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Posts Tagged ‘disordered eating’

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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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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“Hands are not about politics…” -Sarah Kay

Our bodies shouldn’t be either. But it seems every one has something to say about what a body should and should not look like, what foods are “good” and “bad”, how many calories do we should eat, how many times we should exercise, and whether or not we fulfill what it means to live “healthy” . How often have you heard the line, “They have really let themselves go?”

Of the 220 people that responded to the Body Awareness Survey that I have on this blog (located at the top of the right sidebar,) 93.10% of people said that they believed people evaluated them on their physical appearance.

Awesome.  With a number like that it seems we all feel people make deductions about who we are based on what we look like, our bodies, and not just who we actually are beneath all our skin. We become the totality of our shell. We become our wrinkles, cellulite, hips, and butts. How one-dimensional is that?

Today celebrate you. Celebrate the inner qualities that make you unique. Celebrate the nose you hate or the parts of your body that you wish were more toned. Celebrate the people you see today. Instead of seeing people through a critic’s microscope,  see the whole person and celebrate their uniqueness. Today think of a part of your body that you don’t usually pay attention to or a part of yourself that you are always negative about. Observe its functional value or what it would be like if you didn’t have it. See the beauty in it.

We live in a multi-dimensional world that is diverse and constantly changing. Let’s not diminish ourselves or others to the shells they live in that will eventually turn to dust.  Let’s open our eyes and remember that its the diversity that makes us beautiful.

Here’s a fantastic video from Def Poetry, a show on HBO, of a Sarah Kay celebrating hands.

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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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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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Watch this video from the Britain’s Got Talent Show 2009… Listen to your inner commentary. What is your reaction?

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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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