Honey Boo Boo’s diet, nutrition, and lifestyle is now seriously being studied by university health researchers. As child reality TV star Honey Boo Boo continues to capture the attention of audiences with her boisterous personality and her own show about life on the high glitz type of child beauty pageant circuit, a new paper published October 26, 2012 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry takes a critical look at the very types of pageants in which she and thousands of other children compete in America every year. The emphasis in the serious paper published in a medical journal focuses on caffeinated beverages and sugar used to keep kids energetic at pageants.
Caffeinated beverages and pure sugar to keep kids awake at pageants is rampant. The smell in the hallways usually is so sweet it’s like being in a carnival. The diets of reality TV stars, particularly children are now not only in the media but also studied by nutritionists at universities. The paper is “Princess by Proxy: What Child Beauty Pageants Teach Girls About Self-Worth and What We Can Do About It.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 51, Issue 11 , Pages 1105-1107, November 2012.
The new paper, from the University of Arizona authored by Martina M. Cartwright, a registered dietician and adjunct professor in the University of Arizona’s department of nutritional sciences, suggests that high-glitz child pageants, largely popularized by the TLC hit reality show “Toddlers and Tiaras” and its spin-off “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” often have little to do with the children and much more to do with satisfying the needs of their parents. It further suggests that participation in such pageants can actually be harmful to children’s health and self-esteem.
Nutritionist attended live TV tapings of toddlers at pageants
Cartwright, who attended two live tapings of “Toddlers and Tiaras” as part of her research, asserts that some pageant parents exhibit what she calls “princess by proxy,” a unique form of “achievement by proxy distortion” in which adults are driven primarily by the social or financial gains earned by their child’s accomplishments, regardless of risk involved for the child.
Cartwright focused specifically on the $5 billion glitz pageant industry, which was first made known to many in 1995, following the death of 5-year-old beauty queen Jon-Benet Ramsey.
In glitz pageants, young contestants wear heavy makeup and ornate costumes, with price tags sometimes topping $1,500. Along with entry fees, photos and other common pageant expenses – like wigs, fake tans and artificial teeth known as flippers – the average total cost of participating in a single glitz competition, according to Cartwright’s research, runs about $3,000 to $5,000.
Prizes at stake might include cash awards, crowns, trips, puppies or even movie “bit parts.” The potential for fame and fortune, Cartwright says, may contribute to “achievement by proxy distortion” in parents.
It is not uncommon for parents, especially those of young athletes, to exhibit what is known as benign “achievement by proxy,” in which they experience pride and joy through their child’s achievements but still recognize a child’s limitations, says Cartwright in the news release, who has worked extensively with young athletes and dancers as a dietician.
“Achievement by proxy distortion,” however, occurs when parents struggle to differentiate between their own need and their child’s needs, and in order to achieve what they perceive as success, they may engage in risky behaviors, objectification or even abuse and exploitation of a child, elements of which Cartwright said she witnessed at the glitz pageants she attended.
“I think it’s fun if they want to play dress up for a little while, but to insist on making that a career or that they’re going to be a model or a Hollywood star, the chances are very slim,” she said in an interview. “Parents have to know their child’s limitations and not press them beyond that because later on that knocks their self esteem.”
Knocking self-esteem and knowledge of limitations
Cartwright said she talked with pageant parents who made risky financial investments to support their child’s participation, spending above and beyond the amount of the contest’s top prize. She also witnessed parents putting high pressure on their young daughters to look “flawless” and win at all costs, pushing them to adopt an unnatural and adult-like physical appearance and chastising them for poor performance, lack of enthusiasm or a flawed appearance.
“Everything was based on what these kids look like and the way that these children were displayed or dressed,” Cartwright said. “They were fully made up; they looked like adult women, pint-size. They were judged on personality, but none spoke a word.”
Kids looks take top priority: Is there a potential for eating disorders?
The emphasis on physical perfection may put young girls at risk for adult body dissatisfaction, and potentially eating disorders, Cartwright said. She said she also worries that the competitions sexualize young girls by encouraging them to look like grown-ups. She recalled in particular one young contestant, wearing a Playboy bunny costume, being carried onto the stage by her father, dressed as Hugh Hefner.
Cartwright is additionally concerned about the physical health of young pageant participants
At the pageants she observed, where contestants ranged in age from 4 months to 15 years, she said tears and temper tantrums were common, with many parents denying their children naps or breaks during grueling pageant schedules for fear that sleeping might dishevel the child’s appearance. She also saw several parents giving their children caffeinated beverages and Pixy Stix candy, often referred to as “pageant crack,” to keep their energy levels high, with one mother declaring, “We’ve gone through two bags of crack and two cans of energy drink so she can stay up for crowning,” according to the October 26, 2012 news release, Princess by proxy: When child beauty pageants aren’t about the kids.
Why do some parents call candy pageant crack?
“It’s concerning because when you raise toddlers, they have to be put on a schedule of some sort, with regular meals and regular naps,” Cartwright explained in the October 26, 2012 news release, Princess by proxy: When child beauty pageants aren’t about the kids. “With the ‘pageant crack’ and caffeinated beverages, they’re feeding them pure sugar to keep them awake. The smell in the hallways was so sweet it was like being in a carnival.”
Although Cartwright doesn’t advocate an outright ban on child pageants, she said she thinks it’s important for people to understand the motivation for some parents to enter their children in the competitions.
“If we can understand why the parents are doing what they’re doing, then we can start addressing the problem,” she said in the news release. “And I think if the public understands why the parents are doing that then they won’t pay as much attention to these pageants.”
She also emphasized the importance of teaching young children that self-esteem is not all about looks. “We need to talk to adults and to kids,” she said in the news release, “about other ways to garner self-esteem than through appearance.” Also of interest to those looking at nutrition might take a look at a healthier diet featuring a bean. See, Feinstein Institute researchers discover that bean used in Chinese food could protect against sepsis. Sepsis affects approximately 750,000 Americans each year, 28 to 50 percent of whom die from the condition, and costs the nation’s healthcare system nearly $17 billion annually. Can the bean help to better protect people from sepsis?
Tabloids aren’t focusing on how Honey Boo-Boos diet can be improved on her family’s food budget
Instead of focusing on the art of couponing wisely for healthier foods, the TV camera focuses in on the butter and ketchup plopping onto pasta feeding the family on a tight food budget. The reality is that Honey Boo-Boo isn’t getting pasta with olive oil, but with butter and ketchup not fresh tomatoes or even tomato paste. Ketchup is made with sugar which is added to even out the acidic taste. No one seems to turn the ingredients on the ketchup bottle toward the camera to see the sugar content of the ketchup. Do viewers care about the diet, the weigh-ins, or the couponing strategies that help feed a family on a tight food budget?
Tabloids instead often are emphasizing Honey Boo-Boo’s family’s criminal past instead of focusing on the six-year old’s nutrition, meals, and weight issues, according to articles such as, “Honey Boo Boo’s Family Has A Criminal Past.” The real issues are what the child eats and how normal for her age her health and her weight are, and most of all, is she healthy and happy with what she is fed? Family couponing and the quality of nutrition in what type of foods print coupons concerns most families who are avid couponers.
The media focuses on the fact that her mother shops for food using coupons. And most people know coupons don’t usually give away food unless the food is processed and packaged rather than focused on coupons for fresh vegetables, fruits, and other foods made from scratch. How often do you see supermarkets giving away coupons for produce?
For example, when Honey Boo Boo performs, why does she get energy beverages mixed with juice or soda instead of smoothies containing fruits, vegetables, and perhaps some protein? See the articles, Honey Boo Boo’s Tragic Diet Borders on Child Abuse, Honey Boo Boo’s Diet — Mom, June Shannon, Feeds Her Junk Food, and Joy Behar Is Concerned TLC Star Honey Boo Boo Will Become Overweight.
Should the media focus on the reality show child star’s diet, nutrition, and weight? The reality show does offer the public the view of the females in the family weighing themselves on one episode. Could the constant media criticism and emphasis on the children’s diets affect what she chooses to eat when she’s older?
Nutritionists have already raised concerns about the family’s diet
The media, especially tabloid publications emphasize only the foods that the seven-year old eats which can be seen on the show as primarily consisting of junk food full of salt and fat such as the a family-size bag of chips shown on TV of the child eating on the steps of her home, while her mother, June Shannon, stood watching.
Will the energy drinks containing caffeine hurt the child’s health? According to the article, “Joy Behar Is Concerned TLC Star Honey Boo Boo Will Become Overweight,” the seven-year old girl’s mom was also filmed feeding her daughter a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull — calling the drink “Go-Go-Juice” — before she took the stage at a pageant.
Red Bull is a caffeine-laden energy drink. It’s not what most mothers would think of giving to a six-year old taking a dancing class or performing when the child probably would have gotten more energy from a smoothie of vegetables hidden in fruit and some almond milk or regular milk. See, Red Bull Can Give You a Stroke – Natural Health Information.
Energy drinks are not made for seven-year old kids. There’s the danger of causing the blood to become sticky, a precursor to cardiovascular problems such as stroke, even in young people. When shopping for food using coupons, be aware that many coupons used to buy food for children are good mostly for processed food containing large amounts of sugar, salt, or fats or may be for starchy fillers that quickly turn to sugar in the bloodstream.
As for dear Honey Boo Boo, the mass media and the tabloids repeatedly focus on who the daddies are rather than what foods the kids are eating. See, Honey Boo Boo Family Drama: Who are the Daddies?
For more on nutrition and the popular reality show, see the article, Honey Boo Boo’s Diet — Mom, June Shannon, Feeds Her Junk Foods. Check out the articles. Instead of writing about why they weigh-in on a weekly basis on TV for the weight loss participation. The news played up the fact that the 12-year old sister dipped a pacifier into a can of Mountain Dew soda pop and let her 17-year old sister’s one-month old baby suck on the sweetened pacifier. It’s these small details that made news rather than any emphasis on introducing healthy nutrition using couponing into the show or the media.
The reality of feeding a family on a specific food budget
What’s left out of the news is the reality of feeding a family on a specific food budget and participating in weight-loss programs. Also what’s not mentioned much in the media is the fact each week that the family is participating in a weight loss challenge and weigh-in weekly. Perhaps when it comes to children’s nutrition, emphasis might be more on what the coupons buy in food and how healthy that food is for kids.
Most mothers who do couponing are ‘stuck’ with what the coupons offer, usually processed, packaged foods instead of fresh produce. Since the reality show family lives in small town Georgia, it’s the perfect opportunity to teach children how to grow their own vegetables and fruits in their back yard, even if a train often does pass by near the property, as seen on the TV reality show.
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