avoidance and denial coping strategies, higher expression of emotions, poorer physical, social and psychological functioning, and lower vitality. In contrast, stronger beliefs in the controllability of the illness were associated with greater use of cognitive reappraisal and problem-focused coping, as well as better psychological and social well-being, vitality, and with lesser disease state. It is because that in a self-regulatory process, individuals choose which procedures (actions) to take to manage their emotions and reduce the illness threat based on the content of these representations. The results of taking the chosen action further modify the representation of the illness in a feedback loop.

Elizabeth Broadbent. (2010). Illness Perceptions and Health: Innovations and Clinical Applications. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 256 – 266.

Lady Gaga Tests ‘Borderline Positive’ for Lupus (People Magazine)