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

 

When “mental illness” is a Halloween Costume October 28, 2014

“What are you supposed to be? Pocahontas?” my friend asks over the buffet of festive treats at our annual Halloween party.

Over the din of the chatter, I reply back, “No, Mrs. Peacock. You know? From Clue? The board game?”

 

Admittedly, I was wearing a dark teal dress, black blazer, feather earrings, a boa made of gold rope, and feathers in my hair…so Pocahontas wasn’t too far of a leap; especially since I am proud of my Cherokee heritage (even though Pocahontas wasn’t Cherokee). But none of that is actually relevant to this post.

 

It was not until I started thinking of this year’s Halloween costume that I realized just how offensive our most “common” or “popular” costumes are. Women typically wear one of, or some version of, the following: sexy bumblebee, strip-tease Minnie Mouse, seductive dentist, sultry princess, and slutty baseball player…the list of body-exposing costumes is endless. Meanwhile, on the male front, men typically wear some sort of funny ensemble. Despite the provocative nature of the women’s costume and my jealously at men for being able to wear whatever they want, those costumes do not bother me as much as a few others I came across in my search for this years costume.

 

The classic “mental patient” costume. Renditions of this costume include:  straight jackets covered in blood (and for women these straight jackets are low-cut to reveal breasts and short in length to show legs), orange prison-like jumpsuits, hospital gowns that declare the individual as “property” of such and such insane asylum/mental ward, axe murders, sweatshirts that warn others to “approach with caution”, handcuffs/restraints, and Hannibal Lecter-type masks…to name a few. My only response to these so called costumes is “What the hell?”

 

These costumes only serve to perpetuate the myth that those with mental illness are frightening—people we should fear on a daily basis. Furthermore, they maintain the stigmatization attached to a mental health diagnosis. By donning the costume of a mental patient, we are reinforcing the societal view that those with mental illness are lower-class citizens and are somehow less than everyone else (so much so that they have become comedic fodder for Halloween). By dressing up as an individual who suffers from mental illness, one is perpetuating the myth that those with mental illness are a danger to themselves and others, that those with mental illness should be “locked away like a prisoner”, and reinforces the negative belief that those with mental illness are someone to fear.

 

These horrific costumes reinforce the already existing negative connotations associated with mental illness, and are a direct result of a lack of understanding and knowledge of mental illness…not to mention a lack of respect for those diagnosed. Why is it socially acceptable, if not encouraged, to “dress up” as a person suffering with a mental illness? Why is mocking mental illness a costume? A quick Google search will reveal that there are no cancer patient costumes or AIDS patient costumes or Cystic Fibrosis patient costumes or dialysis patient costumes…etcetera. However, a quick search of mental patient costumes yields almost 7 million results; many of which are relevant results.

 

 

Is it any wonder that two-thirds of adults with mental illness do not seek treatment (NAMI statistic)? Who would want to seek treatment for mental illness if they believe they will be mocked openly and freely each time Halloween comes around? This Halloween, I ask you to really consider the motives behind the costumes chosen for you, your children, your pet, or a loved one…do they mock a certain demographic of people, do they perpetuate myths pertaining to a particular group of individuals, do they bring shame/stigma on this group, etc? If any of those answers are yes, pick a new costume. Oh, and mental illness is NEVER a costume

10606355_10203023581377187_215966473368416327_n

My friend, Steven (the ninja), and me (Mrs. Peacock) taking some cheesy photos in our costumes. Photo credit to my wonderful friend Mandy.

 

Ephesians 4:29-32

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

When thighs get pinched September 30, 2014

“Enjoy those cute, little chubby thighs while you can Marina,” I looked up to see my co-worker taking a pinch of a one-year-old baby’s thigh between her thumb and forefinger while patting her own thigh with the other hand, “Those thighs are cute now. But, when you’re my age, not so much.” My co-worker then turned to me with a laugh and a look of approval seeking. She did not get my approval.

 

After I contained my immediate reaction of wanting to scream at this woman for what she said to this baby and wanting to protect the child from ever hearing a nonsensical comment like that ever again, I began to think about the rational behind why I had such a strong emotional reaction to the situation. I kept circling back to the same series of questions:  Why is Marina not allowed to enjoy her thighs beyond her first year of life? Why don’t women my co-worker’s age enjoy or accept their own thighs? Would Marina be able to enjoy her body despite living in a society of self-deprecation? Is there a time frame to loving your body—does that have an expiration date?

 

We live in a culture where children, especially females, are indoctrinated from the minute they are born with the idea that they will never be good enough the way they are…they must lose weight (thin is never thin enough, until it becomes too thin and then she is ostracized), dress in all the latest fashions, be intelligent (but not too intelligent so as to make those around you feel ignorant), have the chicest hairstyle, constantly be in a relationship (but not with many different men over the course of time or then she will be considered a “whore”), have a lot of money (but not too much, because then she will look arrogant)…and so much more I cannot even list them all. But why? Why are we constantly inundated with the “never good enough” message? And, more importantly, why do we listen?

 

It is easy for me to say, “Oh, you are good enough the way you are. You do not need to change a thing. Everyone around you is so insecure with their own lives that they get a thrill out of putting you down. These simple-minded people think that through revealing your weaknesses they will be made to feel better. You must have confidence in yourself and in your strengths to not let this affect you. You are enough—don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise” Simple, see? That was very easy for me to say. And I 100% believe what I just said to be true. HOWEVER, despite the fact that I know the above statements to be true, I have still fallen prey to the shaming “never good enough” message monsoon. I have felt the shame of not being thin enough, well dressed enough, smart enough but also too smart, having “bad” hair, never having had a boyfriend, not having enough money, etc…and I allowed that shame to negatively influence my life through a sub-zero level of self-esteem, an over 15 year battle with eating disorders, self-harm, a shield of sarcasm to defend myself from “never good enough”, depression at not achieving “good enough”, and anxiety from constantly striving (and failing) to gain “good enough”. It is at the juxtaposition of what I know to be true and how I live my life at which I currently find myself. But, it is at that paradox where recovery begins.

 

Recovery and self-acceptance begin the moment we realize that how we are currently living our lives may be contradictory to what we believe to be true—at least, I know this to be true about myself. By reframing my “I’m not good enough” thoughts to fit what I know to be true about myself, I am better able to tune out the negative voices in my head. Thought reframing is, by no means, easy to do. However, it is a necessary step towards living a life that is more congruent with our values and belief systems about ourselves and others. In a world in which not only society, but my own eating disorder, constantly gives me the message that I am not enough, I gain strength in reframing each of those thoughts/statements to promote my recovery. By practicing thought reframing over and over and over again, these negative messages will have less of an effect on me, as I now realize in what areas we excel and will no longer be ashamed areas in which I do not meet society’s unrealistic expectations. I will never be the societal ideal: tall, thin, blond, white and blue eyed. I am not my appearance, my socio-economic status, my clothing, my hairstyle, my relationship status, or any other “not good enough” measurement set forth by our appearance-based society.  I am so much more. YOU are more. Together, we will show the world that, not only that we are good enough, but that we are MORE.

 

I know I have put up this video before, but I really love the message and felt it deserved to to posted again.

 

Galatians 6:1-10

 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,  for each one should carry their own load.  Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. 

(bold italics are mine, not in the actual scripture)

 

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.

 

When a kindergartner makes you think March 5, 2013

“Pick a color” she instructs while holding out an origami fortune teller mere inches from my face. I look at the four squares with blue, purple, brown and black hearts.

“Blue” I reply. Blue is my favorite color.

“B-U-how do you spell blue?” she asks as her small hands fumble with opening and closing the paper between her fingers.

“Let’s sound it out. Buh”

“B” she opens the paper

“Luh”

“L” she opens it the same way; she cannot make her fingers open it in the opposite direction.

“Ew.”

“I don’t know.”

“U-E.”

“U-E” she says, confidently opening and closing the fortune teller again, in the same direction. “Now pick a number”

“8” I say, knowing I can only pick an even number.

After she counts to eight while opening and closing the fortune teller in the same direction, “Pick another number”

“2” it is the only even number left.

 

She struggles to lift the flap to reveal my fortune. Finally, she gets her finger under the paper, “You are pretty.” As I stand there in somewhat stunned silence, she bounces off with a wide smile to tell the fortune of another one of her friends. After she leaves I absent-mindedly pick up some trash on the floor; I am supposed to be teaching after all.

 

All I could think of was my “fortune”. Every time I look in the mirror, ED tells me I am not pretty. She (yes, my ED is a girl. She has my voice—which is feminine—so why can’t she be a girl) goes to great lengths to prove to me that she is right. As long as I can remember I have listened to ED; her tempting voice whispering in my ear—luring me towards self-destruction. I want to please her, but I know it will come at the expense of my own life. When I think about my fortune, it reminds me that I do not have to listen to ED.

 

We live in a world where beauty has become a way to categorize ourselves. As in, “she is the girl who is short, with black hair and green eyes.” Not, “she is the girl who likes to take photos, who works with the kids in the room down the hall, who always shows up obnoxiously early.” We have become a world obsessed with looks, clothing, and overall appearance. And, while sometimes describing people by appearance is helpful (for example if I were in a room of all red-heads, it would be easiest to say, “the brunette”), it should not be the be all, end all of each individual. In fact, the messages with which we are bombarded every day in the media of western “beauty” are often unattainable. Why is it that we feel we must conform to these ideas of beauty? We cut our faces and pull them tighter, inject poison into our wrinkles, we put plastic bags of saline in our breasts to make them larger, we inject silicon into our lips, we have the fat sucked out of us like a vacuum, we have our noses broken and molded back into a more desirable shape, and so on and so forth until we look less like a human being and more like an alien…all in the name of conforming to society’s vision of beauty.

Having never fit into the “ideal western beauty”, Ed has turned me towards believing that I am worthless. But a simple kindergartener’s paper fortune teller has reminded me of the truth. I am pretty. I am worth thinking well of myself. I am better than the negative things Ed tells me. I may not always believe it because I am still under the spell of Ed’s lies, but I, Rhea, am going to tell Ed no by learning to accept myself. I will accept that my scoliosis leaves one hip higher than the other. I will accept the jade green eyes that I got from my father instead of envying the blue eyes of my sister. I will accept that my stomach, stretched by years of overeating, will always be a little saggy. I will accept my wonderfully olive skin. I will accept my scars; including the one I got when my neighbor pushed the fertilizer spreader into my eye. I will accept me. Only by accepting me and acknowledging the truth that God made me beautifully imperfect, will Ed shut up.

 

I absolutely love the band Seabird. I have seen them live several times and am consistently amazed by them. I also love that they are local boys (coming from just across the river from me).  “Don’t you know you’re beautiful” was filmed entirely in my hometown of Cincinnati, has the most amazing imagery I have ever seen in a music video, and is full of inspiration. This song is a reminder to everyone that they are beautiful in the eyes of those around you, but especially in the eyes of God. You are beautiful. You are worth recovery.

 

Hebrews 6: 18-19

“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”

 

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.