Category Archives: Rantings

Body Shaming At Any Size

Hey there.

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and even longer since I’ve ranted.

This video has been circulating around the internet lately, and I was incredibly proud and in awe of this brave woman. She is an example of strength and dignity that we all can learn from.

Body shaming is disgusting, and one of the worst forms of bullying out there. Everyone has been a victim of it, I’m sure. Whether it’s for your shape, size, hair, skin, race, whatever, it exists.

I have been the victim of body shaming on more than one occasion. Even when I weighed less than I do now, I had people in my life who would consistently put me down for being “fat”.  Who would point out my every flaw, or just give me “tips” to disguise the parts of my body that were socially unacceptable. It hurts, especially when it comes from those who are closest to you.

There’s one other type of body shaming that I’ve been a victim of that nobody talks about, or maybe it’s just that nobody cares.

Have you ever called anyone a skinny bitch? (I have.)

Skinny girls are torn apart all the time. It seems everyone thinks that because skinny=socially acceptable, “thin-bashing” is okay. Skinny people have it all, right?

Let’s play a brain game. Imagine you overhear the following:

Oh my god, how much weight have you gained? You look disgusting. Seriously. You need to stop eating. I mean it. You look like you’re all steriod-puffy from cancer treatment. Look in the mirror! Can’t you see that you look like one of those obese people you see on the news?

Horrifying, yes? Now imagine this:

Oh my god, how much weight have you lost? You look disgusting. Seriously. Just eat a fucking sandwich. I mean it. You look like a cancer patient after a million rounds of chemo. Look in the mirror! Can’t you see you look like a holocaust survivor?

I’ve heard all of these things from people trying to be “helpful”. I’ve heard it from friends, acquaintances, teachers, strangers . . . nobody seems to think twice when it comes to being underweight as opposed to overweight.

Yes, I was suffering from an eating disorder at the time. But people don’t realize that obesity can be just as much a symptom of an eating disorder as emaciation.  Why is one acceptable to comment on, but not the other?

Remember:

The girl who can eat anything and never gain a pound might be throwing up everything she eats.

The girl with the hot body who seems so disciplined going to the gym might just feel like a hamster trapped on a wheel. She can’t step off the treadmill to save her life.

The emaciated girl who is obviously anorexic may be fighting for her life, and doesn’t need you to remind her of how bad she looks.

I was out to dinner with a friend earlier this year. She was working so hard to fight anorexia on her own, and was out for maybe her 2nd meal in public at a restaurant. She had ordered her meal, and on her way back from the bathroom, some drunken jerk yelled, “Go back to the concentration camp!” This absolutely destroyed her, and she could only pick at the meal she had so bravely ordered.

You never know when an ill-timed, even well-intentioned comment can throw a complete wrench in someone’s day. Please just think before you speak. And to the asshole guy from the video who is worrying about the example she is setting for children, just remember that your children are watching you more carefully than they are anyone on tv. Would you really rather raise your children to be assholes than overweight? As far as I can see, the assholes are much more dangerous to society.

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Angry Dance

Seriously. That’s a song title from a musical. Very to-the-point, Sir Elton.

I don’t know if it’s anger or frustration or what, but today is one of those days when I just want to search and destroy. The child in me wants to shred things and bite things and throw things and scream. Alas, I can’t scream. It’s a physical impossibility.

What is the answer to anger expression when you’re an adult? I only know how to express it in unhealthy ways by turning it inwards (that’s usually its origin, anyways, so it’s a short turn). I’d do an angry dance, but everything always ends up too balletic, and that doesn’t exactly lend itself to the expression of anger . . . more the expression of “My, what a pretty flower!” I used to belt my face off (sing), but I’m limited on soundproof spaces, and my deteriorating vocal technique just makes me angrier.

So what does one do with anger when temper tantrums are no longer an option? I suspect tearing my yoga mat along its “Align” lines isn’t the answer . . .

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Roots (And Wings?)

The word “roots” brings so many things to my mind . . .

When I was a kid watching Fraggle Rock, the only way for one of the Fraggles to find his or her (I’m a little foggy on the details) way out of an underground stream is by “Holding the Roots” of the big tree. This principle was later applied to my always-fine hair which tangled beyond measure. If you held the roots while brushing it down lower, it hurt less.

In grade 8 (8th grade, for my American readers), I read Alex Haley’s “Roots” . . . a book which I should probably read again, because I’m sure I missed most of what it was about when I was 13.

My first retail job was at a Canadian clothing store called “Roots” (you might remember them from our Olympic wear in the late 90s/early 00s). I was frequently told by visiting Australians that it was considered a very dirty word over there. Good times.

When I was in treatment in Utah, I took a pretty picture of this tree’s roots during a mindfulness exercise (accessing this picture was a challenge, as my laptop has died. Hence the lack of blogging of late):

Anyhow. Enough digression. Why the roots, you ask? It’s a long-ish explanation. Feel free to grab a snack.

Lately, people have been sending me a lot of links, etc. as inspiration for rantings here. I search out a bunch, too. Looking back over them (well, mentally looking back . . . they’re bookmarked on my dead laptop), and over many things I’ve ranted about, I realize how many of them are body-centric. For example, this article by Ashley Judd. She talks about how the media has reacted to her “puffy face” of late. It’s excellent, and she makes good points. It’s a great lesson for us all about how we look at and judge others.

But the farther I get from food symptoms in my recovery, the more I realize how little eating disorders have to do with the body. Yes, that’s how they manifest, but the root cause is invariably something else. Millions of people diet because they hate their bodies, but not everyone who hates their body develops an eating disorder. Sitting in support groups, weight and food are seldom the topics of conversation. It’s what we focus on, but it’s not what matters.

What matters in the Ashley Judd article is how humans have learned to treat one another. So many try to steal other peoples’ power to build themselves up. By tearing Ashley Judd down, maybe the people writing the articles feel better about how they’ve lived their lives, and maybe how their changing appearance is affecting them. We believe that, in order to win, someone else has to fail.

There’s been a picture floating around on Facebook that I like very much:

 

“An anthropologist studying the habits and customs of an African tribe found
himself surrounded by children most days. So he decided to play a little game with them. He managed to get candy from the nearest town and put it all in a decorated basket. at the foot of a tree.
Then he called the children and suggested they play the game. When the anthropologist said “now”, the children had to run to the tree and the first one to get there could have all the candy to him/herself.

So the children all lined up waiting for the signal. When the anthropologist said “now”, all of the children took each other by the hand ran together towards the tree. They all arrived at the same time divided up the candy, sat down and began to happily munch away.

The anthropologist went over to them and asked why they had all run together when any one of them could have had the candy all to themselves.

The children responded: “Ubuntu. How could any one of us be happy if all the others were sad?”

Ubuntu is a philosophy of African tribes that can be summed up as “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

Bishop Desmond Tutu gave this explanation in 2008 :

“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”

 

— with Photo Rights: Susan Fassburg of ConnectingDotz.com.

The root of the problem of our society is, “How could any one of us be happy if all the others were sad?”

Everyone is so focussed on his or her own happiness, that we have all beaten each other down and climbed over carcasses to get to a place of false happiness. We’ve bullied one another, judged each others’ clothes, shoes, etc., excluded people, and abused ourselves and others. If we extend a hand to one another, and all move forward together, imagine what we can accomplish.

It’s not going to solve everything, but I’ve had to realize that there is no magic pill. Take what you can and run with it. The small steps build up and become big steps. Let’s all take each others’ hands and step together.

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Let’s Put the Responsibility Where It Belongs

Let's Put the Responsibility Where It Belongs

I saw this and thought you all might enjoy reading it. Maybe these tips will find their way to where they are needed most.

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March 1, 2012 · 12:07 PM

Looking at the World Through Photoshopped Glasses

While Canada’s Eating Disorder Awareness week was earlier this month, this week is the official NEDA Awareness week. The theme is “Everybody Knows Somebody“. I’m making an attempt to blog every day this week in solidarity, so here’s day two (weeks start on Sundays).

Today, NEDA posted on Facebook and Twitter the following:

Most models are thinner than 98% of Americans. Instead of trying to change our bodies, how about we try to change our culture?

Very true. I thought I’d share a little something I learned once upon a time about the origin of the emaciated model. We talk all the time about how models/pin-ups used to be curvy, but do you know what inspired the switch? Well, designers discovered that people were looking at and admiring the models’ bangin’ bodies, instead of looking at and admiring the clothes they were wearing. In order to put the focus on the clothes, they started hiring “unattractive” skinny models who wouldn’t distract from the clothes. Interesting how things have switched back.

Nowadays, even the curvy, attractive actresses are photoshopped to look like the formerly unattractive skinny models, and the emaciation is what we admire. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across an article entitled, “Classic Beauties Get A Shocking Photoshop Treatment“. It features the work of Anna Utopia Giordano in her “Venus Project“, where she applies the photoshop standards of today to the “rubenesque” figure of Venus, as depicted in classic paintings.

It’s astonishing how, even with my new “recovery” brain, I still see the picture on the right as the more attractive woman. The fashion media has really screwed with our heads. Our standard of beauty doesn’t want women to look like women. We admire those with no hips, body fat percentages too low to ever procreate, and eyes devoid of any life whatsoever. How is that a woman?

It is up to all of us to demand change, and to stop accepting photoshopped 12-year-olds as our ideal women. Speak up, and for god’s sake, teach your children what it means to be a real woman. Lead by example, and be the change.

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Sometimes There Are No Words . . .

. . . but this CANNOT be one of those times.

 

No child should know the words “calorie”, “carb”, or “overweight”. These are not appropriate words for a five-year-old. Yes, this child can explain it, but does she understand?

One day, maybe she’ll look in the mirror and see her little girl belly sticking out. Will the word “overweight” pop into her head? She has heard that if she replaces 2-3 meals per day with a shake, she can wear smaller pants. Will she develop a fear of food and try to replace her meals with liquids? Will she fear sitting on the couch for the risk of being lazy? She told all of us that we’re stupid if we don’t follow this plan. What would that mean to her child’s brain?

Actors must be over the age of 25 before they can appear in an ad for alcohol. We’ve all seen alcoholism kill. Well, I’ve seen eating disorders kill, too. Usually, the casualties of eating disorders are much younger than those of alcoholism. Why are we letting this child sell diets to the world?

Children lose their innocence younger and younger all the time. Please let your child grow up ignorant of the world of diets. You might just save her life.

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When ‘Support’ Goes Awry

Supporting those with eating disorders is a complicated thing, and a subject I’ve touched upon from time to time here. I felt like it deserved another post, however, after reading an article sent to me by a friend (I’d call her by name, but I’m not sure which one she’d want me to go with, so I’ll just call her “J”)

*WARNING: THE ARTICLE CONTAINS A LOT OF TRIGGERING INFORMATION, SO READ WITH CAUTION*

 I’ll summarize as best I can here.

As long as the internet has existed, there have been people using it for, well, less than healthy pursuits (get your mind out of the gutter, but yes, that too). In the world of eating disorders, for more than a decade now, there have been online communities known as “pro-ana” (pro anorexic) or what they’re now calling “Thinspo” or “Thinspiration” blogs. Thinspiration consists of photos (often heavily photoshopped) of severely underweight women (often models) that serve as “goals” for young women who want to lose weight. (There is also fitspo and reverse thinspo)  The blogs also offer tips on burning calories, fighting hunger, and hiding your illness from those around you. One girl cites avoiding an eating disorder as her reason for participating in this culture:

“I mean, they help you a lot. Even though it’s not good for society and other people, it can help you lose weight so fast that you won’t have time to get an eating disorder… And I’m not afraid. I’m ready to risk for perfection.”

I’m not going to lie. There have been times when I have sought out these sites (very infrequently, but even one look is too much, in my humble opinion) for tips and tricks. While I used them as a sort of “weight-loss Wikipedia”, many girls (and boys) create communities around their illnesses, offering encouragement and support to each other to keep losing weight. As with eating disorders, however, I believe the real inspiration behind these sites has nothing to do with weight loss.

Often, eating disorders stem from a deep feeling of shame. There are many different causes for that shame to exist, but it seems to be a recurring theme. That shame keeps you locked in a very isolated place. Everything you think and feel becomes a deep, dark secret that you can’t share with anyone. People think you’re choosing to act the way you are because you let them think that you are. If it’s a choice, then you’re not a victim.

For me, the first time I stepped into an eating disorder support group, I was shocked to hear people say publicly the things I thought were so bad and wrong and shameful, the things that made me feel like a freak. The feeling of “not alone” was one of the best feelings I’d felt in a long time. I think that’s how the thinspo blogs thrive. People who feel so alone find other people who think like them. Seeing pictures of people who are “the goal” – thin and happy – gives people a sense of control, and a feeling that what they’re doing can’t be all that bad. One of the hardest things for me in recovery wasn’t necessarily the loss of being thin, but the loss of the dream of what thinness would mean for me.

But it is bad. It’s really bad. I’ve seen it kill more than once. And it never stops breaking my heart to see people I love inch closer and closer to death. These people aren’t supporting each other to thinness, they’re supporting each other to death.

Alcoholics can find multiple meetings a day, if they need them. The same doesn’t seem to work for eating disorders. If the groups are free, they’re limited. Here you’re allowed two a week. There are more paid groups cropping up, but those who have lost everything rarely have the money to afford them. I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe the Thinspo girls are onto something . . . maybe we need more pro-recovery online.

In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite new quotes that puts shame into perspective for me. I hope it’s INspirational for you, too. Yes, it’s from Harry Potter. Shut up. I’m not ashamed.

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