Recently, my friend Liz sent me the link to this stunning blog entry. In it, the fabulous Ms. Aya De Leon wittily takes on the media and its inability to make her feel her body is inferior.
Read and enjoy!
Recently, my friend Liz sent me the link to this stunning blog entry. In it, the fabulous Ms. Aya De Leon wittily takes on the media and its inability to make her feel her body is inferior.
Read and enjoy!
I’ll never forget the way I felt when I saw the “Yes” on the pregnancy test screen. First there was disbelief, then panic, then later, after crying in a dazed state to my best friend and mother, joy. I had anticipated this for a long time; I had ALWAYS wanted to be a mother. But I anticipated this with dread and happiness simultaneously. Happiness, because I knew I would (minus the learning curve) be a great mother, and dread, because I didn’t know how I’d react to the weight gain, being in eating disorder recovery.
I seemed to worry less about my weight during the pregnancy. I think (and most doctors would shudder at this) I looked on it as the one time I could eat whatever I want and it wouldn’t matter. It was such an escape from my ED, in a sense. Society was cool with me getting bigger. I DID have to stop myself from calculating possible weight gain in my head, however (“If I’ve gained a pound a week then I’ll be X amount of pounds by nine months…AHHH!”) I was proud of myself though; I faced the numbers on the scale every couple of weeks and for the most part, left them at the OBGYN office. I didn’t hold back on eating.
But I worried incessantly about how quick my body would bounce back after. How long would it take to lose X amount of weight? Was I screwing myself by now by not curtailing what I ate? As soon as I gave birth, I looked down at my confused, tired stomach and wondered if it would ever change from it’s current war-torn state.
And I proceeded to have the strangest experience. The weight dropped off like NOTHING. I know, I know, you can call me a bitch if you want, but it was like a giant F%#$ you to my eating disorder. I had been obsessing about how I would lose weight, and my body ended up taking care of for me. This began my admiration for the power of the human body.
I marveled at how I simply produced milk for my daughter. I was astounded by the healing powers of my body when I, six weeks later, was able to run a mile after, well….let’s just say: there were some blood loss issues. And I was impressed again, when my body truly resumed its pre-pregnancy form post-breastfeeding. I have a trainer acquaintance who swears up and down that weight loss or gain is all hormone-related; I’m beginning to believe this. Hormones, in my opinion, are NUTS! (I’m sure my significant other, John, would attest to that. Notice that I’m not talking about the emotional piece of my pregnancy. That’s another book for another time. Ahem.)
Bottom line…I feel sexier now that I had a child. Even if I don’t look stereotypically sexier. Before you think I’m a total Pollyanna, you should know it’s not 80% of the day, when I’m in a shirt that’s been thrown-up on (holy acid reflux, my Fiona had) or my hair looks like Mom hair or when I’m wearing flannels next to John. It’s moments when I’m walking down the street to my job, and I realize, “I gave birth, goddamnit! And I’m still here!” Seriously, does anyone else take pride in that? I sure as hell do.
I think the other piece of it the lack of appreciation I had for my body pre-pregnancy. I just didn’t know what I had. This amazing, regenerating, life-giving machine that was capable of so much strength. But because I believed that it was just to be looked at…I hid it.
I don’t have perfect body image. No way. I have this little dimpled section of skin above my belly button that is a leftover physical mark of pregnancy. Do I wish it was there? Of course not. But I’m pretty damn amazed that I was able to push a baby out. I’m…proud of myself. I’m proud of my body. And after 14 years of criticizing my body, I’m pleasantly surprised at that.
I know this isn’t everyone’s experience. I’ve talked to friends who struggle with body image after giving birth. (I’m convinced whether you gain or lose weight during or after pregnancy is one big genetic, hormonal crapshoot.) I just wish for all of them that they can feel empowered after what they did. Cause I “still got it”, and so do you.
It’s in your kitchen. It’s speaking loudly to you. It arrived yesterday along with your child’s well-meaning Grandmother. Encased in tupperware, its delicious morsels are of the chocolate kind, and are drenched in a sweet icing glaze. Even worse, there are 20 of them.
(Cue Jaws music*)
You go to the kitchen. “I’m going to have some yogurt and fruit,” you say nonchalantly to yourself. You go to the fridge, and eye the tupperware. “I’ll just have a bite,” you think. “It’s so much easier than cutting the pineapple up.” You take one out.
And then you binge, or emotionally eat. They’re all gone in a matter of minutes.
Bingeing, or emotional eating, is one of the most shame-driven behaviors, in my humble opinion. Not that many people talk about it, or when they do, grimace and look to the side as if to apologize for themself. I think it may be harder for SAHM’s or for individuals who have little structure during the day. What else are going to do during the day? What other escape do you have while your 2 year old is taking a too-short half hour nap? So you binge.
Well, I’m here to talk about it and to deflate the secret: I’ve done it. It’s gotten a LOT better than it used to be, but it still happens from time to time. What has changed is the POWER food doesn’t have over me as often. When we are stricken by an ED or emotionally eat, food has legitimate power over us. So the goal of this post is to make brownies your bitch, not vice versa. Or donuts, or frosting straight from the can.
Now this may sound like I want you to get to the point where you say, “Mwa ha ha! I will never eat brownies again! They are evil!” This is not what I’m after. I’m after you eating brownies when you want, and then having the power to put them down when your body tells you you’re full. Here are some tips that have worked for me.
I hope some of these help. For me, using some of the simple activities gave me the space to examine what my core emotional issues were behind the food. And once I discovered those, I realized that food was just a symptom of the problem, and the power was driven out of it. Food didn’t serve the purpose it once did.
And then (at least 80% of the time), brownies were MY bitch.
*Don’t take this cue as me saying that food or sweets are evil; this post is about bingeing, and what I mean to say that bingeing can be harmful.
This is my Dad and I at a St. Patrick’s Day party last night. Before I ramble on about my latest food thought, I feel the need to introduce him, because he’s led a pretty amazing life. Born before the Great Depression (83 years old), he was a pilot in the Air Force (I got to go up in a Cessna with him when I was 10), an actor and theater critic who hung out with Charlton Heston pre-crazy-NRA-ness, and a member of the crowd who saw John F. Kennedy before he turned the street corner in Dallas and was shot. It is hard to see him in the later years of his life; his speech, hearing and eyesight are severely limited. Through the crap, I occasionally see glimpses of his old self: stubborn, curious, spirited, strong-willed, adventurous. In other words, a whole lot of me.
Another way we are similar is our enjoyment of sweets. Ha. Which leads me to the thought I came up with running today. Long story short, I did not hold back with the food and/or desserts last night. (Which honestly, I usually don’t at holiday gatherings, because, it’s one frickin day). And I felt it this morning. My stomach was a little messed up from the sugar, but nothing bad. It was like a little reminder from my body – “Hey, don’t do that again anytime soon.”
That led me to thinking about feeling badly in general. Emotionally and physically. In life, there are natural ebbs and flows to our moods – some days we’re feeling pretty damn confident, and some we’re feeling pretty insecure. Doesn’t the same go for our bodies? Can we really expect our physical bodies to feel healthy and toned and “just full enough” 100% of the time? No. Sometimes, we’re going to feel physical pain due to an ebb and flow in lifestyle. Now, I’m not recommending we all binge on sugar every night because it’s an “ebb”, but I think it happens because we’re human. We’re not perfect body robots.
I have noticed, as of late, that our society tends to not want to feel bad at all. We don’t want to sit with pain or discomfort. Like my friend Alexandra said, there are diets that promote quick fixes (read: you don’t have to sit with the pain of your real, emotional food issues and instead get a band-aid fix), there is airbrushing that takes away anything that isn’t perfect, and there are eating disorders to numb out the root issues that fuel it. We all produce and run at an insane pace everyday, and in turn avoid sitting quietly with ourselves for two minutes, paying attention to what we’re really feeling.
Anyway, I’m getting a little vague, but I’ll explain what I mean this way. My Dad always told me, “We (my mother and he) will love you no matter what wrong you did in life.” I’m gonna treat my appetite and body the same way. Because it isn’t perfect but it usually hits the mark when I listen to it and treat it right.
Every day, I hear about another celebrity or friend or whoever getting on a new, fad diet.*
And it’s so frustrating because I know – this person will come back to me a month later, discouraged, saying, “Why did I end up binging? I just can’t eat healthy.” Or we’ll see the celebrity have a lifelong struggle with rollercoaster weight gains and losses after 305 Jenny Craig trials. And I get mad – because I know my dear friend – or even this celebrity that’s been hounded by critics and paparazzi and assholes – CAN eat healthy. It is easily within their power. If only they’d stop dieting!
The thing I find especially crazy about diets is that a great deal of them these days ask you to cut one, or two food groups out of your nutrition.
You know who doesn’t recommend any of these methods? Nutritionists and doctors. When I was in treatment for my ED, I was advised to have three meals and three snacks a day, complete with whole grains, meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and – god forbid – dessert! Now, the portions have to be reasonable, and you’re not generally advised to consume soda or corned beef hash on a daily basis – but you can eat or drink everything once in a while.
Is it that people are looking for the next quick fix? Is is that they can’t sit with uncomfortable feelings when feeling full? Is it that, in our extreme-based country, we feel the need to meet obesity-causing McDonald’s food with anorexia-causing cleanses? Why do we need to cut something out to be healthy? Isn’t health about balance? Incorporating everything within reason?
You tell me. I need some feedback. Why do we diet?
*Please note this is not a personal attack on anyone. I realize diets may work for a few, and not everyone succeeds doing things my way. I get annoyed because I get triggered by diet talk, and because I watch people try something that doesn’t work over and over again, at the cost of their mental and physical health. I get annoyed because I want to change it.
(image provided by www.lbnonlinefitness.com)
I am thrilled to have Tayla James, author of She’ll Be Free, guest post on Another Piece of Cake! Please check out her blog – she is honest, spirited, and provides practical tips on how to recover from an eating disorder. (And she makes jewelry and cards! How amazing is that!) In this entry, she writes about societal standards that influenced her ED and how she overcame them. Enjoy!
Are Social Influences Ruining Your Life?
Magazine images, degrading commercials, thin actresses.
All of those have one thing in common; they can be detrimental to women, especially to those trying to recover from an eating disorder.
I clearly remember when I was in the beginning stages of my anorexia looking at these magazines and wondering why my thighs were not as skinny as Jessica Simpson’s. How could she be twice as old and yet have smaller thighs?
I just didn’t get it. It made me feel ashamed and embarrassed about my body. And I was only twelve!
Every day I would be greeted by these images. TV models used in commercials for the selling of beer, makeup, or cars, actresses dieting down to look skinny for movies, and magazines letting you falsely believe that all women look flawless and perfect.
It is all a lie.
But it hasn’t been easy for me to recognize that. It’s taken years to finally realize just how fake all of these things really are.
How could they not be real? I mean they’re on TV and how do you know if the magazine is really photo-shopping them? They say they don’t but another source tells you they are. And they look so real!
Or do they?
Is that what real women look like? When I look around me, at the store, at the doctor’s office, that’s not even close to what I see. I see women with dark spots, women with cellulite, women who are NOT perfect.
And we’re not supposed to be.
Perfection can only be met by these photo-shoppers. That’s why they need to do it; because the girls really do have flaws and blemishes and are “too” big or small for the camera.
And that is sad. It makes me angry every time I see an image like this. I can’t even imagine how degrading that must feel for those women on the cover. To be picked apart and airbrushed to look like someone completely different than their true self.
But it’s even harder for us girls.
Having to constantly be bombarded with these pictures, these seamlessly immaculate women, it takes its toll and over time, the effects of this can cause more body image issues, more eating issues, and more self worth issues.
To be recovering from this exact “want” and “need” to be skinny, with the media breathing down my back every minute, telling me what I should look like, is not easy. It steers me in all sorts of directions.
One day I am so angry that I have to listen to all these ads and see all these fake women around me and then other days I fall in the trap and wish I was like them again.
It’s a never ending cycle that feeds the eating disorder and body image voices.
They sit on your shoulder ad whisper in your ear, “why don’t you look like that women?” “She’s more perfect than you.” “You don’t have beautiful skin, or eyelashes, or legs, a flat stomach, a thigh gap, or invisible cellulite. There’s no way you’re even close to being pretty compared to them!”
Learning to make these voices stop can be a full time job. At least for me it was.
I had to be on the lookout at all times. When I went to the store I had to pick the lines that didn’t have these magazines. I had to make a great effort to look away and if I did catch a glimpse, I had to convince myself that they were artificial, not real.
When I watched TV or movies, I had to remind myself that these women are on a constant diet and are starving themselves to look that way.
They suffer for their own bodies because the media tells them to.
It was a continual battle I fought with my mind each and every day, until I finally came to a point of peace with it all.
I just started seeing these images as imposters. They just clearly weren’t real.
And there are more and more articles, websites, pinterest images that depict the problems behind them. There are people out there that make it their jobs to discover the errors of these things.
Photo-shopping has its slipups and it’s becoming more evident to what they are doing. Models are coming forward and revealing what they have to do in order to keep their thin bodies and actresses are beginning to tell us what really happens behind the camera.
My advice to women and girls is to really take the time to realize that these images are fake. And there may be a real women behind all of the airbrushing and makeup, but on the surface, these photos aren’t real.
Real women are not perfect and that is what makes us beautiful.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder, it’s even more important that you stay away from images like these. Remember why you are fighting. You are unique and lovely. You don’t want to look fake in order to be considered beautiful.
You are already beautiful. Flaws and all.
Tayla Anne is a writer, artist and fitness enthusiast. After finding freedom from an eight year battle with anorexia, she now writes about her experiences, self love, acceptance, and how you too, can break free from your own eating disorder. Follow her blog, She’ll Be Free for more inspirational posts and ideas.
Going with the theme of being gentle with myself, a couple of “life things” have occurred that may have affected this:
So, how do I get back on track?
Anywho, I look forward to getting back on track. I do think some bellydancing may be in order this week!
(Image provided by blindgossip.com)
Hey all. I said I’d post 30 days of Tummy Love, but I didn’t say they’d be consecutive 😉 My daughter got the croup for a couple of days, so I had to take time out to help her mend. But I’m pleased to report I didn’t stop the belly strengthening part of my TLP (Tummy Love…yup, you get it).
So, I am also happy to report the following progress:
That’s pretty amazing for a lady who resented and hid her tummy a little over a week ago.
The downfalls I have to watch out for?
I look forward to filling my belly with delicious foods over the next coming days – my mother’s bell cookies, a 7 fish Italian Christmas Eve, and peanut butter fudge. I also look forward to listening to my appetite and continuing my self care.
Merry Christmas Eve ‘Eve, everyone!
(Image provided by Google Images.)
So, as evidenced by my skip in posts yesterday, I admittedly have been struggling to post every day this month – Christmas duties have tied me up, and the tragedy in Connecticut really hit me hard for some reason. So today’s going to be short and sweet.
In my day to day travels, I have a hard time staying present – I really have to work at it. Probably seems strange for a therapist, but it’s true – my main coping skill now is “checking out” into that place most people call “spaced off”. So I really liked this belly meditation I found on meditationiseasy.com. This Vipassana meditation draws awareness to your belly and slows your cognitive mind down. Check it out!
Watching the belly:
Have you seen the pictures of laughing Buddha ? These pictures are the specialty of Japanese traditions. In contrast to the image of Buddha as a serene enlightened prince, this images depicted his as a jovial, corpulent person who has a significantly large belly. Though the picture seems funny, in reality it contains a very subtle message. The message that the belly has an important role to play in meditation.
The belly is considered as the location of the hara centre. Just behind and below your navel (belly button) lies the hara, which is a point of consciousness that is considered as the center of your subtle body. By focussing our attention on the hara centre, we can easily attain a meditative state of mind. As you meditate upon hara, your thinking process starts slowing down on its own. You achieve a state of choiceless awareness.
The ‘belly watching’ form of Vipassana meditation involves focussing our attention on the breathing process felt around the belly. Whenever we breath, our belly moves up and down. This movement of belly is a continuous process. Just like breathing, this movement (of belly) also goes on continuously. And we can use this movement to attain a meditative state. Let’s see how:
Sit quietly at a comfortable, peaceful place. Close your eyes and take few deep breath. Now focus your attention on the area around the belly. See how it goes up and down along with the breath. Just be watchful of the belly movement as it comes upward & downward during the breathing. Focus your whole attention on this belly movement.
Keep watching this belly movement. Within a span of few minutes, you will realize that your thoughts have gradually started disappearing from your mind. You will feel a state of increased awareness. Be a witness to the changes in your body during this meditation. After 15-20 minutes, stop this belly meditation stop watching the belly movement and come out of this meditation.
Practise the above meditation daily. As you practice daily, soon you’ll start recognizing the presence of a hara centre – a sort of ball of consciousness around the belly. That will help you increase the awareness of your inner self which is the main thing in meditation.
So, I woke up this morning with pretty bad back pain. Apparently, finding and embracing your abdominals after 2-3 years of ignoring they exist means some hit and miss on using the right muscles when strengthening. It is STRANGE, I tell you, how I pretended they didn’t exist without knowing it. And because of this, I had some major shame attached to them. (“I know I have this stomach that I hate, but I’m going to hide it behind bad posture and pillows in front of me.”) Think about it – emotions are the same way – if we reject jealousy, for example, we shame it and think it’s “bad” and hide it from others.
So, needless to say, the first step in my journey of “tummy love” begins with simple awareness. So, I did the following things –
You have no idea how much this helped.
It was like, “Hey there stomach, nice to see you after mistreating you for so long! I acknowledge that you exist, and by doing this, I see you the way you are.”
Acceptance. Simple presence.
I’m sure some judgmental yoo-hoo out there thinks I’m wacko, but I’m cool with that. I’m done with the body hatred, and I’m willing to do anything to get rid of it.
I turn to chakras for today’s inspiration. We have 7 chakras, and the 3rd, the Solar Plexus, is your core. According to www.chakra-anatomy.com, it “is the center of your self-esteem, your willpower, and your discipline…. it allows you to transform inertia into action and movement. It allows you to meet challenges and mover forward in your life…it is the centre of your self-esteem. Every time you judge or criticize yourself, you deplete this chakra and weaken your willpower. Self love, self acceptance, and acknowledgement of your own worth are the building blocks of the third chakra.”
Now why would I want to hide something like that?
(Image provided by www.chakra-anatomy.com)