Trigger warning for: Just about everything that may cause you to want to pull a trigger, or trigger feelings about body issues.
FREEZE! (it’s the fat) POLICE!!!
Not since I wrote about the 1-800-BAD IDEA billboards in my post, WWJD?, had I been so profoundly distracted by an advertisement while driving. There are so many things wrong with this ad that I actually nominated it for a Healthy Weight Week (HWW) Slim Chance Award.
For those of you unfamiliar with HWW and the Slim Chance Awards (SCA), HWW is celebrated in the United States the third week of January. One of the features of Healthy Weight Week, SCA, is used to expose the widespread fraud and quackery in the weight loss field that are touted as trying to help people become happier, healthier, and sexier, by losing weight and or fat.
WEALTH BY STEALTH
More recently the “weight cycling” aka diet industry has become increasingly adept at going undercover by borrowing some of the vocabulary from the Health at Every Size® philosophy. They now advertise their programs as NON diet approaches and proclaim that if you use their product or program you can give up chronic dieting and live a healthier, thinner, and happier life. With great stealth they cloak their message of body hate in health mandates and the importance of self-acceptance. One weight loss product has even used a take off of Marilyn Wann’s Yay Scale to hypocritically sell you a thinner happier self. And with the wide spread tradition for many people of diet laden New Year’s Resolutions looming in the near future, the frenzy is ramping up. This means that soon there will be a long list of nominees for the Slim Chance Awards to choose from.
“…the worst of the worst of the many weight-loss products and programs that flood the internet, the airwaves, and the pages of print materials each year in seemingly increasing numbers. Diet quackery disappoints and defrauds its vulnerable victims, and all too often it injures and even kills.”
ANY PUBLICITY IS GOOD PUBLICITY
There are those who will say that any kind of mention or acknowledgement of these plans and programs adds weight to their importance and should be ignored to best serve the objectives of the fat/size acceptance movement. I agree there is a fine line between advertising and exposing a product. In the case of the Slim Chance Awards, I think the positives outweigh the negatives. If you don’t know about something then you can’t protest what it is doing. Nor can you warn others who may be using the program of its pitfalls.
THEY SAID THERE WOULDN’T BE ANY MATH!
“Healthy Weight Week is a time to celebrate healthy diet-free living habits that last a lifetime and prevent eating and weight problems. Our bodies cannot be shaped at will. But we can all be accepting, healthy, and happy at our natural weights.” Frances Berg
The creators of Cool Sculpting® agree that we cannot, using our will alone, change the shape of our bodies BUT (see the but rule) if we are willing to use their procedure we will be thinner which of course means healthier and happier. In order to sell their primary product, Fat Freezing, they need to sell their secondary product, Body Hate, which then in fact becomes their primary product because without Body Hate there would be no need for the Fat Freezing…(deep breath) and they do this by listing the top ten reasons why anyone who can pinch the slightest amount of flesh on any part of their body (in lieu of bone) is or should be very unhappy.
TEN REASONS WHY THEY WANT YOU TO HATE YOUR BODY
“1. I don’t love my love handles 2. Two words: summer vacation. 3. Make my time at the gym look like I’ve been to the gym. 4. Show up at the reunion in the same jeans I wore then. 5. Move on to resolutions #2 and #3. 6. Put my bag in overhead without hesitation. 7. Wear spandex without embarrassment. 8.I eat right, so I deserve to look right. 9. Make my birthday suit my best outfit. 10. I want my body back.”
You see they can’t sell the cure without first selling us the dissatisfaction. The two points that irk me the most are numbers 3 and 8. They are basically saying that we can be physically active and have a “normal” relationship with food and it still isn’t enough if we can pinch an inch. This is COMPLETELY antithetical to the HAES® tenets and is the exact message that fuels the development of eating disorders and exacerbates self-loathing.
KAOS VS. CONTROL
In the old television series, Get Smart, the bad guy’s organization was KAOS and the good guy’s was CONTROL. I know I can not control the proliferation of these billboards. (Although I am fondly remembering when we were putting billboards up in Georgia to fight a fat shaming campaign that was being waged by a local hospital). I also know that I can not always plan my driving or walking routes to avoid seeing them. What I can CONTROL is the internal CHAOS they create inside of me when I see them by choosing to:
*Control my desire to commit vandalism.
*Control my rage so I don’t slam into the rear bumper of the poor unsuspecting car in front of me.
*Control my urge to use food to act out, numb out, or not speak out.
*Control my reaction of spiraling down into a place of hating my body because I am being told that my body is something t0 be hated.
And I can nominate them for a Slim Chance Award because even if they don’t get the award, I have already won by publicly proclaiming that,
“I’m not buying either of the two products they are selling!”
If you would like to learn more about Healthy Weight Week or would like to make a Slim Chance Award Nomination (the deadline is December 11th) CLICK HERE.
If you would like to order one of my new bumper stickers or refrigerator magnets (proceeds go towards financing my soon to be released book, Dr Deah’s Calmanac: Your Interactive Monthly Guide for Cultivating a Positive Body Image) they look like this:
and can be found HERE.
Til Next Time!
For those of you keeping track, my last two blog posts were posted on other blog sites. I would love to share these articles with you as they are filled with pertinent and poignant HAES® information:
If you go to the Association of Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) blog site, you will see the interview I conducted with Nan Feyler as part of ASDAH’s Building Bridges Series. This series is designed to facilitate communication between HAES/Size Diversity/Fat Acceptance groups, orgs. and communities with people and orgs. who are either unaware of Health at Every Size paradigm or who vehemently believe that there is little merit in adopting a different point of view re: obesity and health. CLICK HERE for that provocative and surprisingly uncontentious interview that I conducted with Ms Feyler, from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
The other article is one on F@ Activism and can be found on the Fierce Freethinking Fatties website. It addresses the importance of not forgetting the activists who paved the way for the fabulous new F@ Activists who are taking on the cause as some of us older folks are doing just a tad less than we were when we were in our 20′s! CLICK HERE to read that piece.
And lastly, I have launched my own version of Kick Starter! If you go to the shop page on my website www.drdeah.com, you wil see bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets for sale. The proceeds will go to help launch my new book, Dr. Deah’s Calmanac: Your interactive monthly guide for cultivating a positive body image.
Til Next Time!
Trigger Warning: Discussion of Eating Disorders and Halloween Candy
None of us were born with a negative body image nor did it develop over night. So assuming we can instantaneously fix it just because we decide to feel better about our bodies is a bit unrealistic. In short, it takes PRACTICE! We must practice setting limits on other people telling us that our body is wrong. We must practice telling people that the only weight problem we have is their problem with our weight. We must practice taking action to increase the inclusion of all sizes in the cultural paradigm for beauty. And October is a perfect time to PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! Here’s why.
October is a month full of contradictions when it comes to body image. Starting with Halloween that challenges us to feel comfortable collecting and consuming massive amounts of candy, and at the same time, demands that we fit into skimpy sexy nurse costumes. If that isn’t a dichotomy I don’t know what is. Luckily we also have Love Your Body Day (the third Wednesday of October) and End Fat Talk Week, (October 21-25) to proactively prepare for the 31st. Let’s take them one at a time.
Halloween: For people with eating disorders and body image issues Halloween can be a very ghoulish time. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I found out that the miniature candy bars were available all year long which defused my bingeing on them (because I was afraid it would be a whole year before they would re-appear). Sometimes just knowing something is available, for me anyway, takes away a certain amount of the charge. Instead of looking at the food as an enemy, I can look at the food as just another wonderful option. But I want to stress that not everyone who is fat has disordered eating issues or the sweet tooth that I am certain I inherited from both sides of my family. The discomfort comes less from the consuming and more from the costuming experience. As a fat kid who loved to dress up for Halloween, I was always devastated at the lack of cool costumes that were available in my size. Each Halloween I would face discouragement at the paltry selection and wound up making my own costume. I don’t think anyone knew that my costume was a consolation prize for not finding what I really longed for. I always received great praise for my creativity but inside I coveted the store bought version to whatever I may have crafted with the help of my mom’s incredible handiwork.
As hard as it was for me back then, it has to be even more HORRIFIC for fat kids now. Please correct me if my perception is completely distorted but each year, it seems that the costumes for girls are increasingly scanty and sized for younger and thinner girls. The options of sizes for larger kids are still frighteningly limited and I won’t even get into my feminist rant about the choices for females compared to males. One example to share with you is that in 2011 there was a costume that caused such a stir it was pulled from the shelves only to reappear this year. The costume was titled; Anna Rexia, and I don’t want to post the image because it is too disturbing. Here is the link to an article in Huff Po about the protest that is currently underway and includes an image if you would like to see it in all of its frightfulness! The article also has a link to the petition protesting the costume’s reappearance.
With Halloween sounding pretty scary, why is October a great month for practicing ways to improve our body image? Because earlier in the month, we are given two fantastic dress rehearsals in order to prepare.
Love Your Body Day: LYBD was created by the National Organization of Women and provides us with the opportunity to remember all of the wonderful qualities of our bodies and how vital they are for our just being alive! I know it sounds ridiculous, but we get so caught up in how our bodies look that we forget that if it weren’t for our bodies we wouldn’t be here! And so we get to take the time to PRACTICE body appreciation and join forces with our bodies with a bond of love and self-acceptance. It is a chance to try not blaming our body because it doesn’t fit in to a costume designed for the small end of the size scale and PRACTICE putting the onus on the manufacturers for discounting an entire portion of the population.
End Fat Talk Week:. Created by the college sorority, Tri Delta, E.F.T.W. was established to help improve body image of girls on campus. Each year Tri Delta makes an amazing video that publicizes the need to “Change the Conversation” and not talk about our bodies in negative ways. It reminds us that we have the power to control what we think about ourselves even if we can’t control what others may think or say. It also demonstrates how toxic it is to our self-esteem to continually program our “hard drive” to believe that there is only one definition of beauty and that beauty above all other things is what makes women successful.
Until Next Time!
P.S. In order to finance the launch of my upcoming book, Dr. Deah’s Calmanac: Your Monthly Interactive Guide for Growing a Positive Body Image, I am selling my practice slogan shown above as t-shirts and bumper stickers. Just contact me at drdeah.com and I will send you details on how to order!
DATELINE: October 21, 2013: JOIN OUR CRUSADE!
In March, 2011, I wrote a blog post for Eating Disorders Online entitled, Dear Michelle, about Michelle Obama’sLet’s Move Campaign. In my article, I referenced Paul Campos’ piece in the Daily Beast where Campos does a brilliant job explaining why the Let’s Move campaign has a rather large Achilles’ heel.
In March, 2013, I wrote, Michelle, It’s me Again, also about Let’s Move, and now…
in October, 2013, I am writing my third piece about how our First Lady uses her good fortune of having a huge public platform with extensive media coverage to promote her Let’s Move Campaign.
For those of you who are not aware of the Let’s Move Campaign, it is the First Lady’s mission to decrease childhood obesity via increasing exercise and decreasing consumption of junk food. Ms Obama’s intentions are rarely questioned by the mainstream media. After all, at least on the surface, who can argue with wanting our kids to be healthy? But if you take the time to explore the underbelly of her campaign and her means of publicizing it you see a completely different image. Taking the time to explore and research is something that Michelle doesn’t seem to have done. If she had, she may have found that Health at Every Size® is one way to encourage incorporating healthy movement and mindful eating without using fat shaming messages.
But sadly, she took the road too frequently traveled and what resulted was that once again fat children were labeled as wrong, diseased, needing to be eliminated while thin children, healthy or not, were deemed good, correct, and successful. Michelle Obama was, albeit unintentionally, sending the meta-message to bullies that they could target fat kids. Think about it, if the First Lady says fat kids are not okay, why should a bully think otherwise? Another outcome was giving thin children, who may be engaging in unhealthy behaviors, a pass on mindful eating and exercise because appearance is sometimes the only measurement used to categorize a child as obese; thus needing an intervention.
On a positive note there was an outcry via blogs and articles amongst the HAES®, Size and Fat Acceptance Communities that seemed to have an impact on Michelle’s public statements at least for a moment in time. She began making statements that were less fat shaming and based more on a weight neutral approach to health and wellness. In an article in the Sacramento Bee, the Eating Disorders Coalitionreported that Mrs. Obama stressed that a lifestyle of
“overall wellness, not size or weight, dictates health in the long run.”
And an article in the Huffington post quoted Obama as saying,
“I have two young daughters. We never talk about weight. I make it a point. I don’t want our children to be weight-obsessed. I want them to be focused on: What do I have to do, in this body –because everybody is different, every person’s body is different– what do I have to do to be the healthiest that I can be.”
If we are measuring progress using successive approximation, this was indicating an upward trajectory and needed positive reinforcement! So, during that period I, along with numerous other folks in the HAES and F&S Acceptance communities, launched a letter writing campaign and we were full steam ahead! Or not…
on April 3, 2012, Michelle Obama appeared on The Biggest Loser. A collective groan and sigh could be heard as the HAES and Size/Fat Acceptance and Eating Disorder Prevention and Treatment Communities once again grabbed our keyboards and wrote articles and letters challenging the First Lady’s poor choice for promoting Let’s Move. No one I know of received even a form letter from the Obama office and the hype continued. Obesity was labeled a disease by the AMA, and the Childhood Obesity War waged on.
But weight…there’s more.
The latest bad news, actually gives us a new golden opportunity to get active! And no, I’m not talking about physically active, or going out and finding a new way to move your body that is weight neutral and done just for the joy of moving. I’m talking about politically active. If you have not been involved in that kind of movement ever or it’s been a while, here’s your chance to get going.
Michelle Obama is about to appear on The Biggest Loser, yet again, in the name of healthy children. If you know anything about the show, you know there is nothing healthy about the process or outcome of this drastic weight loss reality show. If you have done even a modest amount of research you have found that there is proof that the weight lost during the show, is regained once the cameras are gone and the contestants are left alone with their “new bodies” sans coaches and fame. There was a wonderful article by Harley Pasternak talking about life after T.B.L. and how poorly prepared the “losers” are to sustain their weight loss and adjust to their new bodies. In short, for Michelle to use The Biggest Loser as a vehicle to promote healthy bodies for children is a bad fit in every aspect.
If you agree with me and want to join in on our campaign to stop Michelle from appearing on The Biggest Loser you need to act now! You can get involved in several ways and they don’t take very long.
One way is to sign THIS PETITION that urges Obama to engage with communities that specialize in the effects of weight stigmatizing in lieu of appearing on the show. You can also view and share THIS VIDEO.
If you are a blogger, please write a blog or feel free to cross post this blog with your subscribers if you feel this is something they will support. If you use any social media please share the petition via Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Stumbleupon, Reddit, etc. etc. etc.
On October 23, 2013, we are trying to create as much social network activity as possible using the following hashtags:
You can also find memes written by several activists in the field and compiled by Lizabeth Wesely-Casella,
Founder of Binge Behavior.com, to use on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/
If you have ANY other suggestions, or questions about this or want to report what action you took, please let me know in the comment section!
Til next time! Dr. Deah
That’s an Action Word! The third Wednesday of every October is Love Your Body Day. LYBD, created by The National Organization of Women (NOW) was launched as an opportunity to remind people that we should love our bodies no matter what their size, shape, weight, ability, color, condition, height, or any other adjective you can think of, may be. Now that my son is over 21, it is not my place to tell anyone what they SHOULD do. But I do mourn over the fact that we need reminders and permission to do something that should be as natural and unconscious as the beating of our hearts.
I have had an issue with the word should for a very long time. When I was an expressive arts therapist in a public school elementary program for Special Education Children, we had a “should jar”. It was similar to a curse jar except that instead of paying every time someone used inappropriate language, we put a penny in the jar each time someone used the word should instead of could. We did this to create an environment of choice, to improve decision making skills, and to decrease bullying among the students. (The pennies were more like tokens that we provided to the kids at the beginning of every week). It was an effective intervention for changing the culture of the classroom. One of the reasons it was efficacious was the community component. When we are trying to change our ways of thinking and our belief systems, it is helpful to have support from others who are trying to do the same thing.
I am fortunate to be a member of a community of people who are adamant about changing attitudes about our bodies and to help others, who are willing, to do the same. The Health at Every Size® (HAES) and Size Acceptance communities are growing rapidly and the Bay Area seems to be a fertile hot bed for this movement. We even have a Think Tank that meets about every other month to discuss and report our progress in the work we are doing personally and professionally in the area of body image. When we last met, I asked the group if we could discuss their thoughts and feelings about Love Your Body Day. The opinions that ensued provided for a lively and passionate discussion and I wish I had taped it so I could just provide all of you with a transcript! But unfortunately I was old school and armed only with a pen and paper for taking notes. Here is the gist of what was shared (and I am paraphrasing the comments). I am hoping to keep the discussion alive by inviting you to add your thoughts and opinions about what Love Your Body Day means to you and how you may be planning on participating.
The people you will be hearing from are listed below in alphabetical order by first name:
Becky Chigas and Corri Frohlich: Graduate Students at SFSU pursuing their Masters in Public Health, Dana Schuster, MA: Fitness Instructor, Vice President of ASDAH, Deb Burgard, PhD.: Psychologist specializing in body image and eating disorders, Ellyn Herb, PhD.: Licensed Psychologist, Certified Eating Disorders Specialist, Fall Ferguson, JD, M.A.: Educator: Holistic Health Education Program at John F. Kennedy University, HAES Coach, and President of ASDAH, Jessica May, Human Resources Administrator and Size Activist, Sonya Renee Taylor: Artist, Activist, Founder of The Body is Not An Apology.
The topic of the discussion was painted with a very broad stroke. I mentioned to the group that I was curious what they thought of Love Your Body Day because I had mixed feelings about the event. I particularly had difficulty with the fact that sometimes it was portrayed in the media as a “Prime Directive” that we SHOULD all love our bodies in terms of how our bodies look. I questioned whether that may perpetuate the importance of physical beauty in our culture? I also added that last year I wrote about my feelings that we even needed to set aside a day to love our bodies when every day should could be Love Your Body Day; were it not for the forces pushing back at us and discouraging us from what would ideally be a natural state of body satisfaction.
The conversation was off and running with a bang! Heads nodding and bodies leaning forward; Ellyn was first out of the gate with a shout out of
it is about loving your body inside and OUT!!! And it’s not an all or nothing thing. Loving your body doesn’t mean you are happy with it 100% of the time. Think of someone you love. You don’t necessarily like them 100% of the time but it doesn’t mean you stop loving them. Or stop caring for them. It’s a process. And then there is the concept of “BOTH AND”. People tend to have an all or nothing mindset about change. I invite them to take a “BOTH AND” approach. I am both loving my body AND working on my body image issues.
Deb was neck to neck with Ellyn and I really wish I had a video clip of her brilliant diatribe! But the part that emerged most triumphant was her framing love as a verb. It is an action. It is a commitment. If you have a sibling whom you loved, you would protect that sibling from a bully wouldn’t you? Loving your body is a commitment to the relationship with yourself. What would you want for someone you loved? You don’t wait to treat a friend with loving kindness until they reach some specific goal. You love them along the way whether they reach a goal or not. Some folks believe they can’t start loving themselves until they are at a certain weight or size. With a receding goal like that, the love gets lost and body acceptance is never achieved. At this point, several people in the group referenced a recent You Tube video, that I was unfamiliar with, to illustrate this point. If you missed it, it is about a twin brother writing a letter to Santa asking that Santa stop kids at school from bullying his twin sister for being fat. I may not have a video of Deb, but I do have the link to the Video. Have hankies ready.
Jessica added to the concept of the “verbishness” of the word love. She explained that she sees it as a tangible physical practice of loving. and has started rubbing oils into her body as part of her self-care. Not rushing the process. Taking the time to show devotion, respect, and acknowledgment to her body for what it does. Choosing not to ignore or avoid it. She makes a practice of doing things for her body and not blaming it for what it isn’t doing or can’t do. Praising it for what it is.
There seems to be this core belief that I am separated from my body, Fall added. Where is the separation? Who and or what do I love and what does love mean? Think about unconditional love. Think of someone you love unconditionally. What does that feel like? What would it feel like if your body/you, was/were the recipient? Loving is not always easy, not always fun. We commit to unconditional relationships through sickness and in health. But with our bodies there seem to be conditions set for being worthy of love. This kind of unconditional love is something we seek from the moment we are born and we know on some level that it is worth seeking. Our bodies/we deserve unconditional love.
Sonya, founder of The Body is Not an Apology and a first time attendee of our Think Tank explained that her organization was created to remind us that we do not need to wait to feel beautiful tomorrow. We can choose to act in honor of our bodies today, no matter the form they currently take. All lasting, healthy growth is born of love. Your body needs you to love it today, just as it is, however it is. Just being here is a tiny act of shameless self-love. And it takes practice; like building a muscle. Loving yourself is like doing reps. But MOST importantly it is re-conceptualizing the word beautiful. We don’t always ascribe the word beauty or beautiful to how someone or something looks, we also use the word to describe feeling, energy. So reconsider other definitions for the phrase “feeling beautiful.”
It (LYBD) runs the risk of falling into the notion of having to be perfect, Dana was off and running! I remember reading about the concept of being a “Good Enough” mother. (Choruses by all of the therapists in the room sang out, “Winnecott Winnecott!”) Patiently Dana continued, It is helpful to remember the middle ground, being good enough. Not perfect, so you don’t blame yourself for not loving yourself the way others think you should. And it’s important to remember what you are up against, the factors in the world that perpetuate body hate.
Becky agreed with this and added that many of the concepts of LYBD and HAES® have been co-opted by people/corporations wanting to profit from our body hate. She cited several examples including the new ad for Weight Watchers® that are trying to convince us to buy their products but change the language in the attempt to attract the non-dieters and size acceptance communities. And that’s where having a LYBD isn’t enough offered Corri. I think that LYBD puts the burden on us to make all of the changes internally. She recommended that we read this piece about body love written in the blog, Black Girl Dangerous, and proposed that maybe the day after LYBD can be an ACTION DAY when we take one step to change what is influencing us from the outside that perpetuates our body hate.
Which brings us full circle to Love is a Verb…that’s an ACTION word! Click here for a treat!!
What are your thoughts about LYBD?
Join me (@dr_deah) for a #loveyourbody twitter chat (I write that like I really know what it means to twitter chat) with Registered Dietician, Rebecca Scritchfield (@ScritchfieldRD) on LYBD, Wed. October 16th 8:00 p.m. EST. #lybd
Join me in San Francisco for a lit crawl (I write that like I really know what it means to lit crawl!) with other authors from Virgie Tovar’s book, Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love, and Fashion. Saturday October 19, 2013 7:15 – 8:15 pm Click Here for more info.
Frannie Zellman, editor of Fat Poets Speak 2, interviewed me for her blog. Click here if you want to read it or wish to get on Frannie’s mailing list.
I wrote a piece on how the media may be contributing to eating disorders in athletes by their weight stigmatizing. If you missed it and would like to read it, Click here!
And lastly I’d like to leave you with a quote that Dana shared with us written by registered dietician Marsha Hudnall,
“My body is not a billboard. It does not exist to attain approval, or to prove worth or value. I will give my body the best care I can without judging or shaming. My body is my home.”
Til next time,
I recently wrote an Op Ed piece for the E-Zine Persephone Magazine about Victoria’s Secret’s campaign, Pretty Young Things and its target audience being young teens. If you would like to read this Click Here. I am, as always, happy to hear from you re: anything that I write!
Passover is one of the many Jewish Holidays that is celebrated with a ritual feast. A feast filled with symbolic foods and a prescribed schedule for when to eat which foods. Depending upon how observant the participants are, there is a wide range of recipes for the ritual readings at a Passover Seder. Some read from ancient texts, others from more progressive versions. Some are tailored for passionate political discussion, others for children with short attention spans. Despite the diversity of the Seder itself, there are at least three specific commonalities adhered to by the most liberal and orthodox Jewish celebrants.
- There is no leavening used in any of the meals
- There are at least four cups of wine
- When it is time to eat, there are no restrictions on how much you can eat.
As a kid growing up, dieting and caloric restrictions were an everyday part of my life. I was surrounded by dieters. The youngest of three girls, my two older sisters always dieted and both of my parents did as well. The diets never really seemed to work, none of us were thin. My mother often chortled,
“Imagine how fat we would all be if we didn’t diet?”
And of course I believed her and followed suit.
Many young girls that diet wind up becoming sneak eaters and I was no different. Because we are forced to satisfy our hunger and cravings privately, we develop the notion that we are beasts with insatiable appetites. Our appetite for food is freakish and our need to satiate this hunger
is so strong, we must adopt furtive methods of feeding that monster. It is a double bind. We feel weak in our inability to resist the urges to eat the “bad” food and yet the part of us that is demanding the food is a formidable foe of great strength and power. We are split and fractured around food.
The Problem in a Nutshell
Passover and other food centric holidays present a double bind for people already struggling with feelings about how and what they eat, how and what they don’t eat, how and what they would like to eat if they were allowed to eat, and how and what they wished they had eaten when they had the chance.
I KNOW YOU HAVE TO READ THAT SENTENCE AGAIN…BUT TRUST ME IT MAKES SENSE!
The Double Bind of Passover: A Two Act Play
Act I: The week before The Seder, we obsessed over what to wear in order to prepare for the unsanctioned but equally predictable ritual of Passover…
The Body Scan: everyone checking you out to see how you “measured up” to the last time you were all together. In my family, despite the fact that very few of us were thin, there was still a hierarchy within the ranks that clearly labeled the “Always Thins” relatives as the better ones. Praise and attention were lavished on them like buttuh on the matzoh. The jealousy dripped like honey in a nice cup of tea.
Then there were the “Always Fats.” They were already “fats de complis.” They would always be fat and that was that, “those poor people.”
“Newly Thins” were the ones I envied the most. The attention they received, the fawning, the exclamations of, “How did you do it? You look amazing!” They were the stars of the night. Somehow they had conquered the beast, they had become successful.
The “Fat Agains” were conversely, the lowest caste of the crew. Also known as the “YO YO’s,” these were the mishpucha (family) who had lost but gained their weight back plus more. The “tsks tsks” and “cluck clucks” of the tongues, the subtle shakes of the heads, the implied message of, “If I had lost that weight I would have kept it off,”… or more blatantly, “I knew she or he couldn’t do it.” They were the ones my heart ached for and the club I dreaded ever joining. (Of course I was in and out of that club numerous times, and sadly it wasn’t until years later that I realized it was the dieting that actually created and perpetuated the problem).
Act II: Off I would go to the Seder, “ready for my close up Mr. De Mille,” dressed to the nines and encased like a blintz in belly binding control panty hose. But the second bind of the double bind was not far away. After the reading of the ritual story of Passover, the feast would commence. Places everyone! But wait! It was as if they had replaced the cast with all new people and all new scripts.
All of a sudden size or weight was inconsequential. There was a resounding chorus of, “Eat eat!” And, “Have more, what you don’t like my matzo balls? This is no time to diet, this is Passover, forget about it for just one night, you look fine!” And for the next couple of hours I felt normal. I felt happy. I felt I could eat with abandon and enjoyment. I could savor the pleasure of food, slowly, languidly and not worry whether I was leaving crumbs behind like a guilty Gretel who subconsciously wanted to get caught eating Ring Dings in her bedroom.
I didn’t feel insatiable, or monstrous. I didn’t feel “wrong.” I felt calm and I felt in control. I had PERMISSION!
Why was this night different from all other nights?
Because on this night I was and am allowed to eat my fill in public. The double bind along with the control top panty hose are gone and replaced with enjoyment and with self-acceptance. And once I really GOT THAT…there was one less reason why this night IS different from all other nights!
Dayenu and Happy Passover to all!
Til next time,
Two years and 5 days ago I wrote a piece about Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign. It challenged the First Lady’s use of the “obesity crisis,” fat shaming, and fat phobia as motivators to get kid’s moving in healthy ways and eating healthier diets. In my post I provided a link to a fantastic article written by Paul Campos for the Daily Beast in which he stated:
“The first lady would, no doubt, be horrified by the suggestion that her Let’s Move campaign, which is dedicated to trying to create an America without any fat kids, is itself a particularly invidious form of bullying. But practically speaking, that’s exactly what it is. The campaign is in effect arguing that the way to stop the bullying of fat kids is to get rid of fat kids.”
At the time, along with many other bloggers from the HAES® community, I urged my readers and Facebook followers to write letters to Ms. Obama voicing their concerns and offering approaches that did not use weight centric definitions of health or the scale as the barometer for fitting in and being “good.” In the letter I wrote, I suggested that Mrs. Obama try the Erase and Replace Approach…here’s what I said:
“Dear First Lady,
You are obviously in the position where you have clout to initiate school based health programs. You are also considered a fairly progressive, outside of the box thinker. In your Let’s Move Initiative, instead of promoting the Let’s Exercise, Get Moving, and Choose Only Healthy Food Aspects while focusing on decreasing childhood obesity, why don’t you take a more cross-curriculum approach based on: Scientific Facts, Self-acceptance, and Inclusion of Diversity?
Erase your meta-message of: Fat is shameful, wrong, and all a kid has to do is exercise and eat correctly and they will be thin, aka, healthy and good. Replace it with a model that starts with the premise: Healthy bodies do not all look the same.
In Science Class: A lesson on genetics, metabolism, and the scientific evidence that shows that different kids who embark on the same food/exercise regime will NOT have the same outcome in health and appearance benchmarks. Focus on individualized health milestones and realistic attainable goals and expectations.
Math Class: A lesson on reading nutrition labels and figuring out what a healthy amount of sodium, sugars, fats, fibers are…for health, not for weight loss. Do you have any idea how much math is involved in that? The focus is NOT on the complete elimination or restriction of any one food or food group which inevitably leads to feelings of deprivation and development of eating disorders.
English/Lit Class: When I wrote my dissertation on Body Image of Girls in Required Reading Materials in School, it was amazing how the stereotypes of fat girls, women, boys, and men as ugly, stupid, unpopular, and pathetic were pervasive. How about making sure that the reading assignments include a more diverse representation of size and shapes and personality traits associated with those sizes and shapes?
Social Studies Class: Let’s look at the history of women and how the infliction of a tyrannical expectation by the media to fit in to a narrow definition of beauty has impacted women’s self-esteem and effectiveness in the world. After all if women were not totally obsessed with how they looked all the time, imagine how much more they could contribute to the world? Then there’s economics and how the diet industry and pharmaceutical companies are dependent on our constant quest to be the “perfect” size.
I could go on and offer lesson plans and academic goals, objectives and standards, but I know how precious your time is. My point is, helping kids feel better is a valuable goal. Helping kids live healthy lives is an objective equally as worthy as solving the problem of disposing of nuclear waste. How you attain these goals is a challenge but ostracizing kids for being fat and adding to the stigma and self-loathing they are already living with is NOT the way to go about making change. Let’s look at a more innovative and inclusive solution.
Celebrate Health and Diversity
Hey, I’m here to help…I have this DVD and book called Leftovers…..
Dr. Deah Schwartz”
Needless to say, I never heard back from Ms. Obama but only a month later that there was an article in the Huffington Post by David Crary who did a brilliant job of explaining why the Let’s Move campaign has an Achilles’ heel that’s impossible to ignore. In his article he quotes Deb Lemire, Dr. Linda Bacon, and Dr. Paul Ernsberger and writes:
“The spotlight on obesity intensified last year when Michelle Obama unveiled her national public awareness campaign, “Let’s Move.” Its goal, she said, was to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation by helping parents make better food choices, serving healthier food in schools, and encouraging children to exercise more.
Many aspects of “Let’s Move” won near-universal praise. But activists in the fat-acceptance movement and experts who espouse a “health at every size” approach were upset that the campaign encouraged the monitoring of children’s body mass index, or BMI, and thus might contribute to stigmatization of heavier kids.”
After reading the article I wrote a response, in which I praised Crary for,
“…deftly presenting rarely publicized opposing viewpoints in an accessible and logical framework. I am hoping this raises the awareness of the campaign’s unintentional but negative side effects. Unfortunately, because of the way Let’s Move is being promoted, bullying is a tangible outcome. Rather than helping fat kids “FIT in” the campaign is creating an environment where bullies are reinforced for their disdainful and superior attitudes and actions towards fat children. Meanwhile the fat kids are left fighting for their lives physically and emotionally; unwillingly joining a real life cast of a real life reality show that could be called, “America’s Educational System’s Biggest Losers.” It is imperative that if we are serious about children’s health, we shift the focus away from weight and adopt a systemic/holistic approach that takes a person’s individual make-up into consideration. One size does NOT fit all definitions of health; whereas shaming and finger pointing frequently result in poor mental health. I am certain Mrs. Obama does not believe in a lack of parity between physical and mental health issues and can continue to promote health in a kinder way.”
In the time that has passed since then, there have been flare ups of outrage at Michelle Obama’s continued insistence that fat is the enemy. Darryl Roberts creator of America the Beautiful I and II wrote an open letter to Mrs. Obama in the Huffington Post and stated:
“If we could institutionalize your great message of exercise and eating a balanced meal, instead of dieting and focusing on losing weight, millions of people would be empowered to become healthy in a realistic way. I say realistic because studies have shown that diets rarely work as 95 percent of people gain back the weight and sometimes even more.”
“It’s not okay to me that she has not refocused her campaign from childhood obesity to childhood health.”
And the other, An Alternative to Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign by Vesta offering alternatives to the shaming approach:
“Instead of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, which shames fat children and is aimed at making them less fat…I think the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System has a much better idea. It’s called Kidsfest, and took place Saturday, September 11, 2010. It’s a day filled with educational activities for kids and their parents and, from what I read on the site, doesn’t seem to be anything that would shame fat kids.”
In addition, over the past two years Registered Dietician, Joanne Ikeda, NAAFA, and ASDAH among many others of us in the Fat Acceptance, Size Acceptance, HAES® and Eating Disorders Communities, have continued to send letters and educational materials to the First Lady. I am not certain if anyone ever heard back from Obama, I know I never did, but then I read a post by Kathy Kater of Body Image Health a psychotherapist and author of Healthy Bodies Curriculum on the ASDAH listserve calling attention to Michelle Obama’s recent comments on her Let’s Move Campaign and how her language and position seem to have shifted from weight centric to health centric.
“Mrs. Obama stressed that a lifestyle of overall wellness, not size or weight, dictates health in the long run.”
“I have two young daughters. We never talk about weight. I make it a point. I don’t want our children to be weight-obsessed. I want them to be focused on: What do I have to do, in this body –because everybody is different, every person’s body is different– what do I have to do to be the healthiest that I can be.”
“In response to a question from participant Kishan Shah, who said he weighed 200 pounds as a 12-year-old and 400 pounds as a 19-year-old, Mrs. Obama emphasized the importance of discussing childhood fitness the right way — and stressed the difference between “health” and “looks”:
“The first thing that we want to make sure that we do is not make this an issue about looks. We should really talk to kids about how they feel, how they feel inside, so that we’re not just dealing with the physical manifestations of the challenge, but we’re really tapping into what’s going on inside that head of that child.”
So, being someone who fervently believes in positive reinforcement I agree with Ms. Kater’s suggestion that this may be an,
”opportunity for us to help Mrs Obama consider how to promote health instead of size in kids. After all, it’s one thing to say “health is not about size or weight,” and quite another thing to believe you can do this while simultaneously running national campaigns in the name of “size prevention.”
Rebecca Scritchfield also suggested that folks who have blogs or other social media platforms can use this opportunity to:
”…show support for what you found positive…for example, giving applause for her weight neutral comment, back it up with data on size and health, links to resources…”
“writing letters to t he First Lady applauding this attitudinal shift would be a great idea”
Send your letters to: Michelle Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500
Mrs. Obama’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/michelleobama?ref=ts&fref=ts
Email Mrs. Obama: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments
This is one of the times to fan the embers of progress into flames of victory! Let’s have at it.
And if anyone hears back please share it here with us!
Til Next Time!
I just returned from presenting at the BEDA conference in Bethesda, Maryland. For those of you who are unfamiliar with BEDA it is the Binge Eating Disorders Association and was founded by Chevese Turner in June, 2008 with the organization’s vision being:
“To create a community where people have access to resources to help them overcome BED and live healthy, productive lives free from weight stigma.”
Past President and one of the Master Minds behind this year’s conference, Ellen Shuman, of
“It’s hard to put into words how much these conferences mean to me, personally and professionally. This was BEDA’s fourth national conference. I am still blown away by how healing it is to gather with hundreds of other people who really ‘get it’. People who struggle with binge eating and practitioners who treat it get to learn from the top researchers in the field, therapists, dietitians, and coaches like me who have been in the trenches working with binge and emotional eating issues for decades—some of us long before Binge Eating Disorder even had a name. This conference was three days of validation! What an amazing gathering! I hope your readers will join us for Conference # five, next April, 2014!”
BEDA is not dissimilar to other Eating Disorders professional organizations in that its intention is to provide outreach, education, and resources in order to increase awareness, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of eating disorders and associated weight stigma. But BEDA, a relatively new member in the arena of E.D. organizations, has had to deal with the additional challenge of fitting in to the Eating Disorders community. One reason for this is that until this year, B.E.D. was listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) and was referred to as emotional or compulsive eating or food addiction. This year’s fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) includes B.E.D.as an official diagnosis.
I know, it seems a tad strange to be celebrating this. After all, there is nothing about Eating Disorders to celebrate except of course for the brave women and men, boys and girls who are recovering, the clinicians who are treating them, and the support systems comprised of families, friends, and…well…maybe there are some reasons to celebrate; but being excited about something getting its very own place in the DSM feels a bit ego dystonic. After all, who wants to be a part of that club?? Remember how great it was when homosexuality was removed from the DSM?!! But for those of us who have B.E.D. and or work in the field, no longer being left out or relegated to the perimeter of the E.D. community, is a welcomed change.
Being included, fitting in, validated, acknowledged, these are all vital needs for most humans. In our society, the pressure to fit in based on our appearance is so overpowering that many resort to self-destructive behaviors either to cope with feeling excluded and or to force our bodies to conform. Body dissatisfaction begins, festers, grows and along with this desperation we frequently find the development of an Eating Disorder. So what would make one Eating Disorder any more or less legitimate than another or any less challenging or less painful??
With all of that in mind, can you imagine having an Eating Disorder that doesn’t fit in with the other Eating Disorders??? Can you imagine being the most disenfranchised in a community already noted for being disenfranchised? Case in point, not long after the DSM V was published, Dr. Allen Frances wrote the following in his article in a Psychology Today Blog about changes to be ignored in the DSM V:
“Excessive eating 12 times in 3 months is no longer just a manifestation of gluttony and the easy availability of really great tasting food. DSM V has instead turned it into a psychiatric illness called Binge Eating Disorder.”
Is it no wonder that BEDA’s mission statement includes the words, “To create a community?”
Being on the fringe is not a new experience for me. As a kid I was too chubby, I had a lazy eye that freaked many people out. I was a girl drummer, and I was literally the red-headed step child who didn’t look anything like the rest of the family. In college I was subject to antisemitism being one of a handful of Jews at my college and as an adult, I chose to become an Expressive Arts/Recreation Therapist as opposed to a “real” therapist. Even my Doctorate was in a fringe area…Education, Curriculum and Instruction with a dissertation that focused on girl’s body image. This of course put me in the direct firing line of you aren’t a real doctor because you aren’t an MD or a PHD. And let’s not even go into having a name like Deah, (pronounced Day-uh).
But let me clear, I have NEVER experienced the same level of bigotry as people of color, or people of size who face the daily prejudice of finding seating, and medical care. And while it fuels my activism and my core belief that as long as any one person or group is oppressed it means we are all oppressed or at risk for becoming oppressed, I know I can never say with complete accuracy, “I know how you feel.”
What I do know is that community is the key. It is an integral part of survival along with food, shelter, water, and clothing. Maslow nailed it
when he put sense of belonging and being loved just one tier above security and safety. Community and inclusion gives us the strength to fight for our rights as humans to fit in and be respected. Without community we are…well…alone.
The BEDA conference provided a respite if for only a few days from feeling disenfranchised, marginalized, and just plain wrong. The conference was not without some controversy…as is true with most new movements or new ways of thinking, there were passionate debates on a variety of subjects:
- Is there such a thing as Food Addiction?
- Does a 12 step program for Binge Eaters make sense if 12 step programs are based more on an abstinence model rather than a harm reduction model?
- Does WLS really have a place in the same community as HAES®?
- Is there a difference between Mindful Eating and Intuitive Eating?
- What role do dieticians and nutritionists play in treating Binge Eating Disorders?
Like I said, it was juicy and ripe with some vibrant discussions and confrontations. But the commonalities outnumbered the differences and the remarkable and unique way the conference was set up to provide a safe, educational, supportive environment for not only treatment providers but for people diagnosed with BED to share the space and learn from each other was inspired! The importance of support and being seen, heard, understood, and accepted even if not always agreed with was palpable during the three days in Bethesda.
As the conference came to an end, and the community dispersed, I left for the airport exhausted but energized, depleted but satiated, and above all full of appreciation for the kindness and inclusiveness that had been all around me. The BEDA conference committee and Board of Directors and powerful presenters too numerous to list here were fantastic! Granted, conferences are financially taxing and the costs can be prohibitive. Even people who present at conferences have to pay for the conference, air fare, and housing, and if I could wave a magic wand and change that I would. But as tempting as it may be to rely on the internet for networking, collaborating and even providing treatment if a conference happens to come to your town and you can afford it or volunteer in order to attend, it is truly worth the effort.
Call me old fashioned, but there is nothing as powerful as making real life connections, shaking real hands and hugging real people. Discussing ideas, working out conflicts, discovering common ground, sharing a meal together, dancing and hula hooping…these are experiences not replaceable by Facebook, Linked In or Skype. And now that I’m back in Oakland and resuming my “normal” routine I am feeling a little homesick…does that make sense?
For more information on BEDA Click Here.
Til next time!
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