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Posts Tagged ‘eating disorders’

Recently there is a heated controversy over a quote in the NYTimes by  the art critic Alastair Macaulay. He described the ballet dancer  Jenifer Ringer from the New York City Ballet performing in, “George Ballatine’s The Nutcracker” looking “as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many.” Ringer has shared her struggles with disordered eating and has made her experience public. Free speech yes but decency please, Macaulay.

The comment displays the insensitivity that we have as a culture towards beauty criticism. It is perfectly acceptable to make comments on peoples bodies whether it’s praise or disgust. Our bodies are on a platform to be discussed, criticized, or idolized.

Macaulay wrote a response to all the criticism in an article, Judging the Bodies in Ballet. He argues that,

If you want to make your appearance irrelevant to criticism, do not choose ballet as a career. The body in ballet becomes a subject of the keenest observation and the most intense discussion.

He tried to explain his reasoning with,

many other female dancers with obvious physical imperfections have made impressions far greater than those whose bodies were ballet-perfect. But that’s their task: in an Apollonian art that requires purity of line, precision of execution and harmony of appearance, dancers with less than ideal shapes must bring other qualities to bear. Many have, and Ms. Ringer does, too, with several roles. This particular Sugar Plum Fairy — one of her rare tutu parts these days — was not one of them.

In other words, if your body is not a dancing skeleton with slippers you  must try that much harder to bring something else to the floor, control your curves, and please- don’t wear anything showing your legs! Apparently, leg muscle is out.

 

He’s a critic indeed but why are our bodies and appearance even up for evaluation? A dancers performance of course but a dancer’s body is part of who they are just as their eye color or their race. Yes, ballet is a culture where thinness, perfection, and lithe grace is idolized but maybe its time to challenge this adage.

Actress Natalie Portman apparently lost 20 lbs. for her role in the new movie Black Swan where she plays a ballet dancer consumed with the battle of perfection and the competition in ballet. Our perception of ballerinas has been shaped by standards but whose standards? In the 1600s the standards where curves, curves, curves. Now the pendulum of standards has swung and we are left with bone, bones, bones. One word is as bright and loud as a strobe light here: standard.

Standards by definition means there is a model to be compared to, a principle to be judged on, and apparently also a grade of beef immediately below good. Who set’s these standards and why do we blindly fall into line trying to become this standard?

A standard brings along with it a definition of perfection. How is it possible to have a standard on something that is so diverse? Our bodies are all shapes and sizes. Our bodies are diverse and subjective. The aesthetic of beauty should not be a standard. The real aesthetic of beauty celebrates being human whatever shape that happens to come in.

Jenifer Ringer was interviewed on the Today Show about her response to Macaulay’s criticism. She shared that at first it was embarrassing and she felt bad about herself. Then she said it was just one person’s opinion and she was encouraged by all the controversy and positivity it has sparked. At the end she said,

dance is a celebration of people dancing to this gorgeous music.

Ballet should not be about a standard of beauty. It is a celebration of bodies twisting, jumping, and stretching. It’s a celebration of bodies communicating without the distraction of words. Ballet is beautiful and beauty defies standards.

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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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Every culture has a form of it. Every period in history has made a different contribution to it. It’s older than the first book. It can be slow or fast. It is simple yet simultaneously intricate and complex. It can have layers, dimension, or even be linear. It makes us cry and it makes us laugh. It helps us release our anger. It can have words. It has texture and color. There is even one theatrical shenanigans based simply on “it” with 30 brooms, 8 lids, bins of all sizes, poles, 15 pounds of sand, 4 blocks of athlete’s chalk, 12 pairs of drumsticks, 200 litters of water, 8 bananas, and 12 boxes of matches.

What has had such an impact on history? On life? On us as people? What is it?

It is simply music. Sounds, melodies, harmonics, rhythms, noise, poetry or whatever you use to describe this phenomena know this; it is heard differently by each person yet it is felt by all and has the power to unite whole groups of people together with one common thread.

Yes, music. There’s just something about it that gets up under your skin and pulsates. It makes your feet start to twitch. It makes you close your eyes and sway. It wakes up your soul. Of course, only if you allow it to. But, if you do there is nothing sweeter than turning up your favorite tunes and just simply dancing.

All this movement begs the question: just what is it about music?

Why is it so salient throughout history? Why can we find it throughout all cultures and in so many various forms?

Primarily, it’s been used to communicate. It’s even been used to record history before it was written down. But, there is something that goes deeper than that.

There is something that moves us beyond words. Beyond all forms of communication.

Music moves us to a place where we can just be. We just exist in the present moment of the song. The past and future may ebb and flow through us but a song has movement and brings us with it back to the present. What is the key to this seemingly magical transcendence?

Freedom. That is what music truly gives us. Freedom of expression, freedom in movement, and freedom of letting go. Pure freedom to discover life.

By truly getting absorbed in music we release, we create, and we inspire. If we just let the music guide us (inhibitions aside) it will eventually lead to some form of dance.

Maybe you’re the type of person that holds on to inhibition just a little tighter. Maybe it takes more than music to loosen you up. Maybe you love dancing but never do it when you’re home alone. Maybe you don’t dance unless you have had a glass or two of wine. Maybe you just haven’t danced in so long you feel you’ve lost your rhythm. Which ever type of dancer you are do one thing right now…

Stop everything. Turn on your favorite song or discover a new tune from the list below. Kick off your shoes (yes this is mandatory) and turn up the volume.

If you need to, close the blinds. If you need to open all the windows, do it! By all means just turn it up, close your eyes, feel the music run through you and move your body.

Because we have one life to life and the raw sense of freedom we get from organically moving our bodies is priceless. Maybe it will take you practice to chisel away at that inhibition. That’s okay! Just keep doing it and you’ll find one day that your toes are singing and all your body wants to do is get up and move.

Here’s a video to get you started! It’s from JOnsi’s new Go album:

There’s plenty of great music out there and it’s totally subjective but it’s always nice to share music and discover new ones. Here is a list of the songs that are playing in my player most recently. Just a note there are so many good songs out there that soundtracks come and go as a weekly fare. For this week:

Jonsi Go (album) to listen to the album just click

The Killers   Human

Bruce Springsteen   Brilliant Disguise

Velvet The Big Pink

Empire of the Sun   Walking on a Dream

The Orb   Little Fluffy Clouds

Phoenix Girlfriend

Phantogram   When I’m Small

Passion Pit   Sleepyhead

Santigold   I’m A Lady

Vampire Weekend   Horatcha

The XX   Islands

The Temper Trap   Sweet Disposition

The Shins   Sleeping Lesson

If you have any suggestions on music that makes you dance, please share in the comment box!  Always lookin’ for new tunes!

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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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Preface: I apologize this blog has been out of commission. Recently, I have moved and the details of life have taken priority but I am back and so are the weekly posts. Thank you for being patient and still checking in!

So…the post…

Pick up a newspaper or log on to a papers homepage. As your eyes scan the headlines, all you see are politics, economics, gossip, something about Clunkers, and not nearly enough international coverage…Right?

Here are some other headlines that made it in today’s papers (taken from NYTimes, cnn.com, msnbc.com, foxnews.com, LATimes, Miami Tribune, Chicago Tribune, and The Seattle Times):

Is Your Child The ‘Right’ Height? (Apparently now there are a set of standards for the normal American child)

Does It (exercise) Keep You Healthy? (Since when did exercise being healthy become debatable?)
monky fish


Aging: Eating Fish May Ward Off Dementia

Fewer Calories Equals A Longer Life- At Least In Monkeys (Maybe monkeys just eat fish not count calories)

Could Fat Babies Mean Fat Toddlers?

Best And Worse Foods For Your Sex Drive

8 Ways The Food Industry Can Hijack Your Brain (…and your soul)

Underweight Team Told To Eat At Least 15 Eggs Per Day

10 ‘Bad’ Foods That Are Good For Weight Loss (Who gets the job of labeling foods good and bad? Isn’t one persons brussel sprouts another’s fudge.)

Doctors Grow New Nose for Woman

Considering Plastic Surgery? (Not recently especially since my doctor can now replace my old one with a new real one!)

The newspapers are full of messages about how and what we should eat and why with an emphasis on the ‘normal’ way our bodies should look and feel. They even includes helpful tips on how many steps you should take a day which I am personally grateful for since I was up late last night staring at my ceiling wondering whether its a four or five digit number.

What happens when we find ourselves fitting outside of the norm that’s placed on us or that we place on ourselves? Guilt, shame, embarrassment, and lofty goals that are difficult to attain. Sounds fun. Even if we do fit inside the ‘perfectly’ defined box we will still manage to find faults or want to be the best little norm in the box.

I know you’re thinking, “I’m not affected by these headlines.” You simply read over them and laugh. I did. But honestly ask yourself, are they affecting you?  Even if it’s just on an unconscious level making us more inclined to set a standard of right/wrong, good/bad, normal/abnormal and beautiful/average.

Forget the news for a minute. What about the comments we hear strangers, friends, family, or coworkers say?

Jez, that’s alot!

Another one?!

I could never eat that much rice!

No thanks, I’ll pass. I am being ‘good’ today.

I am so bad…been so busy I haven’t made it to the gym.

We get health advice, fitness tips and beauty standards from: family, friends, coworkers, coaches, T.V, magazines, boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, doctors, books, internet, newspapers, billboards, and even music lyrics. That is just about every area of our waking life. Makes me want to take a nap.

Of all the messages where are the ones about loving your body regardless of the shape it takes because really what is normal shape anyway?

Or the ones about how many smiles you can achieve from a delicious dinner with friends and the pleasantly satiated feeling you go home with?

Or the ones about how much fun being outside and working up a sweat can be without all the details on how many calories your burning?

Today forget about all the rules, regulations, and constrictions that all these messages place on you.

Today rebel.

Raise up and do something abnormal. Eat the whole piece of came if your hungry for it and its delicious. Compliment one of your friends on a quality they posses that makes them beautiful. Run as fast as you can with your dog across a field or roll around giggling with your son or daughter. Indulge your partner with kindness that they would feel is out of the ordinary. Instead of going for a run, go for a long walk with a friend.

Revel in rebellion!

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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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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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