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Posts Tagged ‘cultural’

Recently, I have noticed a resurgence in eating disorder articles in the health section on news sites like CNN, Msnbc, and NyTimes. Although I don’t primarily write about clinical eating disorders, preferring to focus more on the wide spread disordered eating and health in our culture and society, I feel that eating disorders can not go unmentioned.

After all, eating disorders are the extreme products of how we negatively communicate health, fitness, food, and beauty image in this culture.

A CNN article I found particularly disturbing was about a boy who started dieting and exercising at age 11 and increasingly got more restrictive until he was 79 lbs. at his lowest weight. The obsession with his weight began in that phase everyone goes through. Yes, you know the one I am referring to. The few blurry years we all try to forget and hide the pictures or any other documentation that they existed. The blurry figure in the haze had a mouth full of braces, baby fat, horrible hair, and slumped shoulders in uncertainty of the body that was trying to make its way to the surface.

This boys story about his struggle with food, body image, and acceptance hits home that everyone, not just females, are dealing with feelings of not looking good enough and being accepted by others based on appearance. This is especially true for the sensitive years in life where everyone is just starting to become aware and understand their body, culture, and other perceptions of them.

Not only does this story point out that eating disorders affect males but it again broadens the age brackets we most closely associate with eating disorders.

This article and another NYtimes article, “Treating Eating Disorders and Paying for It,”  highlighted a recent report in the Journal of Pediatrics finding that today more children are developing eating disorders and developing them at an earlier age.

Also, according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, hospitalizations from eating disorders grew 18 percent from 1999-2006. The sharpest rise was for children 12 and under.

Here’s a video highlighting the Journal of Pediatrics report: 

We need to ask ourselves what is happening. What are we doing that reinforces our children to focus more on what they put in their mouths than whether they should play outside or build forts with the furniture.

We may have a little control over what the media and culture at large communicates to them but we must clarify the realities of what they see and hear from others. We need to encourage them to be who they are and be proud of who they are. We need to encourage health and fitness aside from being healthy and fit for image. We need to set an example in the way we live our own lives and in the way we talk about food, diet, health, fitness, and body image to other adults.

The NYtimes posted a multimedia of  people of all ages, sexes, genders, and races sharing their different experiences with eating disorders. It is worth the few minutes to listen. They share stories of anorexia, bulimia, and over eating. They speak about the struggles and the self talk that perpetuated their eating disorders. Some of them are family members of people struggling with eating disorders. Listen to the tapestry. Listen to the stories and ask yourself what you can do within your own life to counteract the negativity surrounding food, fitness, health, and body image.  Check it out here!

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Thank you to everyone that emailed me their stories, opinions, and examples of how we communicate ideas of health and body image to younger people or how, as a younger person, you feel we communicate these things to you. I deeply appreciate it and will be contacting you further as I would like to include this subject as a chapter in the book.

As you know, I have not posted in a while. Life has been kind of crazy but recently there has been a surge in survey responses and it has reminded me of the importance of maintaining a connection with you! So, thank you to those who have recently filled the survey out and shared your experiences with me.

Currently, I am taking several courses to prepare for nursing school (part of the reason life has been a bit busier than usual.) I have been reminded just how many conversations there are throughout the day where people are talking about health, food, hunger, exercise, beauty, sexiness, ugliness, fatness or the constant policing or chastising of others about these topics. However, the irony is that no one seems to realize the frequency or impact these fleeting conversations have.

Here’s an example:

Scene: Classroom filled with many genders, ages, and diversity.

Snippets of conversation in just a 5 minute period throughout the room of 40 people (each comment from a different person:)
– That was like a block of sugar
– But you know that burrito you skipped this morning…
– What? when i am not hungry food sounds disgusting.
– You want some pretzels?
– How many calories do you think this has?
– Are you going to yoga tonight?
– No, don’t feel like it… I guess maybe the gym.
– metabolism…
– I can’t eat the way I used to. I mean I used to sit down and eat whole pizzas and boxes of zebra cakes.
– Did you work out this morning?
– I am hungry.

We’re desensitized to how often we are talking or even indirectly hearing about health. The question to ask ourselves is how is this shaping our beliefs, actions, and desires about health?

Below is an awesome video created by BLU a group that paints on public walls and creates incredible animated shorts. The video has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this blog however, the process or rather the evolution of the images within the animation do.

For instance, set aside the story that is told with the images in the video and just observe the evolution or progression of one image into the next. The is a process that happens every where in life: one thing occurs and evolves into something else which evolves into something else. Our actions in our life taken on this movement (think Run Lola, Run or Lola rennt. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it.) One action affects the next and so on until it becomes a series or sequence of events which produces an outcome. Our words and our conversations do this as well.

The snippets of conversation above spawned certain inner dialogues and external dialogues for these individuals. The scary thing is that most of us are not aware how our words and conversations are impacting our lives and shaping our perspectives or beliefs. So, my challenge, as usual, is to just be more aware today. Not only of the conversations you hear or have but the sequence of events that they produce inside your head or in the conversation.

Here’s the awesome video:

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Are you a parent and have been asked this question? Maybe you’re not a parent but have been asked this question by a younger person in your life. Maybe you’ve been asked similar versions of this question or have talked with a younger person exploring how they feel in their body or the way they look.

If you feel that you have experienced this or something similar, I would love to hear your stories, opinions, and thoughts. Your stories and emails will be keep completely anonymous or if you choose completely private.

I am interested in exploring how we are communicating body awareness, image, health, and eating with the younger people in our lives.

Please email your stories, thoughts, or opinions to abodyrevolution@gmail.com.

Update: Due to several emails I have received from individuals in their teens I realized that this blog has readers of all ages and I had forgotten to include their important voice on this topic! I apologize. In order to understand the dialogues and messages we are giving tweens and teenagers about health and body image we need to get their perspective and stories as well.

So, if you are 21 or younger and wish to voice your opinion on this topic or share your story write me an email! I will promise to keep it just between you and I if you choose 🙂 Thank you and it is much appreciated. Thank you for those who pointed out to me that this topic needs to include everyone to best understand and improve it.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Was there ever a time you wanted to talk with an older person about the way you felt about your body or dieting and they didn’t listen?
  • Has a parent or older person talked to you about health and body image? How did they do it? Did it make you uncomfortable or did it help?
  • Has a parent or older person ever made a comment to you about health or body image that you did nor did not agree with?
  • Do you feel like you can be completely open about how you feel with an older person?
  • Do you feel like you can trust them to give you good advice and answer your questions honestly?

These are just some questions get you thinking but whatever you want to share I am all ears!

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Ever find yourself four inches from the mirror investigating every square inch of your face? Sometimes this happens when I tweeze the pesky little whiskers that have a tendency to grow in the oddest places like out of moles and scars. Sometimes I even venture to my eyebrows when I start to feel “the Frida” coming on. 

During my last tweezing fix, I investigated my skin and found slight brown discoloration in spots I had never noticed before. Not Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Crawford “beauty marks.” Sun spots or solar lentigines, hyperpigmented brown spots on skin exposed to the sun. It made me question whether my mom’s brilliant suggestion of sunbathing with baby oil and iodine as a kid was a slight mistake. Oh, to grow up when cigarettes weren’t that bad for you, neon was rad, and the benefits of SPF were not yet taken seriously.

Even though suns spots can occur at any age they primarily appear in older adults. It made me think of all the apocalyptic before and after images you see: skin treatments, laser treatments, plastic surgeries, botox, or other anti-aging treatments.

What is so wrong and scary about aging?

Wrinkles, sagging skin, stretch marks, grey wiry hair, large noses, and giant ears. Must we not forget menopause. A time we all look forward to, where we have an excuse to be a complete nutter. I am surprised we all don’t just hit 50 and turn ourselves over to cryonics.

The other night I was in the movie The Hangover. There was a scene in a doctor’s office where an older man was getting his prostate checked. The camera zoomed in to show the man from the waist up then zoomed out as the old man turned to put on his pants. There it was: an 80 year old ass staring us right in the face. The audience burst out laughing.

But, what’s so comical about an older person’s body? There will be a day when we all get our chance to look in the mirror at an older reflection of ourselves. Do we laugh because of an unconscious fear of aging and the inevitable sound of the hammer in a coffin?

The fear is always right beneath the surface. Some of us proactively spend credulous amounts of money on serums, creams, injections and surgeries. Others of us like to pretend that we will embrace “it” when the time comes and try to suppress the image of our bodies at 70. Yet all of us think about it to some degree.

The fear has to come from somewhere but where? Our culture celebrates youth. Evidence of that is plastered ever where, on billboards, T.V, movies, magazines, the sidebars or Facebook or Google, and billions of websites.  We consume the message of youth so often that we do no longer taste it.

I ran across a beautiful article in The Sun written by a woman Patricia Brieschke. The author explores her aging body and the life struggle we all have at varying degrees of accepting our body as it is.

“I place a cup of green tea carefully on the floor of my walk-in closet and click the door shut behind me. Almost sixty-two, I’ve been trying to get myself to look in the mirror naked, to look without critique. (A gigantic ass! Doughy rolls! Thighs like the chunky Victorian legs of the behemoth table Aunt Helen bequeathed to us!) This morning I will approach the mirror in my closet in meditation. Today I will forgive the body I’ve inhabited all these years, and I will not come out of this closet until I find the well of tenderness hidden in these swollen fat cells.
The fluorescent lights glare. I move closer to the mirror and smell the raw me: urine and lavender. My naked body bulges. Not even my elbows have definition. A flabby roll on my abdomen dwarfs the patch of sparse gray hairs below, once lush with juice. Deep craters of cellulose run up and down my thighs like gristle on a pot roast.”

Here’s the lovely Sarah Haskins thoughts on skincare and wrinkles:

Today be aware of the messages that are communicated to you throughout the day about aging. Be aware of your response. Replace fear with the celebration of life and for body we have to live it in.

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I used to take more time to appreciate the silence around me but recently it seems I go from one thing to the next. My inner dialogue is a constant chatter. My “to-do” list scrolls through my head like a broken record. I go from a conversation with a friend, to talking at work, to catching up with my roommate when I get home. When I am exercising I am thinking about work. When I am at work I am thinking about exercising. Of course there are moments, mere snippets, where I absorb the stillness that exists somewhere around me but its fleeting then I am back in the grind again.

For two days last week I turned off my phone, computer, ipod, television, folded up my “to-do” list and put it away. At first the silence was slightly irritating and unsettling then I slowly began to unwind into the space and explore.

I tried hard to to simply exist in the stillness. However, the act of simply existing was not all that simple. I had to keep filtering my thoughts until I was able to hold one thought at a time. Eventually, there were moments of pure silence. I listened to how its sounds. I observed how I fit in it and how my body felt in it. I observed how my mind responded to it. I opened myself into the space and reconnected with the sheer beauty of just being.

When I prepared dinner I listened to the sounds of the knife chopping against the cutting board and the sizzle of the oil in the pan. I smelled the garlic, ginger, herbs, and the sweetness of the onions caramelizing.  I listened to the water as I washed my dishes and the sounds the rag made against the counter as I cleaned its surface. I listened to the wine gurgle when I poured it into a glass and sat down to eat. My world became a symphonious space.

I was alone, there was no TV buzzing in the background, no Goggle search bar taunting me from the computer, and no music to distract me from my meal. I found myself eating slower and chewing longer. I realized the majority of time I eat I do not actually think about the act of eating. It has become a routine task I could do in my sleep.  It made me wonder how many tasks we do throughout the day where we blindly go through the actions but never think about the act of doing.

The silence reminded me of the pearls of mindfulness. What is mindfulness? It’s a word that came into our language in the 14th century meaning to bear in mind or be aware. It’s the concept that fueled Dante’s Inferno and maintained Chaucer’s Canterbury chronicles.

But we’ve forgotten, or at least I had, what it’s like to truly absorb ourselves in the moment, a task, a thought, or an interaction. In our world of cars, cell phones, and ipods maybe it’s about time to reinvent this archaic wondrous concept of mindfulness.

We need to take more time during the day to listen to our thoughts. Slow them down and concentrate on each one. When we do a task we need to put all our energies into that one task. When we speak with people we need to really engage ourselves in the conversation by being an active listener. By making an active effort to be more aware we will discover a deeper part of ourselves, our world, others, and how we interact with others. What we can learn from observation without judgment will humble us.

Part of the purpose of this blog is to raise awareness on how our everyday talk affects our ideas of health, body image, and self-acceptance. Being more mindful throughout the day will help us to identify these relationships.

By becoming more aware of our thoughts we will become more aware of our inner critic. How do you talk to yourself? How many times a day do you hear yourself saying something negative about yourself? How many times a day do you speak positively about yourself?

We will become more aware of the way we speak with others. Are we listening to others? Do we tell the people in our lives we appreciate them? When we give compliments, what sort of compliments are they and do we say them with sincerity?

So, plan a day or a few days in the next few weeks where you take a day of silence. Put away all your gadgets, toys, work, and distraction. Listen to how your body responds. Listen and observe your thoughts. Be present in your interaction with others. Slow down, discover, and reconnect with your raw existence. What do you find?

**Update: I have changed the format of the sidebar to better represent a body positive message and also be a resource for those individuals with ED. Please remember this blog is for all individuals. I have added a blogroll, several new videos, and new locations of survey responses on the map. I will continually be adding new links as I come across other websites, videos, and resources. If you find any body positive sites send them along!

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How important is every talk on our ideas of body image self-acceptance, and health?

People ask me what I mean by the language of hunger. The language of hunger is the way we speak with one another about our ideas of health, food, body image, and self-acceptance. It is also about the way we speak to ourselves. It’s what we hear and do not hear throughout the day and the messages we receive about these issues.

image taken from google image gallery

image taken from google image gallery

To better understand the language of hunger we must first understand how language and communication affects our daily lives.

We live in a loud world. We have our headpieces on talking to a friend while standing in line getting coffee, while thinking to ourselves about what to do for dinner, and still we pick up pieces of conversation from the couple behind us in line. Then we step outside into a sea of conversation: the boy and girl with their dog avoiding their homework, the men sitting behind them on their phones, a mom listening to her daughter chattering away walk in front of you, and close by are three women in a business meeting.  Then we get into our car and call a client while the commercial on the radio is talking about Viagra or diamonds all the while the billboards shout their messages as we drive back to the office.

All this occurs on a short break from work and doesn’t include our inner commentary which is a constant scroll of dialogue and free association. Just imagine the amount of time we spend over a period of one day engaged in some form of communication or language. Try it. Try to keep track of the minutes you spend each day engaged in some form of dialogue whether it’s your inner commentary, talking with others, or listening to others.  I bet you’ll lose count.

The majority of our waking hours we are engaged in some form of communication whether we are listening, talking, reading, or observing. Language and communication are the adhesives of society. They are the devices that we use to connect to each other and our world. They are used to explain, clarify, define, and express. Without communication and language we wouldn’t fully be able to understand another’s perspective, ideas, or what they are thinking.  How would we explain to someone how to use incredible inventions like vaccinations? How would we treat one another if we weren’t able to voice our opinions about freedom and oppression?

Language and communication have the power to evoke and provoke. They are tools we use every day yet we do not fully appreciate how they drive our relationships, interactions, and dictate our actions. We use these tools so frequently that we forget that we’re using them at all. For instance, apply the communication tool of hearing to our coffee break scene. We are constantly bombarded with things to hear and because of the auditory overload we are desensitized to the actual content of what we are “hearing.” We are not fully hearing everything that goes in our ears. What effect is this having?

There is a dramatic difference between fully listening to someone talking and just hearing. The words are even different to describe the two: listen and hear. To fully listen to someone you must listen to what they are saying without your own inner critic interrupting, then listen to your own reaction to what they said, and all the while making sure you understand. This whole process demands that you be present in the conversation, not distracted, and be constantly interacting with the content.

image taken from google images

image taken from google images

On the other hand, not listening involves thinking about your response before the person talking is finished, engaging your inner critic while they are talking, paying attention to another noise, or thinking about all the errands you have waiting for you on your to-do list. As the colloquialism goes, the words “go in one ear and out the other.”  However, we are still able to interact in the conversation because we are able to process information without really being aware of it.

Now knowing the difference between fully hearing someone or not, ask yourself how often are you truly listening throughout the day? Unfortunately, you will probably find you are not truly listening but surface processing the information and responding.

If the majority of the time we scan our conversations, our auditory environment, and our inner dialogue we are not taking the time to be aware and listen. Words become subliminal messages. We have a reaction without knowing it. If this is true then how is this affecting what we hear throughout the day about health, food and self-acceptance?

These topics come up frequently throughout the day. We may hear the messages but we do not  listen. We are not fully digesting the words we hear throughout the day on these issues and it’s sticking to our bones and we are not even aware that it’s happening.

Today ask yourself if you are truly listening to what is being said to you throughout the day. Ask yourself to not only listen to what you are hearing but be aware of what your reaction is and how you respond to what you hear. How is language affecting your ideas of health, food, fitness, and self-acceptance?

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hate-handle1

image taken from google image library

Have you ever gone into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and just stared inside? You’re not necessarily hungry and never had the intention of eating but, there you are just staring inside. Then like some bionic conditioned creature, your stomach growls and you rummage around to find something to eat.

How many times have you listened to someone talk about losing weight or joking around about their appearance?

Have you ever had a deadline and found yourself craving [insert favorite food here] or found that you had not eaten all day because you were so engrossed in a project? Maybe you were stressed from a break-up, someone passed away, you lost your job, or were in a transitional stage in life and found that you were not eating as much, eating more than usual, or exercising to “take the edge off.” Have you ever felt like you could just lose a pound or go to the gym more often and you’d be “healthier?”

These scenarios are not silent movies. Each one is usually accompanied by an inner dialogue or an actual conversation you have with someone.  Take a minute and think of three times you have had something like these scenarios happen to you. Try to remember what the dialogues were or what was going through your head. Keep these scenarios in mind as you read the rest of this post.

I have found three types of responses to this blog and my book idea:

  1. “What a fantastic idea! I am glad someone is finally speaking out.”
  2. “Wow. Thank you. I have experienced (or know someone who has) some of these issues…”
  3. “Sounds like a good idea. I know a lot of people struggle with these issues. I haven’t ever but, I know someone will be incredibly thankful for your words.”

Which response do you relate more to? Now go back and remember what your scenarios were from the beginning of this post. Has your response changed? We all have played out various forms of the scenarios mentioned or something similar at least once.  Most of us play out these scenarios more frequently then we even realize.

This blog and my book project are for all of the people behind these responses. Part of the purpose of writing my book is to explain why and how these issues and dialogues are not just for those with eating disorders or “low self-esteem.” These issues come up in all of our lives through dialogues that occur every day. The problem is that we have become desensitized to the presence of the dialogues surrounding these issues. We have come to believe that our inner voice and everyday talk is normal and therefore, the situations seem normal. We claim it’s just the pursuit of “health.”

Explore the idea that we all share these experiences with food, health, body image, fitness etc. Ask people about it. Ask yourself about it. You will find that the only difference is that we all have our own unique story. However, we all have a story where we are affected on some level by these issues.

If you do not believe you are affected by these issues, I challenge you to be aware of the scripts you play out. Just for a day listen to your inner dialogue, listen to conversations other people have, and listen to the conversations you have with others. Be aware of the messages that are communicated to you through T.V, magazines or the sidebar of Facebook.  Listen to comments on dieting, exercise, food, health, aging, beauty, or any other closely related topic…

What do you hear??

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