By Margie Sugarman
Margie Sugarman is a leading board-certified psychotherapist and sports consultant based in New York. Margie’s desire is to enhance performance through the connection between the mind and body, and her current client list includes Olympic, professional and amateur athletes across the country. Her experience employing various therapeutic modalities has helped equestrians win classics, junior medals and grand prix. Do you have a question you want Margie to answer? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My family has a history of being overweight. While we make sure our kids eat healthy, we don’t know what they do when they’re with their friends on their own time. My daughter is at the age where girls are becoming more self-aware and self-conscious about their bodies. I think she’s beautiful and perfect the way she is; however, she exercises incessantly and is always watching what she eats. I’m getting the feeling that she’s beginning to feel as if she needs to be “skinnier” to fit in with all the girls she rides with. I worry that she’s going to downward spiral to fit in, which is troublesome as she’s only beginning to grow and develop. What can I do to help my daughter in this regard?
Teens face many changes and social pressures, so it’s imperative that they develop a healthy attitude toward food and exercise. A recent survey has revealed that a spiraling number of teenage girls are putting their health at risk by starving themselves in an attempt to lose weight. They’re setting themselves up for future problems by routinely skipping breakfast and even lunch to try to stay thin. A recent review of adolescent dieting indicated that 41–66 percent of teenage girls have attempted weight loss. Moreover, specific sports promote being thin as a primary factor in success.
The real issue in riding is that being thin appears to be a prerequisite for winning in many of the junior classes. How many times have you seen a chunky gal exhibit wonderful horsemanship, find every distance, ride consistently around a course and win? Unfortunately, the emphasis and importance of being thin has become acknowledged and consequently become a requirement for success in the show ring.
What messages are we giving these girls? What are we teaching them? We all have a set point … the weight range at which our body is programmed to function optimally. The set point theory holds that one’s body fights to maintain that weight range. Certainly no one is advocating eating whatever one wants and in whatever quantity one desires. We must remember that there are many factors that impact weight: medications, physiological issues, diseases, body structure — to name a few.
As a parent, you need to address the fact that the media doesn’t present real life. As a parent, you need to provide good examples of healthy eating and exercise. As a parent, you need to help build your teen’s self-respect and esteem by acknowledging their efforts, opinions, talents and interests.
There are many types of beautiful, fragrant flowers. Why is it that the rose is identified as the flower that represents love? Because society has deemed it so. We need to start appreciating the beauty and smell of all flowers … from dandelions to roses. They are different, but each has its own beauty. There are many gifted riders whose bodies are strong and well-tuned but they aren’t 125 pounds and 5 feet 7 inches tall with long legs. Their package is different but their abilities are exemplary. We need to smell the flowers!