Tag Archives: body shaming

Truth in Advertising – Spring 2014 with the Eating Disorders Coalition

We’ve known for years that consumption of media that pushes thin ideals makes people feel worse about themselves, which in turn can lead to or reinforce dangerous disordered eating behaviors. That’s not just a bunch of body image activists talking – in 2011, the American Medical Association (AMA) did it’s own extensive research on the subject. The AMA concluded that “photoshopped” ads which portray unrealistic human bodies have such a detrimental effect on body image and self esteem that it became the organization’s official opinion to strongly discourage the practice. You can read about the AMA’s 2011 findings here on the AMA’s official site, the Huffington Post, ABC News, and EatingDisorder.org.

Briefing Kmac

Kathleen MacDonald of the Eating Disorders Coalition discussing computer-altered advertisements. Photo by Jim Knapp.

Unfortunately, the AMA doesn’t exactly have any authority to enforce that policy on the beauty and diet industry. However, Congress does, and with the strong precedent established by the American Medical Association, that’s exactly what we’re hoping to do.

On April 3, 2014, the Eating Disorders Coalition took to Capitol Hill for it’s 25th lobby day (wow!). I’m happy to say I’ve been there for approximately half of them, having attended twice a year since 2007. In addition to supporting the FREED Act, we’re terribly excited to be advocating for a new Bill that has been introduced with support out the door from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers. In late March, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Lois Capps (D-CA), and Ted Deutch (D-FL) introduced the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014 (read the full bill text here). The Eating Disorders Coalition also put out a press release on their blog.

Rep. Ted Duetch and EDC Board President Johanna Kandel

Rep. Ted Duetch and EDC Board President Johanna Kandel. Photo by Jim Knapp.

This new Bill would ask the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which already regulates false advertising as a means of consumer protection, to further study the effects of computer-altered ads involving the human form. A pharmaceutical company can’t put out a new drug saying it will do something that it indeed doesn’t do – that’s a deceptive advertising practice. That’s why all those really up-beat drug commercials with smiling people in perfect suburban neighborhoods have fine print at the bottom informing you they’re actors and that results may vary.  Essentially, if a diet or beauty product puts a model in their advertisement, but then photoshops the heck out of the image so much that the model doesn’t even recognize himself or herself, that’s false advertising, too. They can’t truly say that someone who used their product achieved those results, because they clearly didn’t.

What about Free Speech? Yeah, that was my first question, too. Obviously, artistic expression is a protected form of free speech. The Bill would not effect magazine covers or editorial content – only advertisements meant to sell products. The FTC already exercises that power over advertisements as a means of consumer protection, it’s just usually an authority used on literal words or statements. Given the strong empirical link between computer-altered media and negative body image, low self esteem, and disordered eating behaviors, it’s an easy argument to make that this is a matter of public health. The authors of the Bill have been very careful and clear in their wording of it, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen would be championing the effort is there was any risk of it infringing on free speech. Not to mention, it’s less than three pages long – you can read the whole thing faster than you can read this blog post!

As leader of the Virginia Team, my group managed to meet with seven different offices the day we were there. We had very positive meetings in every office, and an especially good meeting with Congressman Robert Hurt. Meetings usually occur with Congressional staff, but Representative Hurt met with us personally and took a special interest in the cause.

Congressman Hurt

Virginia Team with Congressman Robert Hurt

 

By the way… this issue isn’t going away any time soon. TIME Magazine did an amazing write-up about the efforts on April 3 (please share and RT!):

Search #TruthInAds on Twitter to follow the conversation online, and use that hashtag when sharing information about the efforts!

Care about this issue? Can’t attend Lobby Day but still want to make a difference? Good news, you can! Remember, the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014 has already been determined to be zero-cost. Price of new legislation is usually one of the biggest barriers to getting new laws passed, in addition to finding ways of legislating that both parties can agree on. As previously stated, this Bill is already bipartisan!

If you live in the United States, asking your Representative in Congress to support a Bill is really easy. First, go here:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Find out who your rep is, and then from there you can locate their office contact info from their personal website. You can call or a write letter (or both!) and ask them to check out HR4341. If you have a personal connection or experience with eating disorders, let them know why this is so important to you. And of course, you can consider coming to DC in the Fall!

The next Lobby Day with the Eating Disorders Coalition is September 30-October 1. Mark your calendars now!

Finally, we bid farewell to our Policy Director, Jeanine Cogan. After 14 years she is ready to move on to other things, but the EDC wouldn’t exist without her amazing efforts and commitment to the cause. You can read her farewell statement here on the EDC blog.

Alright, here are some pictures from Lobby Day and the reception the night before. Please ask your rep to support Truth in Advertising, share this post with everyone, and please consider coming to advocate with us in the Fall!

Group Shot

Group shot! VA Team didn’t make this picture, unfortunately, since we had an early meeting. Photo by Jimm Knapp.

Reception 1

Some very attractive advocates having a very important conversation. Photo by Jim Knapp.

Reception 2

Kathleen MacDonald and EDC Board Member Jaye Azoff. Photo by Jim Knapp.

20140403_160748

Another shot of VA team at the end of the day after a few others had to leave. Seriously, everyone on the team did an amazing job letting me drag them around Capitol Hill.

Capitol Night

We had the good fortune of some perfect weather. Photo by Jim Knapp.

Seth 1

This is Seth Matlins. If it wasn’t for him, the Truth in Advertising Bill wouldn’t exist. Special thanks to him for his passion, advocacy, and commitment to this issue. Photo by Jim Knapp.

 

20140402_164849

Saw this a block away from the Senate buildings. It’s quite fitting, no?

Thanks for reading. Please contact your representatives, and maybe I’ll see you in DC in October?

 

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Should NEDIC Reconsider Their Ad Campaign?

Update:
NEDIC put out a response for which I’m appreciative (see here). Perhaps my rhetoric was a little over-the-top, but I do feel strongly about these things and believe they must be treated with the utmost care (see the comments section for further discussion). The nature of the internet can sometimes blow things out of proportion, and I hope that hasn’t happened here. To borrow a phrase from one commenter, I’d never want to ‘silence an ally’ and NEDIC does some extremely important work!

Original Post:
The following photo shows an ad that the National Eating Disorder Information Center is currently running on subways to attempt to get people talking about eating disorders and make them aware of local resources. But am I the only one who has a problem with it?

NEDIC

In response to some initial critique, NEDIC (at least, whoever runs NEDIC’s Facebook page) issued the following replies:

“It does say Hunger is my bff- it is meant to shock, leave an impression and encourage dialogue. Thank you for the feedback and engaging with us.”

…Is the image controversial? Polarizing even? Yes, but as long as it makes people think about it, and talk about it, we feel we have made progress in making more people aware of available resources and support- our end goal. This is our first such campaign and we will be doing market research to gauge reaction on-the-street, and how the campaign is being perceived by the general public. All information will be used to deliver more effective campaigns in the future…”

Where to start?

They actually stated that this is their first such campaign and are doing market research to gauge reactions. Did no one think that perhaps that feedback could have been garnered online via activist communities or opinion polls? In other words, they’re beta-testing this idea to the general populous.

Worse, I have a problem with that whole “as long as it makes people think about it… we feel we have made progress.”

See…

In some situations, I agree, but this is not a “no press is bad press” type situation. When dealing with something deadly like an eating disorder, an ad that (not-so-clearly) aims to satirize the behaviors of disordered eating comes off as trivializing the issue for people who are suffering from EDs and confusing passerby who don’t get it. When going for “on-the-street” reactions you have a responsibility to be concerned about the affects of your message on a general population, and this doesn’t meet that criteria.

You know what’s even more attention-getting? Statistics like the fact that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder, upwards of 20% of anorexics WILL DIE as a direct result of their eating disorder.

If you were an advocacy organization that campaigned against self-harm or suicide, would you put a similar “controversial and polarizing” message up to turn heads, like “Cutting is my BFF”? I’d certainly hope not.

This campaign is as vapid and harmful as those Urban Outfitters shirts that say “Eat Less.” There is honestly no difference, and whoever thought this up should reconsider what they put out into the world and whether or not this actually helps more people than it harms.

Eating disorders are deadly disorders, and this ad makes a mockery of the families that I have met doing lobby work who have lost loved ones to these terrible illnesses.

To be clear, I love 99% of the images on their page and it looks like they generally do good and important work. As an outspoken and passionate eating disorder activist, I love to see other people and ‘orgs trying to reach out to others. But this particular campaign doesn’t cut it, and hiding behind statements like “Yes, it’s shocking, let’s talk about that” doesn’t cut it, either.

Seriously. Do your “market research” internally or with the population you hope to reach out to. I can think of many forums and groups that would be happy to assist in providing feedback before you pay money to put up harmful ads on subways.

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Filed under Activism, eating disorders

In Loving Memory of Matt Ryd, Musician & Eating Disorder Activist

Last year at the end of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I stumbled on another guy named Matt, a musician from Chicago who also suffered from an eating disorder. He had made a really touching video for ED Awareness Week, and all proceeds from his music sales for the entire week were being donated to the National Eating Disorders Association.

MattRyd

I had a brief correspondence with him over email, mainly to tell him how much I loved the video he had made, and to ask him if he would ever consider coming to DC to do advocacy work with me and the Eating Disorders Coalition. I’m often one of the only guys there, but I know there are others. I’ve met them, we’ve networked online, and we’ve all seen the limited statistics that are available that still unequivocally demonstrate that an eating disorder is a serious, life-threatening illness, regardless of the sex or gender of the person suffering from it. We need more male representation on Capitol Hill to reflect the actual population affected, and I was excited to be in touch with such a passionate and caring guy like him.

Matt had told me he wasn’t sure he could afford traveling all the way to DC, but would like to in the future if possible. As I’ve been prepping for the Fall 2013 day in DC, he was on my short list of people to email and check in with. Instead, this evening I found that his family left the following comment on the post from last year:

Matt Ryd has passed away.

From his parents on his Facebook Page:

Message from Matt’s Parents to all Matt’s wonderful friends and supporters:

It is with very heavy hearts that we must tell you that Matt lost his battle with the anxiety, depression and eating disorder that had consumed him for so long and ended his physical life here on earth on Sunday, August 4th. While Matt fought vigorously for many years, his illnesses had grown more and more debilitating over the past 18 months or so, and though he tried hard not to show it, his daily suffering increased significantly and was ultimately more than he could bear. Our hearts are broken, but we take comfort in the knowledge that he has finally been “Healed” and will suffer no more.

Matt was an amazing young man with many talents, but most importantly he had a sensitive spirit and heart of gold and touched people’s lives all around him. In true Matt Ryd fashion, he left an open message for his friends, fans and others who supported his dream of being a musician that he asked us to share with all of you. His message reads as follows:

********************************************************************
“To all the people who have taken time to listen to my music and support my dream, even though it stops here before I become a big shot and get to prove that I won’t lose touch with my frans: Thank you. Thank you for the joy that you brought into my life. Because there have been absolutely no times that I have been happier than when I’ve been onstage, than when I’ve watched comments roll in on YouTube videos, or when I’ve had simple Facebook conversations with people halfway around the world. You are all wonderful and amazing and I thank you so so much for your time and your attention. I’m just happy that I’ve been able to make any impact in your lives. I truly regret that the music has to stop along with me.”

********************************************************************
Matt lived to write and play music and was always overwhelmed and humbled by the tremendous support that he received from so many of you. Thank you to all of you for being a part of his life and providing him with such unbridled joy in the midst of all of his struggles. He will be missed greatly by us all, but we think his passion for music will continue on – in the words and lyrics of the other wonderfully talented singer/songwriters that play nightly across the Chicago landscape and beyond – and we know that is what he would want.

There will be a memorial service in a few weeks to celebrate Matt’s life and the music he loved so dearly in a way that he would have wanted. More information will be posted as it is determined. Matt also very humbly requested that any remembrances be made to either ANAD (www.anad.org) or NEDA (www.neda.org) which are two eating disorder support organizations that were important part of Matt’s life for many years.

Thank you again for the part that each of you played in Matt’s life. We will always cherish the happy moments and memories that being a musician provided for Matt over the years.

Steve and Joani Ryd

Right now I can’t even read through the entire message because I’m crying too hard. I want to watch the video again that he made last year, but the moment the music comes on I know I can’t.

On March 5, 2013, he shared the following message on his Facebook page:

Hey everyone,

As National Eating Disorder Awareness Week has drawn to its close, and having finished an overwhelmingly successful fundraiser (for which I owe you all of the credit), I feel like the time is right to make an announcement.

I’m going back into residential treatment for my own eating disorder for a while. Actually, I’ve been in residential for the past week, but didn’t want to distract from the fundraiser until it was complete.

Some of you are probably thinking: “Wait a second… wasn’t he *just* in residential treatment?” Well… yes and no. Yes, I left residential treatment about 5 months ago when my insurance ran out. 5 months is a relatively short amount of time, but can also be an eternity when you’re left with unresolved issues. In my case, as the eating disorder symptoms stopped being a problem, that led to intense anxiety. That anxiety, in turn, led to a pretty bad bout of depression. And that depression led me to turn back to my eating disorder.

In technical terms, I relapsed. It’s not uncommon. Statistics vary, but it’s generally believed that somewhere around 50% of patients tend to relapse in their first year after spending time at an inpatient/residential facility. Unfortunately, though I tried very hard not to fall under this statistic, as I’ve said before: eating disorders are sneaky little bastards, and they can come creeping in and take over your life before you even know it is happening.

I have no clue how long this stay will be. I do know that, this time, I’m staying here until I’ve worked through the underlying issues that lead me to turn to my disorder. Last time, I essentially cured the symptoms without fixing the disease. Or, to get all metaphorical on you, I tore up the weeds in the garden without managing to dig up the roots, and, as is expected, the weeds grew back.

In the meantime, I’ll obviously be taking a hiatus from music and production while in the recovery process. But I’ll also be taking a sabbatical from social networks (Facebook, Twitter, my blog… and I’ll try really really hard not to Instagram the pictures my parents send me of my cat). I’ll do my best to respond to personal messages on any of those platforms, but I won’t be responding to or making any wall posts, @ replies, or anything like that.

But I’m not dropping off the face of the earth. If you’d like to reach me for any reason, I’ll still be checking and doing my best to respond to emails at matt@mattryd.com. If you have my personal cell phone number, I’ll be doing my best to respond to any texts that I get, and if you don’t have my personal cell, you can text my work phone at (773) 980-6793. I do have to emphasize that I will *try* (and will try very very hard) to respond to everything. But, just to put things in perspective, I have *very* little free time, so I apologize in advance if some communication falls through the cracks. I promise, I will read everything, and that emails and texts from the outside world are greatly appreciated, as I’m a little bit sequestered at the moment.

Let me just say thank you to you all for your support and for sticking by me during my struggles. I promise that, when the time is right and when I am healthy, I will be back, and will be better than ever. I’ll be putting out albums left and right, producing like crazy, hanging out with as many of you as possible… and best of all, I’ll be doing it without an eating disorder. If you thought that I was able to do cool stuff before, just wait until you see me when I’m healthy. I plan to be a force to be reckoned with.

I love you all dearly, and will miss you while I’m gone, but I know that this is for the best. And when it’s all done, you’ll have an even better Matt than you’ve ever had before. And hopefully that’s something for us all to look forward to.

Your friend,
Matt

Even though we never met, I felt a connection to Matt. I think it was his sincerity and honesty, even while he was struggling. I could just tell that his candidness and hopefulness were going to give others hope, too, and maybe the impetus to seek their own recovery and support.

So if you’re reading this and you’re struggling, or you know someone who is: it’s time to do something about it. Eating disorders are serious, deadly illnesses, and you (and me, and Matt, and everyone) deserve to be healthy and happy.

Here’s the video that Matt made again. Please watch it, and share this with anyone who needs to hear it.

I wish I could have met you. Rest in peace, Matt.

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No More Gender Bias – EDC Congressional Briefing, April 2011

In April 2011, I was given the honor of presenting at the Eating Disorders Coalition’s Congressional Briefing. I can’t believe it’s already been two years – this was before I had even started this blog! Until recently, this video (along with the other speakers) had been sitting on a hard drive somewhere, but it’s finally made it online. Below are some excepts, or just scroll to the end for the full video.

I am proof that eating disorders DO NOT discriminate.  It is not a disease of vanity. It is not a “woman’s disease.” It is not a “phase.” It is a life-threatening mental illness epidemic. Despite the data we have that demonstrate that millions of Americans – men and women alike – currently suffer from eating disorders, the shoulder-shrug excuses that are used to trivialize and dismiss eating disorders persist. Despite the fact that upwards of 20% of all anorexics will die as a direct result of their eating disorder, there is a lack of awareness in virtually every level of support that should be there to help someone. From the social level with friends and family, to health care providers, emergency room doctors, and of course, insurance companies.

When I should have been making friends, focusing on school work, and growing into the person I was going to become, I instead lost two years of my life to anorexia, two years of my life that I can’t ever get back. My senior year in high school, I had a falling out with some close friends, and fell into a deep depression. I lost my appetite, and couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know what was happening – everything occurred so quickly. Though I had visibly lost weight, it was a few months after my problems began that I ever bothered weighing myself. Co-workers who didn’t know me well would compliment me on the weight I’d lost. My friends could tell something was wrong, they just didn’t know how to approach it. Not knowing what was wrong myself, when they’d ask if I was OK I would insist that I was fine (a word that a good friend of mine refers to as ‘the real F-word’). Eventually, someone at work asked me how much weight I had lost. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind, and out of sheer curiosity I went home and weighed myself, and my bitter relationship with numbers began.

In those early months I never had ‘goal weights’ or anything else – it was all curiosity. The more I lost, though, and the more my body reflected it, the more I started to wonder how low I could actually get. It’s important to note that, at the time, you could say I was on auto-pilot. I was aware of what I was doing but I was never really in control. Our bodies depend on the intake of food and on regular sleep to function properly, and when deprived of those things your judgment and emotions can get quite disrupted, among other things. I didn’t just wakes up one morning and decide that I was going to be anorexic, any more than one might decide to become a drug addict or to have cancer.

My family and friends could tell something was wrong, but they didn’t know the right questions to ask. I skipped enough classes that my teachers started to worry, too, and even the guidance counselor checked in with me. They could all see I was losing weight very quickly, but they danced around it, wondering if I was depressed or if things were “OK at home”. Maybe they just weren’t used to screening eighteen year-old males for eating disorders. Either way it’s not as if I blame them, I was as clueless as they were. I went through my own denial, listing off all the reasons that I couldn’t be anorexic. “That only happens to models.” “You’ve just been depressed and haven’t felt like eating.” “It’s not that serious, things’ will be OK.”

… My story is not a unique one, and until we have the FREED Act, millions of others will continue to struggle. Children are being exposed to an endless stream of messages and advertising that tells them they should dislike their bodies, and dieting is becoming common among elementary school girls who haven’t even started puberty. This is a problem which is only going to get worse until there is a real intervention on the federal level.

By passing the FREED Act, Congress has the power to give health professionals the tools they need to identify, treat and prevent eating disorders effectively. They have the power to make sure no one has to go through what I went through ever again.

Congress has the power to make sure no one else has to become a statistic. I have friends who are struggling with eating disorders who I’ve encouraged to come to Capitol Hill with me for EDC National Lobby Day. Every day and every month that they don’t get the help they need to recover, I wonder if they’ll be able to make the trip to Capitol Hill with me, or if I’m going to have to bring their picture and memory instead.

And so I’m asking. I’m pleading. Pass the FREED Act. Thank you.


You can access the full speech transcript here.

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Striving For Perfection: Boys & Body Image

I had another great opportunity to take part in a segment on body image and males. This segment was especially interesting to me because it had a broader focus, particularly due to the contributions of Alan Aragon. Alan is a nutrition and fitness expert, getting his start in the gym as a personal trainer. Nowadays he finds himself writing, blogging, and fairly well-known online on the fitness forums he helps moderate. I’m so detached from body-building and gym culture that I forget how many men are wrapped up in that stuff, so I got a lot out of the discussion too.

Here’s the full list of panelists:

Claire Mysko @ClaireMysko
Author, “Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?”
clairemysko.com

Niobe Way @youthresistance
Professor of Applied Psychology, New York University
niobeway.com

Ryan Salonen
Actor
IMDB credits

Alan Aragon
Nutrition guru
alanaragon.com

Simon Metin @smetin92
Medical Student, King’s College, Cambridge
Simon Metin on YouTube

I want to thank everyone at The Stream for covering this topic, asking good questions, and staying away from shock value media like lowest weights or the like. Also, it was great to be on Claire, whom I’ve had a few Twitter exchanges with but never anything like this.

Alright, I’m off to prepare for next week with the Eating Disorders Coalition. Maybe I’ll see you on Capitol Hill?

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April 10, 2013 · 12:13 pm

Anorexia in Men on the Rise – Huffington Post Live Interview

Happy Eating Disorder Awareness Week! I had the pleasure of participating in a discussion on Huffington Post Live on eating disorders in men this past Thursday. I’m excited that they chose to highlight this subject during awareness week, and appreciate the thoughtful questions they had for everyone on the segment.

You can watch the full segment below, which includes a young man named Alberto De Leon in Chicago who is currently in recovery from an eating disorder; Margaret Johnson, the editor for HuffPost Women; Amanda Webster, an Australian mother who’s son developed anorexia in childhood; and Dr. Gregory Jantz, an eating disorder specialist in Seattle. You can watch the full video below:

You may notice that the title on the video says, “Manorexia on the Rise.” Well, I don’t care for that term one bit, and I’m happy to report that when I emailed my contact on the production team, they changed it on the main video page and wherever else it was possible. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to edit out of the video stream, but I want to extend my gratitude for the quick response they had in changing it where they could.

I’ve written about my disdain for that term in the past:

If you’ve been keeping up with me on here, you have probably heard me talk about “gender inclusivity.” I believe for ED treatment, research, and prevention to advance, it has to be fully inclusive and not just catered to the majority. I almost slipped through the cracks of the resources available to me during my own recovery because it was all designed for women, and I mourn for other boys and men who find themselves in similar circumstances.

I grimaced at the original title because taking a word like “anorexia” and altering it to reference EDs in men carries the implication that men experience it differently in some way – otherwise, they would just call it anorexia, right? …In short, it by default is not gender inclusive.

It won’t do us any good to take notice of how our recovery culture is feminized if we just turn around and make it gendered in the opposite direction. Eating disorders are, more than anything, a matter of public health concern.

Thanks again to Huffington Post Live for having me, and for responding to my request regarding the segment title so quickly. If more media outlets handled this issue with the same level of care, we’d all be the better for it.

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Filed under Activism, Eating Disorder Awareness Week, eating disorders, Interview, Recovery, Uncategorized

2012 in Review

The New Year marks almost two years that my blog has been online. 2012 saw a lot of new visitors, and as I did last year, here are some of my favorite posts of 2012!

1) January 13, 2012: Smash Your Scale (And Anything Else Holding You Back!)
One of my favorite posts, and also one of my favorite stories to tell. The avatar for my blog (the smashed scale up in the corner) isn’t some stock photo – it’s actually the scale I smashed back in 2005 behind the alley of my first apartment.
“I can’t really understate how good it felt to smash that evil contraption. It was one of the biggest enablers of the eating disorder, and there was no way I could pretend that I was going to get better and still keep it around.”

2) February 6, 2012: Continue reading

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A Breath of Fresh Air

Now that the holidays are here, I can breathe a little easier. I’m lucky that my job is at a university, which happens to shut down for almost two whole weeks over the holidays! Which means it’s time to get around to updating this page!

Holidays used to be a big challenge for me. Being around family, having food prepared for you or going out to restaurants you aren’t used to, your whole schedule thrown off… sometimes that chance to relax is actually more stressful than your day-to-day. Over the years I learned that it’s the times when you’re challenged that it’s most important to stick to what works for you and put recovery first.

Maybe you want to get out of going to that restaurant, or just make excuses to avoid meals with other people all together. But I think the best gift you can give to yourself is to do things for you and not whatever negative voice in your head might tell you otherwise. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but recovery is something you do, meal by meal, day by day.

If you’re working, in school, or both, the holidays (basically all of November and December, if you’re anything like the average American!) can just add stress and make it harder to focus on taking care of yourself. But those are the times when it’s the absolute most important to maintain healthy choices and self-care. When you find yourself overwhelmed, where you do go for a breath of fresh air?

If you’ve struggled with an ED in the past, odds are that one of the reflexive reactions is to slip back into those kinds of patterns. That’s why it’s really important to have a plan for taking good care of yourself. Having a few friends who understand where you’re coming from that you know you can call in the moment when you’re struggling can go a long way. Why not go for a walk, a drive, a bike ride? Call a friend?

We all need a breath of fresh air sometimes. The question is, where do you go to get it? Do you turn back to old habits, or do you seek out new ways of dealing?

When you’re in the moment and all that anxiety about food feels so overpowering, it’s easy to feel as though there’s no other option but to engage in disordered eating behavior. But the best gift you can give to yourself, no matter what holiday you may or may not celebrate, is the gift of self-nurturance and self-care.

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Secular Spirituality, Atheism, and Recovery

If you’ve been through recovery, I’m wondering – how has your recovery been impacted (positively, negatively?) when the recovery culture dialogue turns to the almighty? It seems to happen a lot, and there’s a lot of faith-based stuff out there. And if that helps you recover, then I’m all for it! Everyone’s recovery will look a little different and be unique to them, and hope can be found in many different forms.

But for nonbelievers, the prevalence of religious language in recovery can present an additional hurdle – I know it did for me. Early in my recovery, before I got into more structured group therapy with a counselor, I was attending Twelve-Step groups that focused on eating disorders/disordered eating. I couldn’t recommend them for everyone, but it was what I needed at the time. I had hit an all-time low, and a friend told me about a group that met less than two miles away from where I lived downtown. I went the very next day, desperate for anything that might assuage the constant misery and physical discomfort I was in.

I honestly thought that I was going to go there, they would tell me what to do, I would do it and I would get better – just like going to the doctor and getting a prescription. I quickly found out that that wasn’t the case. But what I did find was a new perspective and a sense of hope – the people there spoke about their struggles with honesty and clarity, as well as an unexpected humility. One of the things emphasized in all Twelve-Step fellowships is admitting you don’t have control over everything, and as you work through that it can really give you some room to breathe. However, part of that admitting you don’t have control everything (a notion that often clashes with our Western sense of independence and individuality – but I challenge you to sneeze with your eyes open or to prevent the sun from setting) is turning that control over to a “Higher Power.”

Ugh.

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Fit, or Fitting In?

Well, this is an interesting follow-up to the ‘fitspo’ discussion last week. Sarah Robles, the top weight-lifter in America, is bound for the Olympics and can barely pay rent.

…And even though she’s the U.S.’s best chance at an Olympic medal, she’ll never get the fame or fortune that come so easily to her fellow athletes — in part because, at 5 feet, 10.5 inches and 275 pounds, she doesn’t fit the ideal of thin, toned athletic beauty.

“You can get that sponsorship if you’re a super-built guy or a girl who looks good in a bikini. But not if you’re a girl who’s built like a guy,” she says. The 23-year-old from California became the highest ranked weightlifter in the country last year after placing 11th at the world championships, beating out every male and female American on the roster. On her best day, she can lift more than 568 pounds — that’s roughly five IKEA couches, 65 gallons of milk, or one large adult male lion.
(full article)

The thing is, if you passed Sarah on the street, a lot of people might make assumptions about her health based on her height and weight, and I doubt anyone would assume she was an Olympic athlete. She’s a prime example as to why I can’t stand that ‘fitspo’ crap – it promotes very narrow ideas of health, fitness, and attractiveness. If ‘fitspo’ is about motivation to work out, why isn’t there any with Sarah Robles? After all, she’s pretty damn fit!

Eat healthy and work hard, and you might be on your way to the Olympics, just like Sarah Robles!

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