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Tag: Jane Higgins

“But what about the boys?”

Frequently when I speak at conferences I am asked what our company, Enlighten Education, is doing to support young men. My response? Whilst we recognise boys also need positive, proactive programs to help them make sense of the changing world around them, we have decided to specialise in working with young women. That is not to say, of course, that many of the resources we offer (especially via this blog) would not help inform raising amazing boys. In fact, as I mentioned in my previous post, I have been asked to deliver my workshop on supporting teens to nurture respectful relationships with their peers, and navigate cyber world safely and responsibly, to the young men at Cranbrook School next week.

But it may surprise many of my readers to learn that aside from the issues we traditionally associate with young males (e.g: violence, substance abuse, reckless driving, and poor school performance) boys are also struggling with issues we tend to more readily associate with young women too. Especially body image.

In fact, a recent Australian Institute of Family Studies Growing Up in Australia survey, based on an assessment of 4164 children, indicated that boys are more likely than girls to diet and exercise to lose weight.

And boys also suffer from more extreme forms of body image dissatisfaction. The Centre of Excellence in Eating Disorders reports that one in ten young adults and approximately 25% of children diagnosed with anorexia nervosa are male. In this clip, Psychologist and muscle dysmorphia expert Dr Stuart Murray discusses the features of muscle dysmorphia; a newly identified psychological condition which is more common in males than females:

Jane Higgins, Enlighten’s Program Manager for South Australia, independently established her own in-school program for young men; The Odyssey Program. Odyssey’s workshops cover a variety of topics from masculinity to mate-ship, drugs and alcohol, girls and relationships, anger management and, yes, body image.

Jane offered me this insight into why her proactive work on body image with boys has become increasingly important:

“Just as the media rarely offers diverse images of what beauty in a young woman may look like,  it also presents a very narrow and one dimensional view of what a man should look, feel and be like and boys are responding to this pressure in unhealthy ways. The push for boys to appear muscular and buff is particularly problematic.  “Ripped, Shredded, Cut, Buff, Chiseled, Muscle up, Bulk Up, 6 pack Abs, Brutal, Clean!!” The way they are marketed to would almost have one think you were discussing a machine!

If a boy wishes to conform to this ideal, then he only has to turn to the “Health” food shops where he can buy “Bulking Up” drinks and powders. They contain ingredients that include electrolytes, amino acids, arginine, glutamine, caffeine and some contain nitric oxide and 1,3-Dimethylamylamine, or DMAA. It is like a glass of stimulants. Even more concerning is the research that shows that 3-12% of teen boys will use even more extreme muscle enhancing drugs including steroids.”

For more discussion on body image dissatisfaction in young men you may wish to read the following excellent articles:

Boys aren’t immune to body image pressures and never have been

The man behind the mask – male  body image dissatisfaction

Body image boosters for guys 

Regardless of gender, all young people deserve to be recognised as somebodies, not just bodies.

Does size matter?

Guest post by Enlighten’s Program Manager for South Australia, Jane Higgins

An article in the Adelaide’s Advertiser on Saturday 20th September, 2008 sparked my interest.

Apparently a review of the Australian Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industries was released this week by the Federal Industry Minister, Kim Carr. The review recommend that $5 million be put towards developing a “consistent Australian sizing standard.” They argue that women are frustrated by the discrepancy in sizing in different stores. Being a size16 myself, I find I can range in size anywhere from a 14 – 20 and it is annoying to be at the mercy of a label’s decision of how to size their garments!

What is astounding, is that our clothing sizing has been based on the American research conducted by Berlei in 1926.

So much has changed since then including the size, lifestyle and habits of women. A National Size and Shape survey conducted by Henneberg and Veitch in 2004 involved taking 65 individual measurements from 1300 women and 100 men across the country, and was backed up by a study of 5000 people. It found that women today are up to 20% heavier than they were when the Berlei survey was done. Shock horror!! The average measurements of an Australian woman in the regular size range is now a 92cm bust, 74cm waist and 99cm hips, which fit a size 16 on the current Standards Australia garment rating. Further they found that the average woman in Adelaide was 77kg, and the women in Brisbane, 73kg. In fact Veitch goes onto say that 50% of Australian Women are not catered for with the present sizings .

According to this research, I am finally normal!!!! Will wonders never cease??!!

Some critics of the present sizings suggest we use numbers 1-5 as a new way of identifying our appropriate sizing. This week I went to a fashion parade of a big women’s label that uses S, M, L but being a 16 is equal to a Small in their range. As a mature woman I have a different body shape to a 20 year old woman who is also a size 16. My boobs are saggier, my tummy is flabbier and I have fat stored in places I never knew existed.

Attempting to buy up to date fashion in my size is incredibility difficult. But my solution has always been to buy most of my wardrobe from op shops. What fun I have finding that barging that reflects who I am in an individual way. I am also aware that this constant buying is not only placing stress on our bank balances, our sense of ourselves but also the environment. Apparently it takes about 2700 litres of water to make one cotton T-shirt!!!!!!!!!!!

Another issue worth considering is the impact our “passion for fashion” may be having on the environment. A report from the Council of Textiles and Fashion Industries found we are becoming a nation that considers clothing to be disposable . It showed that in 2007, women under 30 bought 102 items of clothing a year, double that of women over 30. There are now concerns on where these cheap clothes go after women decide the garment’s use-by date is up. Fuelling the high turnover of clothing is the new wave of fast-fashion stores that produce cheaper clothes flooding into stores every week.

Our worth cannot be measured by an arbiturary size. I am more than my size 16 – much bolder, bigger and fuller than a number could ever reflect! If a new sizing standard is to be introduced it must consider women of all ages, shapes and sizes – not just the antiquated cardboard cutouts from the past.

Now … I must write to Federal Industry Minister, Kim Carr and let him know I would develop a National sizing Standard for $4.9 million!!!

With love
Jane

 

 

Let’s get smashed – a South Australian perspective on teen drinking

Guest post written by Enlighten Eduaction’s Program Manager for South Australia, Jane Higgins.

What is really happening to our young people when they drink themselves into unconsciousness? Why do they feel the need to do this? What is missing from their lives?

According to recent media headlines, youth binge drinking has risen to epidemic proportions. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Director Penny Allbon, has reported that 9% of South Australian  adolescents (some 11,000 young people aged 14-19) are drinking alcohol at risky levels.

Further,
 one in five 16 -17 yr olds binge drinks weekly (1)
 44%, 12 yr olds have drunk alcohol in the past 12 months (2)
 24% of young people have used cannabis, 9% ecstasy and 8% amphetamines (3) and
 25% of deaths in this age group are related to alcohol (4).

It begs the question, what is being lost every week? Not just the many brain cells or lives, but the self esteem, the sense of self-worth, and the contributions these young people could be making to their own lives and the lives of others.

In Australia drinking is a significant part of every rite of passage. The ABC program 4 Corners (9-6-08) presented a segment called “On the Piss”. A young woman profiled articulated it beautifully when she said “What’s a wedding without booze? What’s a funeral without booze?” getting drunk is indeed a national pastime. It highlighted how young people are finding it incredibly difficult not to drink as alcohol surrounds them at every event they go to, and is a major element in the life of everyone they are connected to. The excellent new anti-drinking campaign “Drink Wise”, launched by the Australian Government, also challenges us to rethink this “booze goes with everything” approach.  

While alcohol has become part of every event we celebrate, drinking also occurs even when there is no  celebration, no milestone being marked. Some of today’s youth are drinking way beyond the glass of champagne or stubbie of beer at a friend’s birthday. They are regularly consuming a bottle of vodka in a session and then teaming it up with a caffeine loaded drinks such as Red Bull or V to make sure that when they are really drunk they are also really buzzed too. In a recent study of 4,271 University Students in the USA, they found mixing caffeine and alcohol resulted in the students being twice as likely to:

 be hurt and require medical attention
 travel with a drunk driver
 be at risk of being taken advantage of sexually.

I find these statistics very, very concerning. But sadly, not surprising.

What did surprise me was another article published in The Sunday Mail (9-6-08) on how being drunk and posting the antics on My Space, Facebook or YouTube has now become an instant means of gaining celebrity status for some young people. I personally don’t find anything glamorous about having vomit all over oneself, or having to spend the night in hospital from an injury caused by drunkenness, let alone knowing that those pictures are out in cyber space for all to see! This trend has particular implications for young women for as we have seen in the media, society is generally less forgiving of vision of the fallen woman – I cannot imagine headlines screaming about a male actor getting drunk and passing out in quite the same way they do when it is a Britney or a Paris. 

The Sunday Mail also visited Hindley Street to obtain a snap shot of what is really going on there on a Saturday night. Their video, Adelaide’s Binge Drinking Shame, can be viewed at
http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/video/. 

We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend this issue is not real. What is motivating this epidemic, and how do we protect our kids from doing so much harm to themselves and other people?

I don’t profess to have all the answers. However, my experiences as a mother, counsellor and as a senior presenter with Enlighten Education all lead me to conclude that we must strengthen our children’s sense of themselves, and educate them. We must teach them how to respond thoughtfully and authentically when they are faced with a decision about whether to bow to peer, and media, pressure. We must develop in them a deep sense of knowing what is really healthy and right for them. We must love them deeply too, and give them a strong sense of their uniqueness, beauty and purpose in the world.

Sanctions will only work up onto a point: we can limit the hours bars are open, tax alcohol, and ban alcopops, but in the end what do we really want? We want them to make safe and healthy choices for themselves and the only way of doing this is by teaching them to love themselves and showing them that they are indeed incredibly precious.

I favour a proactive appraoch. If our young people are personally fulfilled they will make better choices and limit the harm they do to themselves and others.

And binge drinking will no longer be needed to fill an empty void.

1. “Supporting Families of Young People with Problematic Drug Use”, 2008 released by the Government’s Advisory Body, The National Council On Drugs.
2. V. White, J. Hayman ‘Australian secondary school students’ use of alcohol in 2005 Report’ June 2006, Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer at The Cancer Council Victoria
3. Teen Health, 2007 Vol 257 Issues in Society – Spinney Press
4. Professor John Toumbourou – Deakin University

P.S Danni’s previous post, “Getting trashed is so hot right now“, also offers some powerful insights into teen drinking and links to some really helpful resources.

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