A Bee In My Bonnet!
It’s like a bee hive out here in the world of body image and eating disorders right now! Not a happy hive where all the critters are humming along doing their apian choreography. More like one that has just, out of the blue, been rammed into by a chain saw and now all of the occupants are trying to regain their equilibrium.
You see the New Year brings with it all of the body shaming associated with resolutions that are disguised as “good for my health” but are in fact rooted in misconceptions about health and body size. In addition, the number of ads bombarding us seem unavoidable if you happen to be a sports fan, or a cop show fan, or a cartoon fan, or well, a fan of watching any TV at all. And to make matters worse, some of the ads for weight loss corporations are becoming more confusing as they opportunistically “plagiarize” the language of body acceptance and body love; but if you read the fine print it is so you can lose weight and finally “be yourself and be happy.” Adding to the chaos are the articles about new ways to attain your New Year’s Resolution weight loss goals. These siren like calls to the cult seem to be materializing at an exponential rate in newspapers, magazines, E-zines, and radio news broadcasts. And there is no limit to what interventions are being proposed!
In the NAAFA newsletter, Peggy Howell, writes,
“They” are at it again, or should I say still? “They?” Take your pick: the pharmaceutical industry, the diet industry, the FDA, the federal government and the list goes on. All these entities appear to have devoted themselves and their resources to finding a way to wipe out fat; whatever it takes. No matter how ridiculous the procedure or device may be…”
And I couldn’t agree with her more. Just this week alone I read and or heard of about seven new gyms and diet programs available, a new FDA approved weight loss drug, and a new Bariatric surgery called POSE that is designed for folks who just want to lose 25-75 pounds because, as one person says,
“I’m just tired of wearing a size 14 bathing suit. I want to wear a 6 or 7 like everybody else….”
I’m not sure where this woman lives, but in my world the average bathing suit size is 14 and up. But if we look more closely at her comment, we see that one of the culprits is the habit of comparing our bodies to other people’s bodies. We are coached to do this from a very young age until it becomes a persistent buzzing bee in our bonnets, distracting and seemingly unstoppable.
“Comparison is the source of all unhappiness.”
When I meet with a new client on one of my Walkie Talkie Sessions* (for those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Deah’s Walkie Talkies scroll down for a description) one of the first things we address are the comparisons. As we walk around Oakland’s Lake Merritt, I have them say out loud what their inner voice is saying each time we pass someone walking in the opposite direction. People are a bit hesitant at first because these inner voices can be cruel, catty, mean, judgmental, etc. Rarely are they shared out loud…they are secret bees in our bonnets. But I remind the client that I am not there to judge; and this is just data for us to comb through over the course of therapy. What soon becomes clear, however, is that almost all of the comments are based on comparisons. A typical scenario is as follows:
Cora (not her real name) on her first Walkie Talkie session verbalized her inner voice’s comments about the people walking or running around the lake. “I wish I looked like her. Her butt is nicer than mine. I’m not as fat as her, thank god! I wonder if I could ever look like her.” Even her comments about children were, “I wasn’t that fat when I was a kid, That poor kid is so fat, no one will love her.” After a while Cora said, “Oh my god, I haven’t even looked once at where I am walking! I am completely obsessed with the comparing!” We went on to discuss how dismissive the voices are of who she is now and the lack of appreciation for her body. And then as she reviewed each statement she was struck with how toxic the train of thought was.
As we finished our walk, I assured her that she could work on changing the voices in her head. That the negative messages are fertilizer for growing body hate. Then the hate becomes fertilizer for the voices, and before you know it you’re brain is a buzzing hive that has lost its equilibrium and it feels as if your body image is in the hands of those around you.
Before I end this post, part one in a three part series, I want to be clear that I am NOT here to judge anyone’s decisions about what they want to do with their weight loss goals. If people want to lose weight so be it. But I would like them to be certain that their choice isn’t based on the concept that being thinner makes anyone a better person than someone of any other size. I would like them to know that their choice should not be contingent on adopting dangerous exercise regimes or extreme restricted dieting, taking new UN-researched diet pills, or undergoing the latest fad in gas-trick bypass surgery that has no longitudinal studies re: side effects and efficacy. I would like to see the practice of negative comparisons replaced with positive self-affirmations no matter what they weigh at any given time.
So what is the next step with Cora once we vocalize the inner voices? More about this in my next blog post, BUZZ OFF!
*For those of you unfamiliar with my Walkie Talkie Sessions, the short version is: instead of sitting in an office and talking about body image I walk with my clients so there are more opportunities to integrate the mind and body. The walks are not aerobic, they are weight neutral meaning that they are not part of any weight loss program. They are to introduce the concept of pleasurable physical movement in a safe accepting situation.
Til next time!
P.S. Here are some upcoming dates in January and February that you may be interested in! They are also posted on the calendar on my website and on my Pintrest Board, “Upcoming appearances”.
Here is the link to an article I wrote for the magazine Happier Healthier Women. It is a short monthly guide with tips to manage body image challenges throughout the year.
January 11th: HAES(r)ed and Confused: On going group led by Jessica Wilson, MS, RD, in Oakland, CA. CLICK HERE for more information
January 13th: I will be presenting on a panel discussing Ragen Chastain’s new book, The Politics of Size (I wrote one chapter in this two volume book that is filled with amazing author’s contributions). The panel is at Santa Clara University. CLICK HERE for more info.
January: 28th: 8 am Eastern / 9 am Central / 10 am Mountain / 11am Pacific HAES® University: Bringing a Weight-Neutral Message to Campus with Dawn Clifford, PhD, RD, Patti Watkins, PhD, Rebecca Concepcion, PhD CLICK HERE for more info.
The third week of January in the U.S. and the fourth week of January in Australia is Healthy Weight Week.
And the Slim Chance Awards were just announced (the worst weight loss ideas of 2014)!
February 5-7th: Eating Disorders Recovery Support Inc. (EDRS) is having their annual fundraising conference. I will be presenting on Friday. CLICK HERE for more info.
February 13th: Created by Sanah Jivani, Natural Day is just what it sounds like. A day to celebrate ourselves as we are and to promote self love and eradicate bullying! CLICK HERE to see a video of Sanah explaining more about ND or CLICK HERE for the website.
February 14-28th: I will be part of a two week webinar series called, Brave Body Love organized by Michelle Hess. More information on this event will be included in my next blog post. CLICK HERE for info about Ms. Hess.
Feb 22-28th: National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: CLICK HERE for more info.