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Posts Tagged ‘global issues’

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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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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The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.

We have wrinkles, freckles, sunspots, stretchmarks, and spider veins. We have curly, wavy, kinky and straight hair that is brown, blond, red, black, and gasp!… grey. We have white, pinkish, brown, yellow, red, and black skin. We are short, medium, and tall. We have bubble butts and flat asses. We all have curves in different places. We are all shapes.

Yet you see people trying to tan their lighter skin darker. We airbrush dark skin lighter. We spend a fortune on highlights, foils, and dyes. We have a $40 billion plus diet industry, a $20 billion cosmetic, and a $12 billion cosmetic procedure industry (both surgical and nonsurgical.)

We just never seem satisfied with the bodies that we have. We are constantly trying to lose a pound, workout more, or save money for products that smooth, define, or promise miracles in a bottle. What about self-acceptance? What about encouraging all people to love their organic beautiful selves?

We have one life to live and one body to live it in so we mind as well learn how to love it.

So let’s appreciate our bodies and each others bodies. Let’s celebrate all the colors, shapes, and textures that make up this beautiful world we live in!

I found the article below by Debra J. Dickerson. She is a political activist and author of The End Of Blackness. Her work appears in The New Republic, The Washington Post, Talk, Slate, Salon, Essence, and Vibe, and has been featured in Best American Essays. She has also won the New York Association of Black Journalists’ first-place award for personal commentary.

Black (and Brown) Can Only Be Just So Beautiful

Kim Kardashian got airbrushed lighter, smoother, and thinner for a photo shoot. Happens every day in Hollywood, I know. I don’t know if she was in on it, but I know I wasn’t when it happened to me.

A while back, my hairdresser asked me to be photographed for a black hair magazine. Trust me: we sisters LUV those things. I was beyond psyched. Until I saw the photos. I threw the magazine away in disgust, so I can’t show it to you, but they’d airbrushed me at least five shades lighter and gave me gray eyes. Gray!

This was a totally black-run operation. They wanted my kinky hair (checks my twists on this page), but not my actual blackness. How pathetic.

When I first started doing TV, the makeup chicks (I’ve rarely had a non-white one) would cagily, carefully, ask me questions about what kind of foundation I wanted. “Whatever matches…?” Were these trick questions?

I figured there was something special about being made up for TV that a newbie like me just wasn’t hip to. Finally, when they figured out that I wasn’t going to go off, they told me that often blacks wanted to be made as light as possible. You’d be amazed at some of the names, but I ain’t going there.

Pathetic.

Here’s the Kim Kardashian:

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Thank you so much to those of you who have responded to the survey. The responses have been incredibly thoughtful and super interesting. Thank you for sharing your experiences, ideas, and feelings on topics that you might not feel totally comfortable talking about. I deeply appreciate the time and energy you have put into your answers.

I have had several requests to trace the survey responses on a map (fabulous idea to those of you that requested it!) There is now a map located in the right sidebar that displays all the different cities the survey responses have come from. Click to expand it. The cities stretch across the globe… Awesome!

For those of you that left your email at the end of the survey… I have not forgotten about you! I would love to talk with you further if you are still interested. However, first I need to finish designing interview questions based on the chapters of my book.

Feel free to make comments on the blog posts as well! I am hoping to use responses from both the surveys and blog for research and to generate ideas for pieces in my book. I am also continuing to collect surveys. So, please keep spreadin’ the word. This book project would not be progressing if it was not for your help.

Gratitude.

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