Is Disney Succumbing to Girly Thoughts?

By Patricia O’Gorman, PhD

author of
The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (HCI 2013), and

The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power

(forthcoming October 2014, HCI)

Disney is an iconic producer of many of the stories that make up the stuff of childhood. But have you ever stopped to consider the impact those gorgeous, svelte princesses have on the developing attitudes of young girls?

Whether you’re of the generation that embraced old-school princesses like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, or the more recent generation that fell in love with Jasmine (in Aladdin) and Ariel (in The Little Mermaid), you likely received the message loud and clear that thin is beautiful.

In signaling out this Disney example, I am in no way disparaging everything the company does.

Yes, there was perhaps a professional artistic team that should be congratulated for portraying Ursula the Witch in The Little Mermaid as a size 24, as she went against the prevailing notion that only ultra-thin female characters could be depicted. But now this witch has been literally “down-sized,” and she looks like a fashion model. This reimagining forces us to consider the perhaps unintended consequences of always portraying female characters as ultra thin.

Being heavy is supposed to be unhealthy. But . . . maybe not always.

Is Heavy Always Bad?

We know we have lots of heavy girls of every age. We have heard that being heavy carries with it other health concerns. Some of you may have experienced this firsthand.

But there are some big women in the world who are healthy, and there are many little girls in the world who are heavier in pre-puberty than they are going to be post-puberty after they have their growth spurts. So maybe being heavy isn’t always bad.

But hating yourself for being heavy is definitely always not good.

Disney on a Diet

This is where the con of Disney changing one of the few role models for young girls who are not super thin comes in. There are few example of “leading ladies”—even those of the villain variety—who are plus-sized.

I invite you to watch the following video that provides another take on being heavy and the joy of actually accepting yourself, all in graphic detail.

Heavy and sexy—yes!

More Fuel For Girly Thoughts

Yes, girly thoughts, those messages you receive that tell you your worth is tied to how close you can come to an ever-more-elusive digitized ideal.

This message was not lost on the eleven-year-old I just saw clinically, who is purging herself after eating pizza and French fries. And she takes her weight issue one step further: She hates herself for being heavy.

“All my friends are thin. What’s wrong with me?” she asks.

I could have reminded her that she hasn’t yet reach puberty, and that when she does, she will probably become taller and thinner (as her pediatrician who referred her to me shared with her and her family), but that isn’t the essential message that is getting her stuck.

The Power of Girly Thoughts

She got the message, all right: She is less deserving as a human being if she is heavy. And who can blame her for feeling this way? Like the rest of us, she is constantly bombarded with reinforcement in media—even in sweet Disney movies—that only thin girls are desirable.


  • If you feel you need to hate yourself to be thin, it’s not worth it.
  • Since you may be triggered to eat by the thought that you need to be thin, consider getting rid of the girly thought that says “I need to be thin to be desirable.” Doing this will actually help you lose weight.
  • Self-love: that’s what this is all about. How about loving the person in your body, instead of buying into being judged because of your body? See what projecting this self-love does to your self-image. It may just be contagious.

By Patricia O’Gorman, PhD,
author of: The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (HCI, 2013)

Order: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

and coming in 2014

Out Your Girly Thoughts…Embrace Your Strength workbook (coming April 2014 from HCI Books)

If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to my blog and you’ll never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page, just below “Recent Posts” or by clicking here:


And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

Patricia O’Gorman, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Saranac Lake, New York, is noted for her work on women, trauma, and substance abuse and for her warm, inspiring, and funny presentations that make complex issues accessible and fun. She has served as a consultant to organizations in preventative and clinical strategic planning. Dr. O’Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and she has held positions ranging from clinical director of a child welfare agency to interim director of a crime victims organization to director of the division of prevention for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Learn more at

Binge Drinking – Taking Away Your Own Power

Most women read “Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of

preventable death in the United States and is a risk factor for many health and societal

problems,” (1), and think, “Oh, too bad, this really isn’t about me. That’s about all those
others, who really have problems,” without stopping to think how it could apply to them.

I know this may make you a tiny bit anxious, but let’s take a moment and look at the
definition of heavy and binge drinking:

Heavy drinking is defined as more than two drinks per day on average for
men or more than one drink per day on average for women. One drink a
day! (1) Some of you are thinking “this is crazy,” but bear with me for a
moment longer.
Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks during a single occasion
for men or four or more drinks during a single occasion for women (1).
Four drinks, you may be hearing yourself say–that’s just a moderate night
The reason why this doesn’t feel like a problem is that it’s common: about
1 in 8 women aged 18 years and older and 1 in 5 high school girls binge
drink (2).
Women who binge drink do so frequently – about 3 times a month (2) that
is going out most weekends. And therein lies the problem for many, not
realizing the impact of a “girls night out.”

Most girls and women don’t realize that drinking four or more drinks, even on occasion
can create a problem, a serious problem, even a permanent problem. Binge drinking
increases the chances of breast cancer, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases,
unintended pregnancy, and many other health problems. Drinking during pregnancy can
lead to sudden infant death syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (2). I know
the long-term health effects seem very remote, to women of all ages, so let’s look at the
immediate ones, and add a couple.

Sex and alcohol is a complicated relationship — it giveth and it taketh away. Alcohol
gives us lower inhibitions leading to feeling more relaxed, less worried, less observant
about what we’re doing, or saying. That can be, and is frequently, nice. And yes, it
can ease our way into a sexual situation. This may sound even better. But alcohol also

say, what I won’t repeat now, my head cleared a little. I realized I had another choice. I

could leave, and I did.”

But, if we decide we want sex, the next question is how do we protect ourselves
– yes ourselves for once, not everyone else, and not his or her feelings when we
make arrangements to be safe. This much alcohol can also make our thinking fuzzy,
particularly when it comes understanding not only what we want to do but also how
to protect ourselves by asking the right questions, and taking the right actions. Think
STDs, yuck, I know, but many are preventable through the use of a condom. Think
unwanted pregnancy, and yes it can happen to anyone from the President’s daughter in
TV show 1600 Penn, to friends, to you.

Anger and alcohol is another potent mix. I have found in my clinical work that many
women binge, many times alone, because they are angry. And since we’ve all been
raised to be good girls, a key belief being that we shouldn’t be angry, many women
unconsciously deal with their anger by anesthetizing themselves through alcohol use.
Speak about a no-win solution. God forbid they actually allow themselves to know that
they are angry and express their anger. Who knows what could happen then? Maybe a
solution could be reached.

Alcohol and weight gain. Yes, alcohol can make you fat. It is after all highly caloric,
and has no nutritional value. I know none of the models are fat, and yes it is so unfair!

So what to do? No easy solutions you say. Well, there is one. Stop giving away your
power, and using alcohol to excess is one way that women give away this vital inner
resource. Begin to tap into your inner strengths, your resilience. You know what these
are — the parts of you that you use in situations to help everyone else: the skills, the
behaviors, others see and comment upon, so very favorably; what you do for others, the
advice you give your girlfriends about drinking, about guys. What if you remembered
your own advice and gave to yourself. How good would that be? Now that would be

Continue reading “Binge Drinking – Taking Away Your Own Power”