Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Changing the Conversation

In a recent Nutrisystem commercial, Marie Osmond asserts: "As women, we always talk about how we should look or what’s the best way to lose weight."

Is this the conversation all of us are having? Are we all conspiring around this goal? And if so, what we can do to challenge it?


The truth is, it's spot on for many of us. Some women are engaged in evolving dialogues that have nothing to do with weight or shape. But it's sometimes challenging to get women from the first group to the second.


In a recent interview, a reporter asked me for tips on what else women can talk about if we're to ditch fat and diet talk. My tip is, there are no tips - because the answer is infinite - if we remove fat/diet talk from our language, we get to talk about everything else.

Women have so much more to talk about than food and weight. We have jobs and families and hopes and ideas, feelings and interests and beliefs. If we remove fat and weight talk from our dialogues, we're freed up to talk about anything else - everything else - to explore and create and connect in a deeper way, and ultimately, to be more of our authentic selves.

And shouldn't this be the goal?




You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com.













Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Unconditional Body Acceptance

One thing that's struck me recently in the body image world is a sort of conditional body acceptance in the first-person narratives I've read - let me explain. . . .

I accept my body after baby - the weight and stretch marks and scars and marks - because I created and hosted the miracle of life.

I accept my wrinkles and sags as I age, as they tell the story of my long and winding journey.

While these stories are often poignant and certainly move our dialogue along, a tacit message is, I'm okay with my imperfections, but only because I've carried a baby or arrived at a certain age. 

But here's the thing: You don't need to have a baby or be of a certain age or accomplish or endure anything else to explain away a feature on your frame. Belly fat is okay with or without child and lines and wrinkles can pop up at any age. In the words of Sonya Renee Taylor, "The body is not an apology." Make no bones about it.

The rimples and dips and creases and puckers, the swelling, distention, flab and fat that your body naturally houses - you don't need an excuse.

Your body is okay.



You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com



Wednesday, July 09, 2014

10 Things I Wish the Public Knew About Eating Disorders

Dr. Ed Tyson, a medical doctor who specializes in treating eating disorders in Austin, Texas, recently wrote an article, entitled, "Ten Things I Wish Physicians Would Know About Eating Disorders."

Inspired by this piece, I've compiled my own list of ten things I wish the public knew about eating disorders:

1) Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. You cannot guess if someone has eating disorder by looking at him/her. This goes for body type, race, gender, etc. (Side note: Someone who's average weight or heavy could have a restrictive eating disorder - and not the binge/compulsive/emotional eating disorder you might think - don't assume behaviors based on size.)

2) An eating disorder is not a desirable condition of glamour or restraint. It is a mental illness in which a disorder takes control of a person's thoughts, emotions, behaviors - and life.

3) Eating disorders are not about vanity or simply the internalization of society's thin ideal. Yes, our culture's thin ideal can play a big part in triggering an eating disorder (which is why I fight so hard against it), but there are other factors (genetic and constitutional) that increase susceptibility to eating disorders. The thin ideal also plays an unfortunate backdrop for eating disorder recovery - another reason I work so hard to challenge it.

4) There are other ways to purge (in bulimia nervosa) outside of vomiting. Some patients abuse laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or engage in excessive exercise - and some compensate for binges by significantly restricting their food outside of the binges - all can constitute bulimia.

5) There are evidence-based treatment approaches for eating disorders. These are treatment modalities that have been proven effective in research studies. Such treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, family- based treatment, and dialectical behavior therapy. Seek out providers who practice evidence-based treatment.

6) Along these lines, seek out providers who are licensed professionals and who have experience and expertise in eating disorders. Life coaches, health coaches, personal trainers, etc. are not equipped to deal with serious psychiatric disorders.

7) Diets, including juicing, cleansing, and other plans, are not recommended for the treatment of eating disorders. Cutting out specific foods or food groups is contraindicated for eating disorder recovery. Same goes for 12-step programs that prescribe diets or similarly limit food intake.

8) School practices, such as BMI reporting and class weight-loss or calorie-counting assignments, can trigger pathology in those who are susceptible.

9) Disordered eating can be painful and self-destructive, even if it never shifts into a full-blown disorder. Let's take disordered eating and other eating disorders (besides the most talked about) seriously.

10) It is possible to recover from an eating disorder. The sooner someone gets treatment, the better the chances at full recovery. Recovery, though, is not linear, nor something to perfect. It might be a long and windy road, and life can happen along the way.


You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com



Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Freedom Is. . .

Inspired by Independence Day - what does freedom from food and body concerns look like to you? Feel free to add to my list of 20. . . .
  1. Allowing yourself to eat when you're hungry.
  2. Allowing yourself to stop when you're full.
  3. Recognizing these functions are a work in progress.
  4. Saying "yes" to a variety of foods, including those that used to be off-limits.
  5. Prioritizing food flexibility as a goal.
  6. Ignoring the latest diet trends (including _______-free, juicing, cleansing, etc.), recognizing they do more harm than good.
  7. Giving yourself permission to make mistakes.
  8. Learning from setbacks.
  9. Exercising when you feel healthy and capable but not when you're sick or tired.
  10. Learning to appreciate the benefits of movement when it isn't tied to a specific weight goal.
  11. Tossing clothing that no longer fits without any self-reproach.
  12. Treating your body well, despite the fact that it might not be your ideal body.
  13. Saying "yes" to people and opportunities, despite how you feel about your body.
  14. "Zooming out" from fixations on weight and shape - regarding yourself and others.
  15. Finding a life purpose greater than maintaining a particular weight or size.
  16. Refraining from comparisons - your body may need more or less food than someone else's and it may also be naturally bigger or smaller than someone else's. 
  17. Ditching the scale, the measuring tape, the skinny jeans, the mirror, or any other external means of tearing down or validating yourself. 
  18. Building yourself up due to other attributes outside of your weight and shape.
  19. Surrounding yourself with people who also want to be free.
  20. Accepting where you are, wherever you are, while recognizing you are still capable of growth and change.

You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

BMI Report Cards Fail Professional Support

Recently, the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) issued a position statement on Body Mass Index (BMI)/weight reporting in New York City Public Schools. The grade? Big fail.
The AED opposes BMI report cards, referred to as "Fitnessgrams," in New York City on several grounds. According to their press release, “Although the New York Department of Education reports the belief that providing information about students’ weight and BMI to be beneficial in ‘helping students set personal goals’ and developing a healthy lifestyle, experts in eating disorders and body image strongly disagree.
Why do health professionals oppose BMI reporting practices? 
First, BMI is not an accurate measure of body composition. BMI can be influenced by a host of factors, beyond body fat, including musculature and frame. Second, weight is not a proxy for fitness. There are kids (and adults) who are thin and unhealthy and others who are heavier but in good health. We need to disentangle these concepts. Third, BMI reporting highlights our culture’s thin ideal, which can contribute to the development of disordered eating and weight-related bullying. 

A number of states and school districts have similarly tracked students' weight, including schools in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Tennessee, Wyoming, Massachusetts, and Illinois. In some schools, parents are able to opt out of their children being weighed.
Parents who are informed of their child's overweight/obese weight status, as many are given current statistics, may run the risk of implementing misguided dietary practices, without professional advice. Kids, too, may decide to restrict their diets based on these reports. Such dieting practices can contribute, with the right set of genetic and constitutional factors, to the development of an eating disorder. 
If students are issued their BMI report cards publicly, the climate is ripe for unhealthy comparisons, fat-shaming, and weight-related bullying. Weight screening programs can increase body dissatisfaction in a world where fat is out and thin is in. For children and teens who are obese, this may compound the experience of stigma and shame already associated with their weight. They are likely to feel judged, labeled, and blamed.
If your child's school district has implemented BMI reporting, consider these tactics:
  • Opt out if you can and leave health discussion about your child to medical professionals.
  • Discuss the negative impact of such practices on children with the school's (and district's) administrations.
  • If age appropriate, have a discussion with your child on the limited information weight provides.
  • Focus on a balanced diet and sufficient activity at home – these behaviors are more important than weight.
  • Encouraged acceptance of different shapes and sizes - as psychotherapist Kathy Kater's book states, "Real Kids Come in All Sizes."


My book, Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight is now on Amazon as a paperback and Kindle and at BarnesandNoble.com. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why I Blog

Eight years ago, when I started this blog, I ventured to write a book about the toxic culture of disordered eating, exposing the normalization of eating problems and body dissatisfaction.

Has this culture improved in almost a decade of writing?

Not so much.

In fact, recent research has alarmed us to the dangers of social media (including blogging) in promoting eating disorders and a more general disordered mentality. We've learned that exposure to Facebook; certain Twitter hashtags; and images on Pinterest, Instagram, and blogs can trigger pathology in those who are predisposed. Terms like "pro-ana," "thinspo," "fitspo," "thigh gap," and "food porn" have become part of our vernacular.

Social media sites can challenge those with clinical eating disorders due to the sites'  promotion of the the thin ideal. Users are posting only the best, most flattering pictures of themselves, raising the bar for beauty/appearance. Those with eating disorders then compare themselves against others' best (edited?) selves. Technology presents us with a virtually infinite comparison group.

Plus, social media feeds often read like diet directives. Those we connect with online post often on their weight loss victories, their marathon training, the cleanses, diets, and juicing they're trying - all of this can be triggering for those susceptible to disordered eating. Moreover, many sites run advertising promoting the thin ideal, which can further body dissatisfaction. Ads pop up on users' feeds (and sidebars) for diet plans, exercise programs, "fitspo" images, all of which can reinforce unhealthy ideas about food and weight.

But social media can also be an incredible ally for recovery, growth, and change. And that is why I blog.

At the International Conference of Eating Disorders in March of this year, Australian health psychologist, Phillipa Diedrichs stated that through our use of social media, "We become the media." When we speak of all the evils of the media with regard to eating and body image disturbances, we must recognize that there are powerful counterculture voices in the mix, louder than ever before.

So, how exactly are we positively impacting the world around us? Here are a few examples:
  • When lingerie store La Perla featured a frighteningly thin mannequin in their Manhattan shop, a Twitter firestorm forced the company to take it down.
  • Thierry Lasry's line of "Anorexxxy"sunglasses came under a similar social media attack, despite celebrity endorsements. The result? The designer changed the name of the glasses to "Axxxexxxy."
  • Proud2BMe teen ambassador, Benjamin O'Keefe, successfully campaigned to get retailer Abercrombie Fitch to carry plus sizes.
  • Two teenagers, Liana Rosenman and Kristina Saffran, founded Project Heal, to increase eating disorder awareness and offer treatment scholarships.
  • When Melissa Fabello recently posted a video on youtube (see below) highlighting why she's a body image activist, this hashtag went viral and connected tons of body image warriors around a theme.
I love being part of the exchange of information, the connection of like-minded thinkers, and the burgeoning revolution that provides an alternative voice and challenges the thin ideal that has deleterious consequences for some and unfortunate consequences for all.

How can you use social media as friend, rather than foe?
  • Recognize if your participation on certain sites is causing you distress and evaluate the pros/cons of continuing to use these sites.
  • Create and manage a list of sites, organizations, and people to follow that promote recovery and body positivity (check out my sidebar for my recommendations).
  • Learn how to remove triggering advertisements from your sites and consider reporting those that promote pathology.
  • Become an activist yourself - the more vocal you are, the better in terms of furthering the movement and bettering your own recovery and relationship with your body.
  • If you have children who go online, be sure to monitor them closely and talk to them about how certain websites and images make them feel.  
Are we still swimming upstream when it comes to challenging dangerous media influences on self-esteem? Probably. But now there's a swelling current that carries us.





My book, Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight is now on Amazon as a paperback and Kindle and at BarnesandNoble.com. Enjoy!




Friday, June 06, 2014

Book Giveaway!

Breath and Nourish is giving away a free copy of my book! Only a few hours remain to enter. For the review of my book, and for giveaway details, click here.