Posts tagged: body image

Embracing Life TODAY (or, “I Should Have Gone To That Pool Party”)

By Katie, 11:48 am

An old friend of mine from school had a nice, big pool in her backyard, and occasionally she’d throw these amazing pool parties. Well, at least I think they were amazing…I never actually went to one of them. :-?

You see, every time my friend would invite me, I’d make up some excuse for why I couldn’t make it. I’d then make a deal with myself: once I lost the obligatory ten pounds, I could go and enjoy myself at a pool party.

Sad, isn’t it? :-( But how many of us are still putting off our lives until we reach a certain weight?

I was really touched by Heather’s recent post in which – upon realizing she’s been subconsciously waiting to live her life until fitting into a certain size – she vowed to begin living her life to the fullest…TODAY.

It reminded me of a book that I highly recommend: Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds From Now, by Jessica Weiner.

When I first decided to ditch the dieting mentality, I knew I needed to stop letting my obsessions with food and weight hold me back from living the life I wanted, the life I was meant to live. But when you’ve spent so much of your life thus far neck-deep in bad body-image thoughts, it’s a little difficult to snap your fingers and banish them from your brain.

This might sound a little morbid, but honestly, here is how I rationalized it to myself:

If my life ended tomorrow, would I have wanted to spend my final day…

  • agonizing over a slice of chocolate cake? (with peanut butter icing, thank you very much!) NO!
  • feeling physically uncomfortable from emotionally stuffing my stomach with baked goods? NO!
  • feeling drained and fatigued because I’m lacking vital vitamins and nutrients from fruits and veggies? NO!
  • exhausted from spending way too long at the gym, trying to purge my body of the candy I feel guilty for eating? NO!
  • feeling sluggish and lethargic from a lack of exercise, from denying my body the movement it craves? NO!

I guess my point is this: From a healthy living standpoint, living life to the fullest essentially means taking a balanced, moderate approach to food and exercise.

And it means that life has a whole lot to offer us…right now. Not a month from now or a year from now. Not ten pounds from now or two sizes from now. RIGHT NOW. Regardless of what your body looks like today or what you did or did not eat yesterday, there is a world of possibility out there, just waiting for you to reach out and grab it! :-D

Have you ever put off doing something until you reached a certain weight or size? Are you ready to embrace all that life has in store for you…right now?

Friends Don’t Let Friends Fat Talk

By Katie, 10:37 am

“I hate my thunder thighs.”

“I can’t eat that – it’s so fattening!”

“I could never pull off that outfit – I’m way too fat!”

Perhaps you’ve heard women make statements like these. Perhaps you’ve even made them yourself. I sure have. :-(

These kinds of comments are often called “Fat Talk.” Instead of learning to love and respect our bodies for all that they do for us, we tear our bodies – and ourselves – down with cruelty and negativity.

A lot of attention has been given to how we women can stop fat talking. There’s even an official “Fat Talk Free Week” in October.

So I don’t want to talk about what to do when you find yourself fat talking. I want to talk about what to do when you hear a friend doing it.

Cara left this comment a few days ago, and it really stuck with me:

“It makes me sad now when I hear other women constantly bashing themselves, but it can be so tricky to step in and try to help. Still trying to figure out the best ways to do that.”

Why is it so difficult for us to step in when a friend fat talks? Because fat talking with other women is about more than just putting ourselves down; it’s about bonding.

(Source)

Yes, that’s right – we ladies actually bond over bashing our bodies. There’s even some science behind it: researchers at Appalachian State University conducted a study that revealed that women feel genuine pressure to say negative things about their bodies when they’re surrounded by other women doing the same.

When you think about it, it’s a little sad, don’t you think? We grow closer and more connected by ripping at our own fragile self-esteem. We “fit in” with our peers by calling our bodies cruel names. Sometimes it seems that fat talking has become the norm or the standard; we feel out of place when we don’t do it! 8-O

I say that it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some potential strategies we can try…I’d love to get some more suggestions!

1. Don’t join in just because it’s the norm. Even if every other woman in the room is bemoaning the state of her body, try to resist the urge to bash your own.

2. Accept compliments graciously. This one is tough for me. If someone says, “your hair looks great today!” I have difficulty just saying thank you. Instead I say, “Oh, no, it’s a mess!” or something like that. :-(

3. If you’re comfortable, express why you’re choosing not to engage in fat talk. This might only be possible in certain circumstances or with certain people. But I’m sure that as soon as you mention the phrase “fat talk,” every woman will know what you’re talking about. We’ve all heard it, done it, or both. Who knows, maybe your friend will be relieved to let go of all that negativity.

4. Keep the focus on you. I wouldn’t say, “YOU need to stop fat talking.” Rather, I’d say, “I’M choosing not to bash my body anymore, and rejecting that kind of language has helped to increase my confidence and self-esteem.” Who can argue with that? :-D

5. Fake it ’til you make it. It can be hard to stop fat talking when you really do feel uncomfortable with your body. It can take a lot of time and effort to rid yourself of those feelings (perhaps a subject for a different post). But just because you feel it doesn’t mean you have to express it aloud; calling yourself names isn’t going to make those feelings go away. By refusing to fat talk, you can almost “fake” body confidence until it’s a reality!

Do your friends ever bond over fat talking? Do you think they’d be open to stopping?

Warning: This Image Has Been Airbrushed

By Katie, 12:01 pm

Perhaps you’ve seen this advertisement from Ralph Lauren, in which the image of a perfectly healthy model has been drastically distorted.

(Source)

Or maybe you heard about the controversy over Self magazine’s cover image of Kelly Clarkson, which the editors admit to altering significantly via Photoshop.

(Source)

And you might have come across this inspiring video from Dove, which visually illustrates the elaborate process of transforming the “raw material” of a model into a suitable billboard ad.

We are surrounded by images of women that have been airbrushed and Photo-shopped and altered like crazy to reflect the media’s definition of perfection. But is there anything to be done about it?

On Tuesday, the UK’s main professional organization for psychiatrists called for a code of ethics to be created to hold the media accountable for the types of messages it sends. The organization also called for a symbol to be placed on images that have been airbrushed, in the hopes of raising awareness that such images do not reflect “reality.”

One of the doctors calling for these changes said:

“Eating disorders…are serious mental illnesses. Although biological and genetic factors play an important role in the development of these disorders, psychological and social factors are also significant.”

The editor of a best-selling teen magazine in the UK countered the psychiatrists’ proposal by calling it impractical; where do you draw the line? She argues that almost all images are digitally enhanced in some way, usually to brighten the colors or improve the clarity. How do you determine which images require the symbol?

I think it’s an interesting debate. As someone who has struggled with disordered eating, I know how powerful media images can be; for a long time I had to avoid women’s magazines completely. On the other hand, we cannot claim that magazines and advertisements cause eating disorders, or else everyone would have one!

What do you think? Should images that have been significantly altered be required to carry a symbol indicating so? Should the media follow a “code of ethics” in its portrayal of women’s bodies?

(Sources: The Independent, Feministing, and Medical News Today)

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

By Katie, 2:33 pm

1 in 5 women struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating.

90% of those who have an eating disorder are women between the ages of 12 and 25.

51% of 9 and 10-year-old girls say they feel better about themselves if they are on a diet.

42% of 1st-3rd grade girls say they want to be thinner.

(Source: The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness)

Those are some frightening statistics.

February 21-27 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

The theme for the week is “It’s Time to Talk About It,” and I couldn’t agree more. While most people are familiar with the terms “anorexia” and “bulimia,” many are unaware of the complexities of these illnesses. And there is still a major stigma associated with eating disorders that prevents many from getting the help that they need.

The issue is one that is close to my heart. Although I was never officially diagnosed with an eating disorder, I have suffered greatly from disordered eating thoughts and behaviors.

(Source)

In May 2008, Self magazine reported that more than 6 in 10 women are disordered eaters. While these women may not starve themselves to an unnaturally low weight, or purge food on a regular basis, they do have an unhealthy relationship with food and their bodies, one that disrupts their ability to live their lives to the fullest.

Some symptoms of disordered eating:

  • feeling terrified of gaining weight
  • obsessively thinking about food and weight
  • seeing foods as either “good” or “bad,” and feeling extremely guilty for eating anything on the “bad” side
  • eating indulgent foods in secret
  • constantly “feeling fat” and/or engaging in “fat talk”
  • constant yo-yo dieting, or living in cycles of dieting/binge eating
  • eating to soothe stress or other difficult emotions
  • exercising obsessively for the sole purpose of weight loss, feeling devastated when a workout is missed
  • stepping on the scale daily, and feeling good or bad about oneself based on that number

Full disclosure: At one time or another, I have experienced every one of those symptoms. The scariest thing is that no one ever thought such behaviors were abnormal or unhealthy; our society tells us that being obsessed with food and weight is completely natural and normal for women.

I’m hoping that by sharing this information – and by openly discussing my own struggles – that others out there who are struggling either with an eating disorder or with disordered eating thoughts and behaviors will know that you don’t have to live your life obsessing over food and weight.

Here are some RESOURCES you can use if you want more information.

- Think you might have an eating disorder? Take this Eating Disorder Assessment.

- Think you might be at risk for disordered eating? Take this Disordered Eating Quiz.

- Want general information on anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating, and/or disordered eating? Check out the National Eating Disorders Association and the Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders.

- Check out this helpful Tip Sheet on disordered eating.

As I’ve said before, I am not an expert on eating disorders or disordered eating; I am just someone who has struggled through these issues, emerging stronger and healthier (although I do still struggle on occasion – I’m not perfect by any means!). While I cannot provide medical advice or expertise, feel free to contact me if you’re looking to get help but are unsure where to begin.

Did the statistics on eating disorders/disordered eating shock you? Or are you not surprised? Do you feel that our society treats women’s obsessions with food and weight as “natural” or “normal”?

Size Healthy Contest!

By Katie, 8:28 pm

When I was in the depths of my disordered eating, I was obsessed with numbers.

The number on the scale, the number of calories I ate, the number of calories I burned, and the number on the tag of my jeans.

I knew that in order to free myself from my food and weight obsessions, I needed to let go of all numbers. One of the most liberating actions I took to break free from my disordered eating was to cut the tags out of my clothes. If I couldn’t see the number, then I couldn’t judge myself based on it.

Now, if I ever find myself wondering about my size or my weight, I tell myself: You are a size strong. You are a size fit. You are a size happy. You are a size healthy.

I am very excited to share that the lovely Angela at Oh She Glows is featuring a “Size Healthy Contest.” She’s challenging all of us to take a permanent marker and write “size healthy” on our clothing tags. By emailing her a photograph of your efforts, you’ll be entered to win Glo Bars from her bakery! Check out her post for all of the details! :-D

And remember…your beauty, your happiness, and your health will never depend on a number.

Do you think our society places too much emphasis on numbers? Have you ever felt pressure (either from yourself or from others) to reach a certain number in terms of size or weight?

Parents, Children, and Comments about Weight

By Katie, 2:18 pm

I have a very distinct memory from when I was probably 15 years old. An adult whom I loved and admired told me – very casually – that I looked like I had put on a few pounds.

The statement was made nonchalantly and informally; the person was definitely not trying to offend me or express any grave concerns about the state of my health. In fact, she probably forgot all about it two minutes after she said it.

But I didn’t forget. I couldn’t.

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about what adults – particularly parents – should and should not say when it comes to their children’s weight. The buzz was sparked when Michelle Obama unveiled her new “Let’s Move” campaign to help fight childhood obesity (a campaign I whole-heartedly support). In an effort to personalize her message, the First Lady shared a story about when her family’s doctor warned her that her daughters were becoming overweight. Mrs. Obama said the doctor “cautioned me that I had to look at my children’s BMI…He was concerned that something was getting off-balance.” (Source)

(Source)

This isn’t the first time the Obamas have openly discussed their daughters’ weights. In November 2008, Barack Obama said in an interview that the family was looking to change its habits because Malia, 11, had become “a little chubby.” (Source)

My heart sank a little just typing that out.

Why? Because I know that many young girls and women are extremely sensitive – as I was – to comments about their weight or physical appearance. Especially coming from adults – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, mentors – we love and respect, whose approval we desperately want. Knowing how affected I was by an off-hand remark heard by no ears but my own, I simply cannot imagine how I would feel if my parents discussed my weight or appearance in such a public way.

Perhaps it isn’t a big deal for the Obama girls. Perhaps they are somehow immune from the pressures of our weight-obsessed society. But perhaps they are not.

For the record, I very much admire Michelle Obama’s campaign. I also respect the fact that she’s shared how she handled her daughters’ “weight problems” – by replacing processed foods with whole fruits and veggies,  switching to low-fat dairy products, cutting out sugary drinks, and encouraging more movement and less television.

(Source)

Also, for the record, I do think that the health and well-being of children is extremely important. I don’t mean to imply that parents should compromise their children’s health for fear of hurting their feelings.

But if my experience is at all typical, then parents and other adults should remember that those comments can sting. They can damage self-esteems that are already fragile. They can remain forever imprinted on our memories.

My mom had her share of weight struggles, but she never imposed them on me. Even when my weight was going up and down and up and down, she never told me I was anything but a beautiful, amazing young woman. In fact, when my doctor first told me I could stand to lose a few pounds, I was the one who blindly obeyed, while my mom was the one who stood up for me.

At the time I didn’t realize she was doing anything inspiring. I didn’t know that I would eventually look back and so greatly appreciate that I never had to question her acceptance of me. If I have a daughter, I hope she someday feels the same way.

Do you think parents should comment on their children’s weight? Is there a right way to do so? A wrong way?

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