RheasOfHope

one girl's thoughts on life, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, and hope.

When you’re inundated with body shame March 31, 2017

no wrong way

Two images stare back at me from my computer. The one on the left portrays a sad, frumpy larger version of the person—so sorrowful you can almost hear Sarah McLachlan in the background. The one on the right displays a happy, half-naked thinner version–who most certainly has an amazing life and personal jet by now. These images typically have many exasperating hashtags, list the number of pounds lost/goal weight, and describe how much they hate the person on the left. I don’t even know this person, and yet I’ve fallen victim to their expertly- curated Facebook life and their thin-ideal proselytism. These images awaken the demon of insecurity that lives deep within us, and stirs the spirit of body-shame.

These before and after transformation photos are meant to sharply juxtapose the fat, unhealthy version of that person with the thin, happy version. These photos prey on our insecurities, and desire to fit into the cultural thin-ideal. This pervasive thin-ideal convinces us that—when we attain the perfect body—we will gain health, wealth, love, and happiness. It impresses upon us the idea that the thinner body is a “good body” and the larger body is a “bad body”—and, through the transitive property of equality in mathematics, the person living in the “bad body” must also be “bad.” When presented with these transformation photos that perpetuate the thin-ideal, the culture of body-shaming and normalization of self-hatred is perpetuated ad nauseam. This perpetuation has a cost, however, and that cost is self-destruction, self-condemnation, and devaluation of those of us who do not fit the ideal.

Society criminalizes and fears fat at the same time—leading fat to become the last socially-acceptable form of discrimination. The prevalence of weight-based discrimination has increased 66% from 1995 to 2006 (NEDA). This is likely why 42% of girls in first through third grade want to be thinner (NEDA), and 81% of ten-year-olds have a fear of being fat (NEDA). This is also likely why the dieting industry rakes in $64 BILLION annually—outearning the wedding industry and the baby product industry. Society conditions us to second-guess any of the confidence we’ve developed about our bodies and question how someone—with our less-than-perfect body—can be accepted looking the hideous the way we do. How much we weigh, eat, exercise, etc. is nobody’s business but our own. Our bodies belong to us—not to social media, not your friends or family, not your doctor, no one. The phrase “Compare and despair” comes to mind—thank you Jenni Schaefer.

Here are the facts: THERE IS NO “PERFECT” BODY and YOUR BODY ISN’T SOMETHING TO BE “FIXED.” Contrary to what society shoves down our throat every minute of every day, there is no perfect body. Have you seen the lineup of female Olympic athletes from the various events throughout the years? Each of them represent the peak performance level of their sport, and yet every single one of them has a different body size and shape than the woman standing next to them. Not to be outdone, men from various nations recreated a similar photo. Health, like our bodies, comes in all shapes and sizes. Thin does not always represent a healthful body, just as fat does not always represent an unhealthful body. Health cannot be measured on a scale or through the flawed mathematics of body mass index.  While weight can certainly be an aspect of health, it is not a sole indicator. Health is also measured through mental and emotional wellbeing, effective relationships with others, meaningfully contributing to society, and myriad other aspects. There is no one right way to have a body!

Olympic women

There is no one right way to have a body!

Olympic Men

Remember, your weight does not make you any better or worse than anyone else. When we focus so intently on our perceived flaws, we will never be able to see the remarkable, astounding aspects of our bodies. There is more to life than food or weight—don’t let it become the central fixture around which your life revolves. The answer to our body and self-acceptance isn’t found in a fad diet, a new exercise trend, a pill, a cream, a tea, a detox regime, a cleanse, constricting shapewear, expensive exercise equipment, shakes, or anything else the diet industry/thin ideal perpetuators use a propaganda to convince you that you’re worthless while further lining their pockets with cash. As the amazing body-positivity activist Sarah Vance says, “Loving yourself isn’t going to come from changing your body.”

So how can we grow to love and accept our bodies—as they are in this very moment—in a world that is constantly conspiring to do the opposite? I’m no expert on body-positivity. In fact, I’m still working on it myself. What I can do, however, is recommend the celebration of a day of body love as a place at which to start. On this day, for every negative comment you say about your body, consciously counter is with a positive. Write a letter of gratitude to your body—sure it will be weird, and it will be worth it. Wear an article of clothing in which you feel great. Compliment yourself and others on their character, not their body or appearance. Respect your body’s needs: if it wants to move, move; if it wants to rest, rest; if it wants to eat, eat; if it wants a massage, get a damn massage. It’s your body and you know its needs better than anyone else. Having needs is not a weakness—though society will actively work to convince you otherwise—and denying ourselves of our needs is not the strength we are lead to believe that it is. I also recommend participating in some body activism projects. I’ve joined some body positive groups on Facebook, and blocked a TON of friends who consistently post body negative updates. I also turn around magazines that objectify bodies by promoting the thin-ideal—if people can’t see them, they can’t buy them or fall victim to their propaganda. If you’re feeling exceptionally brave, you can post body positive post-its on those magazines or on diet products. Be bold.

I leave you with this: appreciate your body, it is yours and you get only one. Your body is a masterpiece of creation and there is no other body out there like yours…none. Live your life on your terms in your body, and appreciate all the wonderful things it does for you.

 

 

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

Advertisements
 

When you fight the media May 2, 2014

How about this for some scary statistics:

-42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).

-In elementary school fewer than 25% of girls diet regularly. Yet those who do know what dieting involves and can talk about calorie restriction and food choices for weight loss fairly effectively (Smolak, 2011; Wertheim et al., 2009).

-81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).

-46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992).

-Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005).

-By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life (Smolak, 2011).

 

But WHY? Why are these shocking statistics becoming more and more commonplace? Why is the million dollar question. While I may not have all the answers, I have a fairly good idea as to where the thoughts that lead to these alarming statistics may originate. The Media. Chances are you, yourself, have been the target of the media’s Thin Ideal. I doubt that any of us would want to wake up pursuing the Thin Ideal on our own; those thoughts have been implanted in our brain by the media from the moment we were born. Had the media decided that “the look” was a purple Mohawk and green skin, we might all fruitlessly chase that media ideal simply because it was forced upon us by the media consciously and unconsciously every single day.

 

After ripping through magazines, pointing out media agendas, and talking about how the Thin Ideal media affects our own eating disorder, the girls in my ED recovery support group, our therapist, and I had had enough. Each of us made a goal for the week on how we aim to ignore, fight or raise awareness on the ill effects of the media. I chose fight! I am going to expose these media messages for what they really are…crap.

Image

Are these the people we want to look up to?

The above magazine article was attempting to point out how we can be like our favorite celebrities by purchasing his or her favorite iPhone apps. Julianne Moore was quoted about this triggering app, “A makeup artist recommended this [the app] to me. You can log what you ate and how much you exercised. When I get bored on set, I can obsessively track my calorie intake.” Does this quote sound anyone else’s eating disorder alarm? I have heard from so many people in recovery whose eating disorder was able to completely take over their life because of this app; this app gives the illusion that it is normal to obsessively count calories, exercise, track eating trends, seek out smaller caloric intakes, and any other thoughts/behaviors that fuel ED’s fire. While I may not know about Ms. Moore’s personal views on eating disorders, I can say that this quote, could be very misinterpreted as a means to further an eating disorder.

Image

I found this bag of pita chips at my local Trader Joe’s.

I like pita chips. There I said it. And I actually enjoy eating them. Imagine my surprise when Trader Joe’s offered me a pita chip with “reduced guilt”. Oh, Trader Joe’s, how did you know? (sarcasm). As if ED wasn’t already laying on the guilt when I opened the bag, Trader Joe’s goes and adds some more. “Guilty pleasure” when and why does American culture ALWAYS associate this phrase  with food or use it to put themselves down in some way. Over the years I’ve learned food is food; there are no moral values attached to it (like good, bad, sinful, guilty) and, likewise, no emotional values (food is fuel and should not have the power to manipulate your emotions). Eating food should not lead one to feel guilty. Eating should lead one to feel nourished, alive and ready to face the day. We, as a culture of Americans, have become so accustomed to putting ourselves down at every opportunity, placing more importance on the size of clothes than the size of hearts, and tearing ourselves apart over every little thing that society deems unworthy. My guilty pleasure is allowing myself to feel worthy in a society in which everything else seems to scream I am not.

Image

Again with the guilt association…this time in the “comics”…as if we should laugh about it and encourage our girlfriends to work towards an ED

Image

But, if we do fall prey to the “Guilty Pleasure” phenomenon, this food company offers suggestions on how to counteract what we’ve eaten…just like ED does. ED is always worried about our caloric intake versus our exercise output, but now, thanks to this company, this box can serve as an aide to further ED’s message (sarcasm).

 

I will never purchase anything from this company again

I will never purchase anything from this company again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, and how about this one that seems to be offering us suggestions on how to better listen to and agree with ED?

Image

Is this magazine promoting ED thoughts? Yes.

Image

This magazine is also offering ways to listen to ED. What the hell?

Oh, and lest the males feel that the Thin Ideal is only marketed to women, I present you with this “comic”. It appears to insinuate that the larger man needs to work out and stop eating in order to look like the smaller man…eating disordered thinking anyone?

 

 

 

Image

So, comics are typically directed to children. Do we want our children to think adults consistently skip meals to lose weight? Do we want them fat shaming others?

And here are some more for good measure

Image

Also, who sends weight loss encouragement cards with caloric information on them? Why don’t we send cards to each other to support recovery or body acceptance?

weightwatchers

I positively LOATHE this brainwashing company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, instead of letting these messages further ED’s conquest on my life, I am choosing to fight back. I am going to do what is right for me and my recovery. I will not be a pawn in the media’s Thin Ideal game. I encourage you to look through a magazine and destroy the messages that perpetuate ED’s lies. If looking at a magazine is too triggering for you right now, just speak up when people around you say things that promote ED’s lies. Nothing is too small when it comes to fighting the media, and especially when fighting ED.

 

All statistics taken from the National Eating Disorders Association website at: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders 

 

Luke 11:33-36

 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

Philippians 4:8

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

 

When you confront Ed… July 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 5:57 pm
Tags: , , , ,

            We, as a culture of 21st century human beings, are relentlessly exposed to, what I think of as, a societal eating disorder. Now, that is not to say that all seven billion people on our planet suffer from the disease or engage in patterns of disordered eating. What I am saying is this: our world culture ingrains in us many thoughts that I see, now that I am in recovery, as eating disordered in nature. These societal opinions, beliefs, behaviors and assumptions on food are very provoking to those of us with an actual eating disorder. The eating-disordered processes of thought and actions we are trying to recover from, are the very same messages we are being inundated with as being “normal”, “acceptable” and “healthy”; the exact messages our eating-disordered mind tries to convince us of as well. To a person in recovery from an eating disorder, the question becomes, “To whom do I listen: society, Ed, my recovery voice, my therapist, my doctor, my friends, my rational mind or something/someone else?” Is your head spinning yet? I know mine is. This is the cycle of thought in which I have been trapped for several weeks: how can I maintain my recovery in a society that seems to be reinforcing of my eating disordered thoughts and behaviors. Furthermore, how can I separate the negative messages received from Ed and society while working towards recovery; for what is right and true and healthy for my mind, body, and, ultimately, my life—because every minute I desperately cling to this disease the farther away life slips from my grasp.

            Now, being of a semi-rational, yet well-educated mind, I know I cannot change the opinions of a society or the culture of the societal eating disorder. What I do have the power to change, however, is my internalization and reactions to the messages I receive from the societal Ed; while simultaneously fighting my own Ed in my head. I am very much a proponent of talking out my thoughts as a means to understand them. Yes, I am the girl in the grocery debating aloud over what I should buy (but that is usually me just talking back to Ed as a means to make my voice louder than hers). I have found, through my own journey to recovery, that talking back to Ed is one of the most effective tools I have learned. By countering the negative messages (and subsequent actions) of my own eating disorder using my recovery-oriented, rational mind, I have been able to put health and self-care into practice.

            Here is what I mean…in dialogue version as a means to simplify things. This is a real example of an event in my life.

 

Woman from my family after being asked to try a bit of a dip recipe: I can’t eat that. I will have to walk an extra mile to get rid of those calories.

ED: See Rachel? The thoughts you think are irrational and eating disordered are the same thoughts that she is having. I don’t know why you go whine to your therapist every week about me “controlling” your actions. By the way, even though you didn’t eat any of the dip, you should probably walk a few miles too…just in case.

Rhea: Wow, that is a lot of negative and possibly eating disordered thinking. This woman is telling me she must walk one punitive mile to make up for her indiscretion of consuming one bite of dip. And Ed is not only agreeing with her, but trying to force their mutual viewpoint on me. THAT is the societal Ed meeting my Ed. In the past I may have agreed with them and engaged in behaviors that got me to that sick place where I was. And what good did that give me: losing friends, losing health, losing life. Seems like I lose a lot more than I gain when I chose to follow Ed’s advice.

ED: No, you’ve got me all wrong. I just want you to do what I say. That’s not being controlling, that’s me taking care of you. I’ve taken care of you for fifteen years, just let me do my job. You’re still alive aren’t you?

Rhea: Ok, Ed, if you think you are “taking care” of me, I will never ask you to watch my nephews, or, hell, even a houseplant, if that is your definition of taking care of me. You destroy everything. Where were you when I was getting my MRI because I developed arthritis at age 23 due to bone loss? Were you taking care of me then? Where were you when I was hunched over a toilet in the US Capitol building secretly purging my lunch because you told me it would calm my fears of being in an unfamiliar city? Were you taking care of me then? Ed, I could give you fifteen years of examples of how your taking care of me lead to a slow self-destruction. If this woman wants to walk a mile as her punishment for eating a bite of dip, let her. I am learning to no longer allow the unhealthy, seemingly eating disordered choices of others interfere with my recovery.  I am learning to no longer be a slave to your demands.

 

            These “conversations with Ed”, happen with relative frequency in my day to day recovery. The only way to get Ed out of your life is to talk back; she thrives on controlling you and does not anticipate objections to her demands. By talking back to Ed, you are speaking up for yourself, your recovery and your life. Do no let the societal Ed and/or your personal Ed bully you anymore. This may sound cliché, but you, yes you, are worthy of an Ed-free life. You deserve nothing less than the best…and that includes a life over which Ed (in singular or societal form) has no influence.   

 

 

Luke 21:19

Stand firm, and you will win life.

 

So, I went grocery shopping… December 19, 2012

As I am more and more awakened to recovery from my ED, I become more and more aware of the media messages that constantly bombard us with messages that “thin is the only acceptable cultural norm” (For the record, that is not my belief). Going to the grocery store used to be easy for me. I would get my safe foods, ignore my trigger foods, and avoid the stares I assumed I was getting (paranoia often accompanied my shopping trips). Now that I actually pay attention to the grocery store, I see the horrible message we are sending to our nation… emblazoned on our food labels, put into food adverts, and on our makeup products. I have already shared my thoughts on this obsession with the “perfect’ (fyi, there’s no such thing as perfect) body, but I wanted to show you. I fancy myself a freelance photographer and wanted to use that skill to share with you what I am talking about. Now, it is rather difficult to inconspicuously take a Nikon D5000 to the grocery and take pictures…so I had to use my cell phone. Therefore, the quality is not the greatest, but it gets the point across.

These chips promise the consumer that if they follow the company's prescribed diet, they will be able to lose weight in as little as two weeks! Food should be about gaining the caloric fuel to function, not to lose weight. Also, companies should not make false claims about their product. The sad thing is, people buy this product thinking that, by eating it, they will lose the weight they think they need to lose to fit into some sort of cultural ideal.

These chips promise the consumer that if they follow the company’s prescribed diet, they will be able to lose weight in as little as two weeks! Food should be about gaining the caloric fuel to function, not to lose weight. Also, companies should not make false claims about their product. The sad thing is, people buy this product thinking that, by eating it, they will lose the weight they think they need to lose to fit into some sort of cultural ideal. It is called brainwashing folks.

These pocket tissues are for sale at my local grocers.

These pocket tissues are for sale at my local grocers. These TISSUES ask the user if they look fat in its packaging. These TISSUES are furthering the cultural ideal that fat=bad and that we should constantly be asking others if they think we are fat. Why should this shaming bleed over into our personal hygiene? Why is a packet of tissues trying to make me feel bad about the body God gave me? Better question, why am I allowing them to?

This is an actual bread for sale at my local grocer

This is an actual bread for sale at my local grocer. For those who cannot read it, it says “Watching calories? Healthy Life Dieter’s Dream Come True.” This is the actual label on the bag of bread. When looking for my typical whole grain bread, this bag stuck out to me. I feel like it is guilting shoppers into feeling bad about their own bread choice and to buy their “Dieter’s Dream” bread. When, in reality, diets are not lifestyles. One cannot live their entire lives on a diet.

This just made me sad
This just made me sad. Where have we gotten in our culture that we cannot send our kids to school with an apple and a bag of pretzels in their lunchbox? In essence  it is teaching them that everything should be processed…even apples. My family protests each time I ask to purchase organic fruits and vegs over the store brands…but I promise they taste a million times better and are so much better for your body.

L'oreal's newest campaign

L’oreal’s newest campaign because, Heaven forbid, we show our age or any other signs that we may, indeed, be human. Why are we so concerned about what age we appear to be? For the record, I am 25 and, when people ask my age, I tell them. What do I have to be afraid of?

this is real

This is a real cookbook I found at the store. Seriously? There should be no guilt in food. You should eat what you like, eat what is good for you and, above all, enjoy what you eat. Food should not have negative connotations associated with it. It is when we attach negative associations to food, we fall into the trap of becoming obsessed with food. I feel the same way about calling things, “sinful”, “skinny”, “diet”, etc. Why can’t we just call it what it is…food? Why should we be told to feel guilty about eating? Eating is necessary to the sustaining of life, why is that bad?

not from the store

This is not from the store. This is in my life right now…despite my protests to the contrary (fyi, it is not for me). Look at all the shit rules, weight watchers puts on food. And you can put it all in the convenient pink/black polka dot carrying case for ease of transport. I have my own thoughts on WW, but here is a really good opinion from a blog I read  (click on the word “blog” to read the article) that I really agree with.

gift

This came in P&G’s holiday care package this season (which is why I photographed it nestled under the tree). What kind of crap gift is this? It is like “Here, we know you’re fat…obsessively track your calories in this easily portable book of misinformation.”

Ok so, this blog was harsh. I get that. It is cynical. I get that. It is hypocritical. I get that too. I have fallen into the trap of trying to become the “cultural norm”…but that doesn’t mean I can’t work to help other people not fall into the same trap. You must work to become cognizant of the messages society is sending so as not to fall prey to their tactics of making you feel bad about who you are as an individual. You are more than your outward appearance. You are more than what society tells you you are. You are worth recovery.

 

Be your own advocate November 13, 2012

I’m a shy person. Let’s just get that out of the way straight off. I always have been and, more than likely, always will be. And, I’m ok with that—I’ve embraced it as something about myself that cannot change, so I better learn to accept it. I’ve always had someone in my life to speak on my behalf, to be my voice or to be my advocate. I hate drawing attention to myself, and thought standing up for myself would just create a scene; and I most likely wouldn’t get what I wanted anyway. I guess you could say it was a pattern of learned helplessness (to use the terminology one of my favorite psychologists, Martin Seligman). Now, as I inch towards 25, I am learning to become my own advocate—to break the cycle of learned helplessness…and  here are the three areas in which I plan to do so: Health, Recovery and the Destigmatization of EDs.

Health

After being brushed aside by my general practitioner after telling him I have an eating disorder (despite diagnoses from both the Lindner Center of HOPE and my current therapist), having him ignore my insistence that my knee was out of place (which progressed undiagnosed for so long that I now have arthritis and almost no cartilage) and, the latest, his refusal to believe that my heart palpitations are anything more than me not recognizing my anxiety…it makes me wonder why I am letting myself be controlled by a man who obviously does not care about my medical concerns. Why am I not speaking up for myself when I obviously know that something is wrong?  Why are we, as a collective, not speaking up for our own bodies? We know our bodies better than anyone else. Defend your right to treatment and proper medical care. Voice your concerns, and demand that they be taken seriously. You have the right to make your own decisions regarding the health and care of your body, not your doctor. Your health depends on you, your actions, and your reactions to what health care professionals say. Many people, even people in the health care field, do not understand the medical repercussions or the seriousness of ED behaviors on overall health. This is exactly why you must stand up for yourself. Don’t be afraid to disagree with doctors; they’re not always right. This is why, next Monday, I will stand up to my doctor. I will have an itemized list of symptoms, what I’ve done to try to alleviate the symptoms and various other notes I feel will be necessary to the appointment. I am going to advocate for my health; as health is a privilege denied to many.

Recovery

All too often I find myself compromising my recovery goals to adapt to those around me. If no one else around me is eating, I will often skip the snack I’m supposed to be having…or if no one around me is ready for dinner, I will hold off of my regular scheduled meal time to accommodate their timetable; and so on and so forth until I’ve completely let ED behaviors back in my life. And for what? To be seen as “normal”, to fit in with those around me, to not cause a row by demanding we eat on my schedule? Is being accepted that important to me that I am willing to sacrifice recovery? Hell no! The select few friends that I have disclosed my ED to are the only ones with whom I will hang out for an extended period of time. Why? Because they understand my recovery goals. I feel open to speaking up about my needs when I am with them. If I say we need to eat, we eat. If I say we need to eat at a specific restaurant, that’s where we go. If they see me getting uncomfortable after we eat, they make me leave the restaurant to prevent purging. By speaking up for myself and being my own advocate for my recovery, I have been able to put it first; in EVERY situation. Recovery is a wonderfully courageous and beautiful thing, don’t attach any negative emotions to it. Recovery shows your strength to survive and be the best you that you can be. Your health (both mental and physical) should be a priority over other people’s perceptions of you or their schedules. You matter. You are important. Your recovery is worth it. Own your recovery and don’t let anyone sway you away from it.

Destigmatizing EDs

As anyone can plainly see, I am advocate for not only my recovery, but the recovery of others. That being said, I feel as though society does not share my view. To society, EDs are a joke, a choice, a political statement, a big f you to the world, vanity, and whatever else runs through their minds. When, in reality, EDs are a DISEASE; a life-long medical and psychological condition that impedes in almost every aspect of daily living. EDs remain in your mind even when behaviors are not present; much in the same way an alcoholic is still medically and psychologically considered an alcoholic even when not drinking. They don’t see the everyday struggle that goes into recovery; they see a girl or guy pushing a plate away from them at dinner, or that same person visiting the bathroom repeatedly after lunch. What they don’t see are the thoughts running through our minds, the recovery brain duking it out with the ED brain while eating, the therapy, the medical issues, anything. What they see is a stubborn person who won’t recover…and that’s simply not the case.  I may not be an advocate about destigmatization on the lobbying congress level or protesting on the streets of the national mall, but I hope this blog can serve as an informative tool to provide people with the knowledge and resources to better understand EDs and those that suffer from them.

What if we treated every illness the way we treated mental illnesses

 

EDs are not funny November 6, 2012

“And, what’s more, this ‘precious’ body, the very same that is hooted and honked at, demeaned both in daily life as well as in ever existing form of media, harassed, molested, raped, and, if all that wasn’t enough, is forever poked and prodded and weighed and constantly wrong for eating too much, eating too little, a million details which all point to the solitary girl, to EVERY solitary girl, and say: Destroy yourself.”

― Emilie Autumn, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls

                I love a good joke as much as the next person and I handle most things in my life with a large dose of humor. I remember sitting with my cousins after our grandmother’s death, healing by telling our favorite funny stories about growing up with her. I feel as though humor can take the edge off of a situation and move us towards a place of healing. There are some situations, however, where I feel humor only serves to humiliate and degrade. I feel as though this culture, as a world culture not just as an American culture, is rather insensitive. When we don’t understand something, can’t relate to something or don’t want to admit something is true, what do we do? We mock it, we stigmatize those who deal with it, we ridicule, we reject, we stereotype, we label, we fear and we condemn it. Well, I’m sorry, but I am tired of that. I’m going to use my voice (albeit in wordpress form) to stand up for those with eating disorders and mental illnesses. I want society to know it is not funny, nor is it acceptable, to demean those with eating disorders. We are not the butt of jokes, we are not a tribe to be outcast and we are not crazy. We are, in fact, HUMAN and deserve to be treated as such.

Here is what I mean:

  • In the new “comedy” The New Normal, a woman named Goldie is serving as a surrogate to a gay couple. Ok, normal enough, no problem. But, she also has a pregnancy craving that repulses one of the men…cheeseburgers. When he walked into the house and found her eating a cheeseburger, he proclaims, “I hope you’re bulimic so that [the cheeseburger] doesn’t get to our baby!” Seriously? He wants the woman carrying his child to suffer with a disease that can kill her? He wants her to go through the physical and emotional pain of an ED so that his baby does not gain the caloric fuel from a cheeseburger? And, if it was supposed to be a joke, what is so funny about wishing someone was bulimic? Since when is it ok, solely for humor’s sake, to wish a life-threatening disease on someone? What makes it so humorous to joke about EDs? All this did was further the cultural perception that we should negate the seriousness of EDs and turn them into some sort of laughingstock, so we can all feel better about ourselves.
  • This is not a new trend, however. In 1995, an episode of Seinfeld hinged upon the running joke that George thought his girlfriend was bulimic. He spent most of the episode thinking of Wile E Coyote ways to trap her during a purge episode. The Seinfeld gang turns it into a big joke, getting Kramer’s mother to spy on the girlfriend in the bathroom. George is only concerned about buying food that she is going to purge, not about her health or wellbeing—not that she has a disease that can kill her. His only concern is his wallet. How have we gotten to a place in society that we value money more than the health of a loved one?
  • Not to be outdone, everyone’s favorite, America’s Next Top Model, a show that has seen its fair share of eating disordered contestants, did a photo shoot in which each contestant was to portray a different “model stereotype”. Ok, so fun little shoots, right? NO! They used this as an opportunity to glamorize and editorialize eating disorders by making one model represent anorexia and then continue the degradation by having her twin sister represent bulimia. In what world is it EVER appropriate to glamorize eating disorders? What is so glamorous about starving, puking, hair loss, decaying teeth, esophageal tears, heart problems, passing out, constant fear, being cold all the time, dizziness, depression, cuts on your hand from violently shoving your hand down your throat, ulcers, constipation, feeding tubes, amenorrhea, osteoporosis, weakening of the immune system, memory loss, tooth loss, muscle disintegration, lanugo, brain atrophy, and death? Nothing. There are absolutely NO positives associated with EDs. None. Why do we allow ourselves to live in a society where sickness and disease are alluring and high fashion? Health should be trending, not disease.
  • Three more quick things…
    • Saturday Night Live had Calista Flockhart (at least I think it was her, I was very young at the time) deliver a monologue about how people are worried that she is too thin and that she should eat more (little did they know she had an ED). She proceeded to lift up her shirt revealing a molded plastic stomach that showed various foods, point them out and insist that she eats. Yeah, because having someone poke fun at their own eating disorder for ratings is a wonderful idea (NOT)
    • And then we have the sweet little Disney program “Shake it Up” which follows two young friends who star in a local dance tv show. At a party, the girls are told by an adult partygoer about their cuteness, “I could just eat you up—if I ate.” Fortunately, Demi Lovato (whose courage to speak out against EDs I greatly admire) bravely took to Twitter to get that offensive garbage off the air. Why do we need to teach our children about body loathing and eating disorders when we can teach them to embrace who they are, what they have to offer and to love themselves?
    • The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover, Fat Camp, Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, America’s Next Top Model, Bratz dolls/Barbie dolls, and all the other messages we are sending to children that they aren’t good enough as they are—that they must conform or become shunned from today’s society.

In summation, I am horrified that I live in a world where we have become so inconsiderate and unsympathetic to those around us that we feel it is perfectly acceptable to mock those who aren’t what society has deemed “normal”. I am saddened that children have to grow up in a world where they feel that they have to fit in or run the risk of being stigmatized or rejected for who they are. Eating Disorders are not a laughing matter; they are potentially fatal diseases that need to be treated seriously. Eating Disorders are not a choice, nor are they easy to recover from. People have this misconception that if we eat, we’re recovered; or that if we stop purging, we’re recovered…and that’s simply not true. Eating Disorders are life-long diseases that linger in the mind even when symptoms and behaviors aren’t present. Every day is a struggle to remain on the path to recovery. Every day we must eat, we must keep it down and we must not complain…meanwhile, our brain is yelling at us that we are fat, that we don’t deserve food, that we’ve eaten too much…whatever the hell it decides to insult us with that day. It is like a little voice, nagging in the back of our heads trying every minute of every day to convince us that we are not worthy; that we’re not worthy of love, not worthy of food, not worthy of life. If you had to go through this every day, I’m sure you would find it majorly offensive if someone were to mock your condition, to exclude you as a productive member of society, to label you as a fuck up. I just want everyone to be cognizant of what they’re saying and how that may affect those around them. I’m not asking you to never make a joke again. I’m not telling you that you have to filter everything you say. But, what I am telling you, is that it is not ok to exploit eating disorders for humor.

 

What are we so scared of? October 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 8:23 am
Tags: , , , , ,

We, as a culture of Americans, do some pretty dumb things. I, personally, had a doctor reposition my teeth with wires and pull ten permanent teeth to give me a more aesthetically pleasing smile (aka: six and a half years of braces). Others pay doctors to inject their faces with trace amounts of botulism poison to erase lines in their face because they fear the natural change in their appearance that comes with aging; essentially paralyzing their face to temporarily halt the progression of facial lines. And others, unsatisfied with, say, their nose, pay doctors to hammer it, remove bone or put in an implant to change its shape. In short, we are a culture insistent upon changing ourselves to fit inside some cultural norm, either real or imagined, that we have been taught that we must strive to achieve—despite the fact that it is often unattainable. We have become a culture where the pressure to be the “ideal” (whatever the hell that is) is louder than the pressure to be yourself; to be the person you were born to be. People go to great lengths to prove that what they don’t like about their bodies is, in fact, true. They complain about their bodies with others—often turning into a sick “I’m more messed up than you” competition. Fault-finding in one’s own self has almost become the national sport. These same people are also willing to pay loads of money to change themselves to be what they feel society is pressuring them to be; ignoring their own thoughts about themselves, while adopting the brainwashed mindset of society. In a culture so encouraging of individualism, why do we constantly strive to all look and think alike…and why do we feel we have to conform to society’s view of “perfect”?

Recently, I found myself sucked into an episode of 20/20 while editing photos. This episode focused on “extremes” in human behavior. One segment featured a man who got paid by various companies to have their logo tattooed on his face, another showed a woman who was unsatisfied with her LLL breasts and wanted larger implants, and another focused on something that I find so appalling I felt the need to make it the subject of this post… the Ketogenic Enteral Nutrition diet aka the “feeding tube diet”. What. The. Hell? I watched in horror as the only doctor in the country described how people, desperate to lose weight, willingly hooked themselves up to naso-gastric feeding tubes which pumped a mere 800 calories per day for ten days, while being forbidden from eating, and limiting themselves to drinking only water, black coffee and unsweet tea. Not only that, but they pay $1,500 to do so. It is being advertised as the “serious new weapon on the war on obesity”…which is pure bollocks.  The segment started with a woman’s daughter talking about how fat she thought her average, if not smaller than average, mother was. After the magic of the feeding tube diet, the girl hugs her mom and tells her how pretty she is now. This just further emphasizes the cultural idea that thinness equates happiness, that everyone has to become society’s ideal and that anyone not representing the ideal should be ashamed. It also taught the little girl the misguided idea that fat equals ugly, and that she will only be loved if she is thin. Is this really the world in which we want our children to live—a world in which their value is only measured by outward appearance and not by the size of their heart or the power of their mind? What is not explained in the segment, however, is the lasting side effects of this nonsense which include: liver stress, kidney stones, bacterial infections, aspiration pneumonia, choking, and bone density loss…all in the name of vanity.

What are we doing? As a society, it has become more culturally accepted to starve yourself by paying for a $1,500 feeding tube diet rather than learning how to eat healthfully. It has become a goal of everyone (whether or not they choose to admit it) to lose weight and look “attractive” by today’s standards of beauty. It has become the norm to bash our bodies, ourselves, our characteristics…everything about ourselves that isn’t deemed culturally acceptable in today’s world. We have become so ashamed to just be ourselves that we adopt the personas created by society simply to fit in. I wish I had some big revelation to offer as to how we can shift the cultural paradigm to embrace individuality in all aspects of life. I wish I had answers as to why we are so uncomfortable in our own genes. And I wish I knew why I’ve let myself fall into the same ruse. Unfortunately, I don’t have answers. What I do have is a voice. A voice that is going to start standing up for itself. A voice that won’t complain at every perceived personal flaw. A voice that will not let society determine my self-worth. A voice that, albeit shaky and still learning to trust, will learn to embrace who I am as an individual and be proud of myself. We need to stop this culture of self-deprecation and shaming of those who do not fit the cultural ideals. The first step to achieving this is with you. Set a model for those around you—start a revolution, love yourself.

Reflections in mirror may be distorted by socially constructed ideas of beauty

Reflections in mirror may be distorted by socially constructed ideas of beauty

“Our eating disorders have taught us to see our beauty through the deliberately distorted lenses of the media-marketing-driven culture we dwell in, and the equally compelling propensity for the disease that dwells within us. However, that does not mean we have to stay in that uncomfortable, unhappy place, trying to wedge our brilliant unique beauty into the sharp-edged little cookie-cutter mold that fits none of us well.Some of my best days have been the days when I could begin to see something beautiful in not only myself but in absolutely every other person I met as well. Believe it or not, this is a learned art.” Shannon Cutts