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Archive for the ‘disordered eating’ Category

Have you ever felt as if you were being watched by an infant as their eyes follow you across the room or been fascinated with a child when you put your finger to your nose and they mirror your actions? A large part of child development is watching others, mimicry, and exploring their environment. Through these processes  children are learning how to become less dependent and more self-sufficient. Their minds are delicate and highly impressionable. Anyone that has worked closely with kids can attest to this.

If children are highly impressionable how are they interpreting the messages of beauty and health that are every where in our society? How much of our “adult” conversations about these issues do they actually hear?

I ran across a Newsweek article “Generation Diva” that questions whether our obsession with beauty is changing our kids. I can’t help but ask myself this question as I walk down the street and see young girls with their little mosquito bite breasts, faces painted, purses larger than their bodies, handkerchiefs for skirts, and hands clutching cell phones looking like miniature replicas of the Olsen twins giggling nervously. I’ve sat and observed them talking about boys, diets, and fashion as if they were read Vogue instead of Where the Wild Things Are at bedtime. I’ve often played a game guessing their ages only to realize they haven’t even reached middle school yet. I’ve listened to two mothers talk about watching their daughters dance and gyrate their hips in movements that it’s possible they, as 30- year old women, had yet to master. If children are impressionable, then where are they modeling this behavior and where are they receiving these messages?

Girls are growing up today with their ipods blaring Britney Spear’s “Get Naked (I Got a Plan)”, reading articles in Seventeen with headlines telling them about “Flat Tummy Tricks”  or  “Get Hot or Less,” websites where they post photos and peers rate their attractiveness,  watching American’s Next Top Model and people trading in their faces for ones that look similar to celebrities on I Want A Famous Face, or Dr.902010 and other numerous make-over shows which communicate that you can always achieve something more beautiful, and My Biggest Loser telling kids if you’re “fat” it’s just one more thing you should change.

Messages of transformation are every where in a young person’s world. The messages communicate to young girls that perfection, beauty, and popularity are attainable but also embedded in the message is that the little girl who stares back at them in the mirror without all the makeup and highlights is not beautiful. Especially if you have an ounce of fat on your bones.

According to market research done by Experian, 43 percent of 6- to 9-year-olds are already using lipstick or lip gloss; 38 percent use hairstyling products; and 12 percent use other cosmetics. Compared with other market research that has been done in the past, the percentages have increased and the age of the girls has decreased. A example of this is the cosmetic craze in young girls where they pile in mom’s car and unload at spas that market themselves for girls between the ages 0-12! Here’s a video discussing the new spas for tweens:

Young girls are growing up faster with a beauty ideal that is increasing just as rapidly. The question is not only how does this affect their self-esteem, self-acceptance, and development but also what is the projection of the future generations as they hit their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s 60’s? The young people of today are the future of tomorrow. Are we slowly evolving into a society that no longer celebrates natural beauty and individuality but encourages perfection, taunts us that it’s attainable, yet always keeps raising the bar so it’s never quite within our grasp?

I believe it is important to be aware of the messages that our children are receiving and not to deny that they are affected by them. Let’s talk more with the little people in our lives and encourage their natural beauty, talents, and set an other example for them separate from the models they see in society.  Instead of the hyper-neurotic search for beauty, popularity, and perfection; let’s teach our children, the future generation, about the passion of living, loving who you are, and accepting others regardless of their looks, size, what their wearing, how much money they have, their race, ablebodiness, sexuality, or gender.

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Which would you rather be called?

An article Which is Worse These Days: Being called Fat or a Whore by Charlotte Hilton Anderson landed in my inbox (thank you to the sender you know who you are and you’re fabulous!)  Just the title of the article is enough to provoke emotion and throw my critical thinking into overdrive.  Being called a whore has always been a stigma in society across all cultures throughout history. Have we really gotten to the point that being called fat trumps being called a whore? Outrageous.

In the article, Anderson refers to a theoretical paradigm shift introduced by Mary Eberstadt, a Standford-based Hoover Institute fellow and consulting editor to the Policy Review, where food has become the new sex. The topic of sex always comes with a moral handbook which ever one that may be or if you’ve chosen to burn yours. Along with any moral code comes the classic dichotomy of good vs. bad/evil. So, if food has become the new sex than all issues surrounding food and size become part of the good vs. bad paradigm. Yikes. That is a fertile battleground of power and privilege.

Eberstadt’s article Is Food the New Sex? is a bit long and she comes across as a traditionalist. Although I do not agree with many things she says or some of her historical pondering on body image, food, and morality; it is well worth the read. Some of the best reads are the ones we do not always agree fully with it stimulates. It moved me thinking in many directions but I couldn’t get the question of being called fat or a whore our of my head…

We have  human rights movements, how we try to be aware of politically correct speech, and all the “isms” that are being addressed to some degree (sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, ageism etc.) yet we are constantly falling short; especially in sizeism (discrimination based on weight and/or height.)

For example the photo at the below has been circulating the internet and comments made on it include:

There are three cows in this picture! Immediately followed by, “Hey! Hey! Don’t insult bovines that way!”

One word: Forklift

How do they f***?’ ”Hopefully they don’t. ‘They get mixed up with whose boob is whose.’

Fake! -notice lack of BIG GULP cup holders -notice lack of Beef Jerky wrappers in fat folds -notice buildings and cow not leaning into their gravitational pull.

Fat comments, jokes, and gestures are surprisingly socially acceptable. Although some admit to the comments as being mean still engage in this banter which is reenforcing that it’s okay to make these comments.

Fat is an ugly word in our society but ask yourself this: why?

The broader ethical debate about discrimination, power and privilege, and stereotypes is not what I want to get into. I want to keep the focus undiluted by broader terms and just keep it simple. Ask yourself how you really feel about the word fat. Say it out loud. Explore how you use the word and see if it comes up during the day and in what contexts.

If you see someone on the street and catch yourself labeling them as fat; stop yourself and explore your reactions and your commentary. Ask yourself:  a.)What is influencing your judgment b.) What physical sensation does it provoke c.) How does it make you feel about yourself and why?

It is shocking and scary that people would prefer to be called a whore than fat. We are all shapes. We must challenge ourselves not to let someone else define what beauty is to us. We must challenge ourselves to stop reinforcing the current beauty ideals because they are incredibly plastic, unrealistic, and essentially boring.

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I ran across an article this morning that made me laugh in total disbelief. The title of the article speaks for itself, Top 10: Subtle Ways to Tell Her She’s Getting Fat. As if we even needed one. The article is posted on the website AskMen.com which boasts 7 million readers a month. Great.

In case you don’t want to read the whole article here’s a snapshot:

…you’ve put on weight, and I find you less attractive.

loosen a few screws or remove some important slats of a chair [which] she’ll sit and subsequently break, sit back and watch the guaranteed dietary transformation that ensues.

…try giving her smaller-than-usual amounts. By making her ask for more food, you might succeed in shaming her into an acknowledgment of her recent weight gain…If you feel as though you’re starving yourself in the process, remember you can always go back for more when she’s not looking.

…playfully grab her love handles.

Shocking. If this site, which is sponsored by IGN.com (the company that also backs the popular Rotten Tomatoes website), truly gets traffic of 7 million viewers per month I am concerned about the message they are conveying to those millions of men and women through this article.  As if women do not already struggle with open direct communication with their partners surrounding their body image, feeling fat, or guilty about weight gain.

Although this article positions men who actually use this advice in a bad light; what about the men who are just as shocked about this article but still feel totally silenced when it comes to talking to their partners about body image and health?

The issue of having honest direct communication in our relationships is not just a women’s issue or a men’s issue. It is an issue for all of us. We should all feel comfortable expressing to one another our fears, insecurities, anxieties, or concerns with our body image and our partners body image. Ask yourself, “Do I truly feel comfortable to talk seriously to my partner about my fears of fat?” We usually turn it into a playful game but behind the teasing are real sensitivities that are not being addressed.

We all wonder what our partners find attractive and what they desire. But do we truly want to hear the answer? I was talking with a male coworker who expressed concern because he feels silenced when it comes to talking honestly about anything concerning his wife’s weight or looks. As they were walking down the street she asked him if another woman looked attractive. He said yes. She got angry. This is a classic schema that plays out all the time between two people in relationships.

What anxieties are created in this situation for my coworker and his wife? Does she walk away from the interaction comparing her physical body to the other woman’s? Of course she does on some level. Instead of assuming we know the beauty ideal for our partner why not just ask them and allow them to share with us. Truly listen to what they have to say and try not to be be reactive if they say something that we don’t like or feel comfortable with. Just listen and let the words pass through us. By engaging our partner like this it might open the conversation so that they can then share with you the things that are unique to your body that they love.

Just image what it would be like to mutually express your concerns about your body and weight. Along with mutual disclosure comes a deeper sense of trust, encouragement, and appreciation for your partner. You might find out they love the part of your body you hate the most. The softness of your ass, the muscles in your back, your freckles, the curves of your hips, dimples, your nose, curly hair, or your smile wrinkles.

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