Why Media Matters

By Katie, 5:18 am

Do you remember when I posted this advertisement last week?

Many of you expressed anger and frustration, but one commenter said, very respectfully, that he didn’t see what the big deal is:

“I guess I’m in the minority here because I don’t really see the big deal![...] It got your attention, therefore it works. mission accomplished! I think we need to talk about these things LESS, because that is the only way to lessen their impact. If you laugh something off then it means it’s not important to you or doesn’t bother you[...] Just laugh at it! [...] You shouldn’t let some cheesy press-release bother you. Whoever wrote that was paid to come up with some stupid line about the product[...]  I think it’s time that women stopped getting so offended over every little thing.”

Of course I respectfully replied, but the whole thing made me realize that I’ve never come out and explained why talking about advertisements and other media campaigns is so important to me.

Why I Talk About the Media So Much

The way I see it, the media serves two functions: 1) to reflect our cultural attitudes and perspectives, and 2) to shape our cultural attitudes and perspectives. In other words, the media is holding up a mirror to us as we already are, while simultaneously actively affecting what we see in that mirror.

Regarding point 1: while the goal of marketing is, yes, to get our attention, I think it goes beyond that. Good advertisers are also trying to tap into some deeper place within us, a place we often don’t access ourselves – our dreams and desires buried deep in the core. So when I see so much emphasis on being skinny, to me that says that someone out there who’s done a lot of analysis on my culture has deemed thinness to be one of our primary objectives. Not surprisingly, I have a problem with that.

Regarding point 2: I truly believe that the media shapes us on an almost subconscious level. If we see something enough – say, if we’re bombarded with images of women of a certain size and shape – eventually that image becomes the norm in our minds. If we’re told enough times that we’re not good enough as is, eventually we might just start to believe it.

So yes, if you walked up to a stranger in the mall and asked whether he/she believes that women have to be skinny in order to be beautiful, that person would probably say no. And yet, on a more subconscious level, how many of us have lived or are living our lives as if that’s the case? We may not think it outright, but our lives reflect it.


How To Handle the Onslaught

It’s also worth mentioning that there is a fine line when it comes to media consumption; we all have to figure out what we need to consume in order to challenge it, and what we need to avoid for our own well-being.

For example, I choose not to purchase certain “healthy living” magazines because I find the emphasis on weight loss and calorie counting to be triggering. That’s my decision for myself. Yet I do not choose to avoid the media completely – indeed, I give a fair amount of attention to certain ads and such on this blog – because that is my way of taking a stand.

The media isn’t going anywhere. And if it really is both reflecting and shaping our culture, then I think it’s worthwhile to try to make it more positive. When I post ads or media campaigns here, my goal is to try to present an alternative attitude, a different perspective that does not automatically assoicate skinny with beautiful. I do so in the belief that that perspective will eventually become normalized, at least in the hearts and minds of some people. Because we’re bombarded with so much evidence to the contrary, I feel it’s only right to keep coming back – again and again – to say no, there is a different way to look at things, there is a different way to live.


So while on the one hand, I understand the view that it is just an ad or just a television show, I also think that that’s oversimplifying a very powerful force in our culture. When we look at that force as a whole, I believe the media does, indeed, matter.

What do you think? Is it worthwhile to post, analyze, and (when necessary) criticize elements of the media?  

Warm Balsamic Bean Salad

By Katie, 5:09 am

Don’t forget to send me your feline footage by Sunday!

What’s the best way to reduce your grocery bill? Use more BEANS!

What’s the best way to make a hearty, protein-rich meal without meat? Use more BEANS!

Despite the gas factor, these little guys pack a powerful punch! :-)

We eat a bean-based, meatless dinner at least three times per week in my household. Because, as mentioned above, it’s cheaper while still being healthy and satisfying. Most of the time those dishes take on a Southwestern/Mexican flair, so I was looking for something a bit different.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Mexican food – obviously, obviously, obviously – but three times per week may be a bit much. This Warm Balsamic Bean Salad is a perfect alternative! It’s extremely filling; serve it with a side of veggies and a baked potato or a piece of crusty bread, and you’re good to go!

Warm Balsamic Bean Salad
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4-6

1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can green beans, drained and rinsed (could substitute frozen green beans, thawed)
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
juice from 1/2 lemon
sea salt to taste
10 sprigs fresh thyme (or a few shakes of dried)

1. Combine all the beans (chickpeas, pinto, black, and green) in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low until the beans are heated through.

2. Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice. Add to the beans, stirring carefully. Add salt to taste.

3. Remove the leaves from the fresh thyme by running your fingers up each sprig. Add to the beans, stirring carefully. Serve garnished with toasted almonds.

What’s your favorite kind of bean?

Finding Pleasure in the Everyday

By Katie, 5:53 am

While sometimes I have really great days and sometimes I have really bad days, most days reside somewhere in the middle…they’re just ordinary.

Yet the way I experience those ordinary days can be vastly different. Sometimes they seem so boring, so routine, while other days I am able to find great pleasure and joy in the same customary activities. In honor of this month’s Self-Discovery Word by Word series – which is featuring the word pleasure – I’ve taken some time to ask myself just why that is.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that the biggest difference is that some days I’m totally on auto-pilot and other days I’m actually paying attention. I find I get the most pleasure out of the ordinary when I approach it with an attitude of mindfulness, with a willingness to observe and engage with all of my senses.

For example, last month there were two days in my life that were almost identical, and yet one was a pain in the butt while the other was purely pleasurable.

Day #1 – Pain in the Butt

Breakfast: Yogurt with granola and a banana, plus a glass of juice, shoveled into my mouth as I perused the newspaper.

Drive to/from Work: 30 minutes felt like twice that, as I stressed over having to stop at every red light.

Afternoon Walk: Felt mentally bored and frustrated, sick of the listening to the same old songs on my iPod.

Evening Routine: Sat down to relax and watch television, but ended up just flipping through the channels for 30 minutes because nothing could keep my attention.

Day #2 – Pure Pleasure

Breakfast: Yogurt with granola and a banana, plus a glass of juice, savored slowly as I prepared to approach the day. Noticed how much I loved the sweet crunchy texture of the granola against the creaminess of the yogurt.

Drive to/from Work: Used red lights as an opportunity to take some deep, calming breaths, counting to 5 on the inhale and 5 on the exhale.

Afternoon Walk: Skipped the iPod and walked outdoors. Took note of the faint babbling of the nearby creek, and watched several birds fly by overhead. Appreciated the coolness of the fresh air on my cheeks.

Evening Routine: Checked the guide and found a show that I actually enjoy. Watched intently for 30 minutes, then felt tired enough to go to bed. Fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.


When I look at it like that, the difference is quite apparent. Taking pleasure in the ordinary requires mindfulness; it requires taking the car off cruise control and actually paying attention. Tuning into my senses and remaining fully present in my life is what turns the everyday into something to be savored and cherished, rather than something to be chugged through. It’s what can bring pleasure to the simplicity of each and every day.

What’s one ordinary activity that you might find more pleasurable if you turned off auto-pilot and started paying attention?

This post is part of the Self-Discovery Word by Word series, this month hosted by the lovely Joy Tanksley. Check out her blog for details on how you can participate too!

Calling All Cat Lovers!

By Katie, 6:34 pm

A few weeks ago when I posted an inordinate amount of photos of my cats, I discovered that many of you are cat lovers as well! And now I need your help!!!

I’m planning a cute little project for the blog which requires video footage of your lovely kitties just being themselves – napping, chasing a string, being all cute and cuddly, anything!

So in the next few days, I’m hoping you’ll take a few moments to videotape your furry friends (it doesn’t have to be much, maybe 30 seconds or so) and send the file to me at katie@healthforthewholeself.com. Please also share the name of your kitty!

I don’t want to divulge the details of the project because I want it to be a surprise, but if you’re at all concerned just send me an e-mail and we can talk about it. I promise it’s just for an adorable, silly project I’ve dreamt up. Of course, who knows? It could always go viral and your cat could become famous. ;-)

Please send me your furry footage by this Sunday, February 20! The more I get, the more fun the project will be!


Will You Be My Valentine?

By Katie, 5:51 am

This year I’m taking a slightly different approach to Valentine’s Day.


This holiday is all about telling the special people in your life how much you love them, right? So today I’m going to spend some time telling YOU how loved you are!!!

♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥

Top Five Reasons I Love My Blog Readers

1. You’re Helpful.

Whether it’s advice on what to pack for lunch, or suggestions for recipes, or tips on how to sneak some extra movement into my 9-to-5 desk job, you all are always willing to offer useful recommendations that have made my life that much better.

2. You’re Supportive.

Sometimes people who know me outside of the blog world express surprise that I’m willing to be so open here on Health for the Whole Self. But the truth is that I feel 100% comfortable writing about topics like my former obsession with calorie-counting and my high school insecurities because whenever I do that, you all shower me with support and encouragement. It’s amazing, really.

3. You’re So Stinkin’ Smart.

I love writing about controversial topics – like the fine line between accountability and shaming and the role of fast food marketing – because your responses to those posts are always so intelligent and thoughtful. You share your personal experiences, you give related examples, and/or you challenge me to see the issue from a different angle. I absolutely love it!

4. You Make Me Laugh.

I never hesitate to let my goofy side show because you all respond with your own humor and silliness! Spoofed holiday jingles, anyone?

5. You Make It All Worthwhile.

Whether you comment or not, whether you read every word or simply skim, whether you read once a week or once a month, please know that you are so, so appreciated. I put a lot of time and energy into this blog, not just because the experience of writing and sharing brings me great joy, but also because someone out there keeps coming back to read more. That means the world to me.

♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥

In sum: I LOVE YOU!!! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Who are you lovin’ today?

Moment of Zen: National Anthem Edition

By Katie, 5:05 am

Every time I think of this I can’t help but shake my head and sigh…oh, and then chuckle. :lol:


Happy Sunday!

Really, PepsiCo?

By Katie, 5:48 am

I want to write something pointed and articulate about this, but I’m too busy ripping my hair out in frustration…

You can check out the press release, in which the company states that the new can is “in celebration of beautiful, confident women.” The Chief of Marketing says, “ Our slim, attractive new can is the perfect complement to today’s most stylish looks.” :roll:

I am so over the whole skinny = beautiful thing. You too?

My Teenage Yo-Yo Dieting

By Katie, 5:58 am

I am no stranger to yo-yo dieting. You know the cycle: diet until you’ve lost a lot of weight, go crazy from the deprivation and overeat, gain all the weight back, then begin the cycle again. But after reading this Review from the Manly Zone, I found a great weight loss supplement that helps you keep the weight off. Most of the time you don’t come full circle for a few months, or even years. But when I was a teenager, I could go from beginning to end in as little as seven days.

And that’s because Friday nights were boyfriend night.

I was head over heels for my high school boyfriend. Almost every Friday night I’d go over to his house to watch television, and of course a little kissing session would ensue. One time he put his hand on my waist, and I was immediately consumed with shame because I was certain he had felt a pudgy roll. At that moment my all-consuming goal became to ensure my entire body was roll-free. READ: My all-consuming goal was to ensure my boyfriend was pleased with my body.

And so it began. The next morning I began my pudge-eliminating diet, which involved outrageous amounts of water and meal replacement bars that I would eat as slowly as possible. Throw in two-a-day sweat sessions – with an emphasis on cardio – and by the end of the week my body was indeed feeling a bit leaner, albeit exhausted.

The next Friday night came around, and suddenly I was proud of my waist instead of ashamed of it. I couldn’t wait for my boyfriend to notice the difference (not surprisingly, he didn’t). The regular kissing occurred, and he drove me home around 10:45 (just before our 11:00 p.m. curfew).

I walked into my kitchen and, realizing my entire family was already asleep, I felt myself morph into a famished monster. Every morsel of food I had denied myself throughout the week, plus a few extra, made its way into my mouth in under an hour. I relished in my impulses, rejoiced in the relinquishing of control. Only because I knew I had a full week to whip myself back into shape.

And so it went. For months, my life was defined by under-eating and over-exercising Saturday through Friday, time spent with the boyfriend Friday night, followed by an all-out binge when I got home. The cycle just went on and on.

All because I wanted to be good enough – pretty enough, thin enough, whatever – for that boyfriend I loved so much.


Obviously I was a very scared 16-year-old: scared of being rejected, of being deserted, of being left all alone. At the time I couldn’t have articulated it, but hindsight is 20/20. Clinging to my yo-yo dieting cycle was a way of clinging to my boyfriend, which in turn was a way of clinging to the sense of acceptance and security I so desperately wanted. With every pound I lost between Saturday and Friday, and every bite I took on Friday night, I was basically crying out, “Don’t leave me!” 

But like I said, I didn’t know it yet. All I knew was that I hated my body and felt it needed to be punished and controlled as much as possible in order to be appealing to the opposite sex. Fortunately, I started to unravel those sentiments in my college years, eventually coming to understand how my body-image issues were symptoms of greater fears and frustrations. Dealing with those issues has allowed me to make peace with my body. I no longer rely on another person’s approval, on another person confirming that I am indeed enough; that confidence is generated from within.

(Note: Later discussions with that boyfriend revealed that not once had he been disgusted with my body…surprise surprise!)

I share this story because being a teenage girl is downright hard. There are so many people to please, and so little encouragement to stop caring about what those people think. Any talk of self-acceptance is often overshadowed by messages of being the right weight, wearing the right make-up, and having the right wardrobe. In my case, I wanted to be accepted so badly that I was blind to the consequences of making that happen. I was blind to the fact that it would become a decade-long struggle to develop a healthy relationship with food and with myself.

I share this story so that others might not be blind as well.

This post is part of Medicinal Marzipan’s Teen Week, a collection of blog posts reflecting on the struggles and victories of our teenage years.

Did you struggle to feel accepted as a teenager?


If you are a teenager, what kinds of issues and struggles are you facing now?

Help Me Pack My Lunch!

By Katie, 5:11 am

Remember when I said my food fixations sometimes turn into food ruts?

Yeah, I’m in a food rut. :-?

More specifically, I’m in a lunch rut. When I was a graduate student – with most of my classes and obligations in the evening – I was very creative with my lunches. It’s easy to be that way when you’re at home. But now I pack my lunch and bring it to work every. single. day. And it’s getting a tad bit boring.

For my main item, I usually go with one of three choices:

Leftovers (usually 1-2 times per week)

Loved the leftovers of this Baked Ziti!

PB & J (usually 1 time per week)

Canned Soup (usually 2-3 times per week  – I know!!! 8-O )


For my sides, I usually have three items:

Either a piece of fruit or some raw veggies



Some chips or crackers


 And a little something sweet (like a Banana Nut Muffin Cookie!)

I definitely need some new ideas, and that’s where you come in!


I’m looking for ideas for any/all of the items: main dish and side items.

The qualifications:

  • Fast and easy to pack OR
  • Can be prepared in bulk the weekend before
  • Balanced – I feel most satisfied with a variety of food groups.
  • Hearty – I don’t want to feel hungry again in an hour or two.
  • Inexpensive – I am pinching my pennies here!
  • Delicious, of course!

Note: I do have a refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven in my work kitchen, which certainly helps!

Please help me! What do you suggest I put in my brown bag sustainable canvas lunch bag?

Reality Check! Ten Common Cognitive Distortions

By Katie, 5:20 am

My journey to improve my relationship with food and my body has helped me realize that some of the stuff my brain cooks up is downright outrageous. 8-O

I’m talking about the part of my brain that decides I shouldn’t go to that party because my jeans are too tight, or that I have to go to the gym twice because I had a larger dessert. Does that voice ever talk to you?

On a bad day, I buy into those thoughts. On a good day, I ignore them. And on a GREAT day, I challenge them.


Here are some of the common ”cognitive disortions” I’m talking about (adapted from this handbook), along with personal examples I’ve wrestled with and some thoughts I’ve used to fight back.

Ten Common Cognitive Distortions (plus some good retorts!)

1. All-or-Nothing Thinking

EXAMPLE: “I planned to eat two cookies, but instead I ate four…in other words, I’ve blown it. I might as well finish off the entire sleeve.”

RETORT: “Yes, I ate more cookies than I wanted to, and now I feel a little uncomfortable. But there’s no reason to add to my discomfort by eating more. Besides, a few extra cookies is really no big deal!”

2. Over-generalization

EXAMPLE: “This week has been majorly stressful, and I binged on ice cream to deal with it. Ughhhhhhh! I will always be an emotional over-eater!”

RETORT: “This week has been majorly stressful, and I didn’t use the best coping strategies to manage it. But now I can learn from this situation so that I am better able to handle it next time around.”

3. Dwelling on the Negative

EXAMPLE: “Holy cow, this blemish is crazy big and ugly. When someone looks at me, that is all they are going to see, and they will think I’m just plain gross.”

RETORT: “Sure, that blemish isn’t the most attractive thing in the world. But I probably notice it way more than anyone else. They probably won’t even think twice about it.”

4. Disqualifying the Positive

EXAMPLE: “Even though today I chose healthy foods and got in some moderate exercise, it doesn’t really count because yesterday I did the opposite.”

RETORT: “Yesterday is in the past. Today I took care of myself, and I deserve to be proud of that!”

5. Jumping to Conclusions

EXAMPLE: “That girl I met last night? The one I thought was a potential new friend? Yeah, she doesn’t like me. I can just tell.”

RETORT: “That thought is a judgment, not a fact. Besides, how can someone truly like or dislike me after one meeting?”

6. Magnification of a Single Episode

EXAMPLE: “I was ten minutes late to work today. NOOOOOOOOO!!!! My boss probably thinks I’m totally irresponsible.”

RETORT: “What about the other dozens of days I’ve been on time, or even early? One late day does not irresponsible make.”

7. Emotional Mind

EXAMPLE: “Because I feel fat and ugly, I am fat and ugly.”

RETORT: “Well first, fat isn’t really a feeling. And second, just because I feel or think something doesn’t mean it’s a set-in-stone reality.”

8. Should Thoughts

EXAMPLE: “I should go running even though I’m tired and sore because if I don’t I will have gone two days without exercising!”

RETORT: “Obsessing about what I should do isn’t helpful or productive. Instead, I will pay attention to my body and react to its cues accordingly.”

9. Name-Calling

EXAMPLE: “I made a silly mistake while cooking and now dinner is ruined! I am such an idiot!” (Note: This just happened yesterday! :-? )

RETORT: “It’s true that dinner is pretty unedible. But mistakes happen to everyone, not to mention I was tired and rushing around. This little mishap says nothing about me or my intelligence!”

10. Personalization

EXAMPLE: “Wow, Dave seems pretty upset. It must be me. I must have said something to frustrate or annoy him.” (I told you these were real-life examples!)

RETORT: “How about I ask Dave what’s wrong so that we can talk about it? For all I know it has nothing to do with me.” (Turns out he had a headache!)


Granted, the way I’ve laid these out might seem too obvious; our thought-process is often much more subtle. But still, these cognitive distortions are traps that a lot of us fall into, usually without even realizing it. Simply increasing my awareness has allowed me to challenge and replace these distortions with more level-headed thoughts, which does wonders for my body image and relationship with food. Sometimes all I need is that little reality check!

Have you encountered any of these cognitive distortions? How do you challenge those thoughts?

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