Thursday, September 29, 2011
Last year my 7 year old niece came to her mother very upset because one of her friends had called her fat. They had been standing in a circle and one of the young girls looked at the other four girls in the group, pointed at each one and said “you are skinny, you are skinny, you are skinny and you are fat”, looking directly at my niece when she said the dreaded three letter word.
Her mother is the only woman I know that does NOT have any food or body image issues, so that type of conversation does not happen in her household. When her mother asked her what was wrong with being fat, my niece couldn’t come up with an answer. She just knew that “skinny” was good and “fat” was bad.
The question is, where did she learn that? Our beliefs about being fat vs. thin is embedded so deeply in our culture that it comes across in our every day lives often without our awareness. One place we often overlook for negative messages about food and body image is in children’s books. It is usually well hidden in the context of the story, Cinderella anyone?
However, in his new book, “Maggie Goes on a Diet” (due out in October), the front cover says it all. The synopsis from the author, Paul R. Kramer, says “Maggie has so much potential that has been hiding under her extra weight. This inspiring story is about a 14 year old who goes on a diet and is transformed from being overweight and insecure to a normal sized teen who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image.”
So what is wrong with this picture?
Let’s start with the cover of the book. It shows what is supposed to be an “overweight” Maggie, looking into a mirror, envisioning a thin Maggie wearing a special dress. The message sent by this image is that Maggie should not consider buying a dress that would flatter her figure at her current weight, but must lose weight in order to look good.
This reflects our society’s belief that you are not “good enough” for a pretty dress, a job, a life, unless you are thin. The ironic part is that for adolescents with food and body image issues, no matter what their weight, they see a much heavier person in the mirror. The exact opposite of what is happening on the cover of this book. Now to the story. There are so many things that scare me about the synopsis that I am afraid of what the book may say.
According to the LA Times, one of the passages reads:
“Losing weight was not only good for Maggie’ health,
Maggie was so much happier and was also very proud of herself”
And another one says:
“More and more people were beginning to know Maggie by name.
Playing soccer gave Maggie popularity and fame.”
Great results for Maggie, right? She loses the weight that makes her so insecure, her “real” self that was hidden by the weight comes out, she is suddenly popular and a talented athlete. All because she follows a sensible diet, exercises and becomes a normal size.
Wrong, in fact the author could not be more off the mark. Many of us have dieted to lose weight at some point. We have gotten the compliments and praise for losing the weight. We have fallen into the trap equating weight loss with happiness.
And what did ALL of us find out? It doesn’t work that way. Weight loss does not lead to happiness; it leads to a false sense of who we are as a person based on how we look. Mr. Kramer is trying to sell what society is already shoving down our children’s throats, that losing weight and being thin is the key to everything.
The words he uses are heavily laden with layers of meaning in our weight obsessed culture, like fat, thin, diet, normal, insecurity, health, and happiness. The target age group for book (according to Amazon, 4-8 years old) is simply not able to understand all of the nuances. Instead, like my 7 year old niece they will hear the basics. Fat is bad, thin is good, and popularity is only a diet away.
In other words, a series of lies.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
The Emily Program leads state-wide Seminars on father involvement in children´s nutrition, activities, & overall health
Each of the day-long trainings will feature TEP’s fathering educator, Joe Kelly--an MFFN board member and author of 4 books on fathering issues.
Family and health professionals will learn strategies to help fathers use their place at the table to improve relationships with activity, food, eating, and self for their children, stepchildren and families.
The Emily Program is a major sponsor of the series, along with the Minnesota Department of Health, University of Minnesota Extension, McKnight Foundation, and several others.
Cost is $25.00 for MFFN members and $35.00 for non-members—and includes lunch. Call to register 763-473-7432.
Download the brochure here.
Friday, September 23, 2011
An exciting new awareness campaign is on the horizon and being lead by the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA)!
Following is the press release from BEDA
PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release
September 22, 2011
Contact: Chevese Turner
Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA)
BEDA Launches First Annual National Weight Stigma Awareness Week
Severna Park, MD (September 21, 2011) - The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) announced today that it will launch its first annual National Weight Stigma Awareness Week, September 26-30, 2011. The objectives of this event are to build awareness of what weight stigma is, the harmful effects weight stigma can have on people of all ages in all environments, and what can be done to stop it.
"Whether it is children being teased and bullied in school because of their weight, adults being discriminated against in the work place, or patients being shamed in a physician's office, weight stigma insidiously affects a variety of people." says Chevese Turner, CEO of the Binge Eating Disorder Association. "We want to raise awareness around weight stigma and how a focus on weight rather than health and placing a higher value on "thin" can, in fact, have a negative effect on the physical and mental health of a person-of-size-especially those who have or are predisposed to eating disorders."
As the "war on obesity" rages on and the $60 billion weight loss industry continues to grow, paradoxically, rates of obesity are not decreasing and eating disorders are rapidly increasing.
Afflicting more women than breast cancer, eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality of all mental illnesses. They are complex disorders triggered by environmental factors, and studies have shown weight stigma plays a significant role. Several studies conducted by The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University have found that more frequent exposure to stigma was related to more attempts to cope with maladaptive eating practices and higher BMI.
"Weight stigmatization is widespread in our society and affects individuals in multiple domains of life, often on a daily basis," says Rebecca M. Puhl, Ph.D, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University. "We know from decades of research that children and adults are targets of weight stigmatization in educational institutions, employment settings, health care facilities, the media, and even from family members and friends.This has a devastating effect on people's quality of life, and leads to numerous consequences for emotional and physical health. Weight stigmatization is both a social injustice and a public health issue. We need to increase public awareness and societal efforts to address this problem. Otherwise, it will continue to create disparities, discrimination, and barriers to effective prevention and treatment for individuals affected by obesity."
The call to action for BEDA's first annual Weight Stigma Awareness Week is "Healing Myself First: Challenging Weight Stigma from the Inside Out."
BEDA encourages individuals to participate in several activities BEDA proposes as part of Weight Stigma Awareness Week, beginning with looking within to assess personal weight biases and becoming an advocate.
Turner says, "Let's begin by asking ourselves, 'Did I make fun of other kids when I was a child because they were overweight?' 'Do I look down on myself or others because of size? Do I exclude people based on body size? Do I contribute to 'fat talk,' such as, 'I need to lose 10 pounds,' or, 'You're too fat to wear that,' or, 'You look great! Did you lose weight?'"
A recent Journal of Pediatrics study found that children are bullied 63% more if they are overweight than for any other reason. Yet statutes do not include any language around size bullying. Individuals can write letters to members of congress in support of protecting overweight children from bullying.
For more information about BEDA's first annual Weight Stigma Awareness Week, visit www.bedaonline.com.
For more information about The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, visit http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/.
Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) is a national organization focusing on the need to increase prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for binge eating disorder. Through education, outreach and support, and resources, BEDA is committed to facilitating awareness, quality of care, and recovery for those who live and those who work with binge eating disorder. For more information, visit www.bedaonline.com.
Monday, September 12, 2011
The debate over being “recovered” versus “in recovery” from an eating disorder is one that I have not participated in for quite some time. A year ago, I reached a point in my own recovery where I felt comfortable with describing myself as recovered. I also decided then that the only person I needed to define that word for was myself. The debate became irrelevant to me, since I believe that every person’s definition should be one that works for him or her, regardless of what other people might think.
For me, at that time, “recovered” seemed to fit. It meant that I was living my life in an authentic way. My eating disorder was a part of my past, not present. I didn’t need to put energy into saying “no” to the thoughts and behaviors on a daily basis. I finally had time to put my energy toward rediscovering my identity and speaking my own truth, not the eating disorder’s.
Recently, however, I went through an emotionally turbulent period of life, and it uprooted me from my solid foundation in recovery. Old thoughts and urges started creeping back in, and I found myself in a negative mindset I hadn’t experienced in a long time. The word “recovered” no longer felt right for me to use, so I changed my language. I am once again a woman “in recovery:” I make an active decision to say “no” to my eating disorder on a regular basis, and to say “yes” to my recovery and my life. I focus more intently on practicing self-care, surrounding myself with my support people, and cultivating a loving relationship with my authentic self—body, mind, and soul.
So, have I relapsed? Have I “failed” at being recovered? Have I taken a step backward in my journey? Certainly not! Having old thoughts and behaviors pop up along the way is normal in recovery. It is not a failure but a signal to me that I need more self-care and more reflection on what needs of mine are not being met. My eating disorder is something I once used to soothe myself in uncomfortable situations. Right now, it just takes more work to find other ways to cope with discomfort and stress.
Changing my language around my recovery temporarily does not mean the eating disorder has won. In fact, it means the very opposite; it means I am once again becoming more active against my eating disorder in order to protect my recovery, health, and overall happiness. And that’s what I think this whole recovery process is all about. No matter what stage of recovery I am in right now, I truly believe that moving toward my new beginning will ultimately lead beyond “recovered” and on to being simply me.
In the end, the language we all use to describe our journeys doesn’t matter, because being “recovered” is not the end goal. The “end goal” of recovery is to create a beginning for ourselves; to build a foundation from which we can nurture our authentic selves, discover who we are without our eating disorders, and step freely into the lives we create for ourselves.
By: Maia Polson