Tag Archives: body image

Five Reasons Why BMI Report Cards Need To Stop.

BMISo, I’m a little late to the game.  Apparently, for a few years now, some schools have been including a BMI (Body Mass Index) score on children’s report cards.  In 2011, The Huffington Post reports that BMI scores are “the latest weapon in the fight against the growing obesity epidemic in children”.  I’m sure you can already guess my reaction to this, but before I get into the more objective reasons, I’ll include a little personal history.

You all know I was an overweight kid.  An overweight kid who carried a lot of shame about both her body and imperfections.  Those imperfections included my less-than-stellar grades in math.  Report cards, a necessary evil, filled me with anxiety and dread every quarter.  Why?  I knew, deep down, that I wasn’t a perfect student; I occasionally turned in homework late and periodically made careless mistakes on tests.  I held a deep level of shame due to these peccadilloes – I feared I was a bad person because of it.  I feared my parents’ reaction to it and hated myself around report card time.  “I should be doing better”, I would mutter to myself.

Can you imagine the amount of shame I would have had if BMI’s were added back in the 90’s?  Can you imagine the ridicule I would have gotten from fellow students?  Can you imagine the reaction from “trusted adults”?

“Well, your BMI is 4 points too high, and therefore, you need to lose weight, Amanda…”

So.  Here are my reasons for banning BMI report cards.

  1. Let doctors and nutritionist do their jobs, and let teachers do theirs.  Is it important that we model a healthy lifestyle for children in our schools?  Absolutely.  Teaching them to obsess about a number is not modelling a healthy lifestyle.  Especially when schools continue to pack their vending machines with candy bars and less-than-healthy foods.  Hello, mixed messages?  More importantly, who are the people who are trained to deal with an individual’s weight, activity and nutrition level?  Their PCP.  Their PCP can do a much more thorough job of determining whether or not a child is healthy or unhealthy.  Better than an index number.  And better than an untrained teacher or administrative personnel who is transmitting this information to a child.  (I’m not knocking teachers, I just think it’s clear kids’ personal doctors are probably better equipped to assess that stuff.)
  2. BMI’s can trigger, but not cause, an eating disorder.  I’m a firm believer that a multitude of factors need to be in place to cause an eating disorder.  But, an environmental trigger like a BMI report card can trigger a child who is already predisposed to having one.  Kids at school are already influenced by bullies at school telling them they need to weigh less, wear better clothes, or don more makeup.  But if adults told them this?  We may forget adults in our lives wielded an unusual amount of power, power that has the ability to influence us for decades and haunt us.  Some kids may not care two ways to Sunday if a trusted adult in their life tells them they’re fat.  But a vulnerable child?  A child who comes from a traumatic home or has low self-esteem to boot?  They’ll take that as truth, and they’ll run with it.  People vulnerable to eating disorders tend to be people-pleasers, and if someone tells them to lose weight, they’ll do it.  I personally know someone who has been triggered by BMI report cards.  This is no joke.
  3. BMI’s are not the most accurate predictor of fat mass.  In general, can it tell you if you need to lose weight?  Probably, I’m not a doctor.  But there are other scales – two are Body Fat Mass and Percentage of Body Fat.  It’s completely possible to have an obese BMI and a normal or overweight score for BFM or PBF.  I’ve also known people who weight train, lose inches from their waist, and watch their BMI scores rise.  Go Kaleo talks a LOT about this (she’s a WARRIOR, check out her blog/fb page).  And, here you can see how she’s clinically overweight by current indexes.  Ridiculousness.
  4. BMI scores are not going to change a perpetually unhealthy household.  I’m guessing that national health advocates are hoping that BMI scores will “wake up” parents who don’t keep a good eye on their child’s nutrition.  As in, maybe they’ll change their family food habits if they see their kid weighs too much.  Mmmmkay.  I believe this might work for a total of two weeks.  Why the cynicism, you ask?  Well, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that the majority of households who constantly feed their kids donuts, soda and McDonalds may not have access to food that is healthier and therefore, higher-priced.  So, there’s financial blocks, and there’s mental blocks too.  I’m going to go a step farther – which may get me in trouble here – and posit that these same families may not be in the best place mentally or spiritually.  And the solution to this is not a number on a report card.  It’s a change in family communication patterns or beliefs.  You don’t work from the outside in and put a band-aid on it; you treat the actual wound.  Bottom line, NUMBERS NEVER HELP PEOPLE TO LOSE WEIGHT OR CHANGE LIFESTYLE BELIEFS.
  5. Isn’t the medical profession’s oath “Do No Harm”?  I can’t take credit for this one.  A couple of weeks ago, on Good Morning America, one of their medical correspondents “weighed in” on this subject.  GMA had interviewed several teenage girls who had communicated that the BMI scores ultimately made them feel bad about themselves.  The reporting medical correspondent insightfully noted the medical profession’s possible betrayal of its oath.  If GMA’s small-scale interview translates to the rest of the teenage population, then harm is being done.

Is obesity healthy?  No way.  But neither are eating disorders.  Our nation has missed the mark and swung the opposite way with food obsession.  We uselessly obsess about gluten and sugar and numbers.  And I’ve harassed you all before about the dangers of obsessing about food and numbers.  Obsession about numbers = obesssion about outside appearance = not solving your food issues.  But working from the inside out works every time. Building your child’s self-esteem through encouragement of esteemable tasks?  Works.  And modelling a balanced diet and positive self-esteem will protect your children from any imbalance.  But an index number?  No way.

Anorexia, On Vacation

I wish this article was about my anorexia going on a permanent vacation, but it isn’t.  There aren’t two ways about it: recovery is hard on any average routine-filled day.  So when you throw in a two-week period of little sleep, constant activity, and strange, indulgent foods, one in recovery can feel like he or she is on an anorectic rollercoaster.

I went to Los Angeles for almost two weeks, to introduce my daughter to friends she hadn’t the opportunity to meet yet.  (Oh, and I forgot to mention above the fun of putting a Boston toddler on Los Angeles time.  Joyful 3am awakenings where SuperWhy MUST be watched.  But I digress.)  Now, I love LA for many reasons – it’s beautiful, the weather is almost perfect, the people are relaxed, and I’ll admit, it’s pretty cool to see celebrities alongside of you shopping for groceries.  But it’s image-obsessed.  Two years ago, I had gone to LA, and when I got off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan…wait…

No but really.  The first billboard I saw read:

“1-800-GET-SKINNY”.

I remember thinking how you’d never see that in Boston.

Also, the last time I went, I had gone out to a bar with my boyfriend and some of his friends.  I had excused myself to go to the bathroom, and when I entered it, immediately felt out of place.  The white hippie sundress and sandals I had previously thought were pretty attractive paled in comparison to the row of stiletto heels and skintight dresses I saw on the other women.  Now, I’ve never been one to follow trends, but I had to admit that my Boston-ness seemed glaringly apparent that day.

This time, I didn’t compare myself as much to other women, but I found the off-schedule eating pretty abhorrent.  Can you eat healthy on vacation?  Absolutely.  Is it harder when you’re dealing with low finances and a screaming toddler?  Yup.  So, long story short, I found myself eating more fast foods and sugar, and while you know I DEFINITELY don’t endorse abstinence from any of these foods, it was an imbalance for me.

candyamanda

 

The above picture was taken in this fabulous candy store, Dylan’s Candy Bar, in the Grove.  Think candy you haven’t seen for years AND a chocolate fondue bar where you could dip strawberries and rice krispie treats in chocolate.  This is me, overenjoying one of those delectable treats:

amandalickingchocolate

 

The folly for me always lies in this common anorexic miscalculation: linking food intake with moral value.  Because I ate a ton of candy that day, I was immediately a disgusting person…not.  I may have had uncomfortable feelings of my body breaking down sugars it doesn’t usually, but that doesn’t translate into my moral value.  Separating the physical and the emotional are so very important, at times.  And also…one can’t maintain a perfect food intake 24/7.  We are humans, which means we err.  Which means it’s ok to get off the bandwagon for a bit if we know we have the ability to get back on safely.  And at this point, I do.  I just need to remind myself it’s ok to indulge in healthy substances.  Writing, friend time, nerds ropes, and my daughter.

I will say this trip was not a total anorectic mental slip, and is documented by the following:  I wore a bikini with little to no shame, for the first time in my life.

amandabikini

 

I had planned this photo mentally, because I needed to challenge the irrational idea in my head that I looked disgusting in a bathing suit and needed to hide my body.  For some, this might be triggering, but for me, it was one of the most liberating experiences I ever had.  Truthfully, I’ve still found ways to pick apart this photo since then, but, it’s a work in process, isn’t it?

 

How does being on vacation affect your self-care?  Does it improve it or throw it off?

Shake What Your Momma Gave Ya.

Yesterday, I was inspired to resurrect an old head scarf I used to wear all the time when I lived in Amherst.  One of my close friends, Devin, had started wearing head scarves and bandannas recently, and I wanted to look as cute as she did.  The fam and I were on our way to Boston’s trendy SoWa open market, and I wanted to dress up.  It’s a big deal, these days, you know.  Dressing up when you’re a Mama.

So I donned a long summer dress, drop earrings, and a paisley head scarf.  I indulgently took this ridiculous duckface selfie, complete with seat belt:

bohoselfie

 

What’s important to note about the scarf, is that it was my Nana’s.  She passed away in 2003, and I gratefully received this after she died, along with a few other cherished jewelry pieces.  It got me thinking about what she, and my mother, and the women before them had to go through to let me be as strong as I am today about this whole body image thing.

A little backstory:

This is what I was told about my Nana: she was born in Ireland and came to the US when she was a baby.  She was adopted by a family over here, and worked fairly young, as her family was not, let’s say, the Kardashians.  One thing that always made me smile was the stories my mother would tell me about her trips into Boston as a teen.  She would take the train into Boston by herself, walk around the city, and buy a trinket with the little money she had.  She seemed fiercely tough and independent, and I identify with that.  Anywho, she married my Grampy, and worked tirelessly as a housekeeper while raising seven kids.  One of them being my mother.

My mother often tells me, “When I was a kid, we didn’t think there was any other choice than marrying and raising kids.  That was just what you did.”  And she’s right.  Were there some women going to college in the mid-sixties?  Sure.  But not like there are today.  In 1965, Betty Friedan truly hadn’t reached everyone yet, and when there were financial stressors on a family, college was a completely ludicrous idea.  So, those women married, and followed the ideals of the fifties.  They pleased their husband by cooking and cleaning.  They tried to look pretty for them.

1950

Someone I see on a weekly basis often likes to tell me, “You women are lucky today.”  And he’s right.  Choices for my Nana and mother were limited – and they, perhaps, didn’t have the time or energy to love their reflection because they were too busy cooking or working or cleaning.  Also, they didn’t know they even had a RIGHT to challenge old, patriarcal beliefs because they had been taught to not question things like that.

My mother, however, had a streak of hippie in her (even though she denies it).  She was an attachment mother before there were attachment mothers, she organized church food drives for the hungry, and she was a bleeding heart who took her patients home on weekends from the Fernald State School to get a respite from the horror.  Her compassion – despite ARDUOUS circumstances that I will keep private – inspired me to choose the career road I walk down today.  It spurred me to get an education that furthered my liberal, feminist beliefs, and challenged me to look beyond what I had been conditioned to believe about my body.  And I’m sure her mother had an effect on her character, in some way.  But that’s her story to tell.

What am I saying?

Even if we have a conflictual relationship with them – even if they hate their body and you learned that as a result of being around them –

Let’s thank the women who came before us.

Without them, we wouldn’t be able to be the fantastic individuals we are today.  Maybe you’re completely different from your mother because you felt angry with her and wanted to rebel.  Well, your fabulous rebellious self?  Thank your mother for that.  Or maybe you’re a carbon copy of your mother, who spends half her time cooking organic food and the other half volunteering for the homeless.  Either way, they have an effect on our personalities – and our body image.  

All I know is, I feel absolutely gorgeous when I wear my Nana’s scarf.

How have the women in your life affected your body image?

 

(1950’s ad provided by Molly Treanor’s blog.  Check her out!)

Trayvon, Feminism, and Other Light Topics

images 8I could be wrong, but I bet a bunch of us feel unsettled yet again by the latest news.  Trayvon.  His killer goes free.  A woman in FL gets 20 years because she shot a gun in self-defense.  Like my wise friend said, “Were we really surprised by this?”  No, we weren’t…but we’re still saddened over it.

And…I’m going to save my specific opinions on these topics for those unlucky enough to be my facebook friends…but it got me thinking.  About being judged by your appearance.

And before I go, let me clarify:  I know nothing about being black.  I try to, but cannot even imagine the silent injustices one experiences on a daily basis if you are.  So, can I say, “I know exactly how you feel!”  No, no I do not.  But I do know how it is to be judged on your appearance, and that’s how I  *try* to identify.  I also know what it’s like to be in a gender that is still viewed as unequal.  Case in point:

It was 2002, and I was working at a large ice cream store in a nearby town.  I did some admin work for the company; I was basically an assistant who did the menial work while I was home from college.  I, despite being unhealthy at times, have always took pride in my appearance, and dressed up every day for work.  Skirts, dresses, heels.  Nothing inappropriate, just tasteful.  Since I didn’t work in the ice cream stand, I didn’t have to wear shorts and sneakers, so I didn’t.  Just wasn’t my style.

One day, my friend and boss came over to me and whispered something I’ll never forget.

“Amanda, the big boss (names have been hidden) wants you to stop wearing dresses and skirts because the boys are getting distracted by you.”

Legit.

And can I tell you?  Not that it matters, but I’ve never been a risque dresser.  (I use the word risque because I hate the word slut because….it’s a discriminatory female word.)  No plunging necklines, no skirts above the knees.  Just a crotchety old elderly female owner who came from another time and wanted to set me back 50 years, too.  (And, she was probably jealous.)

Never MIND that men actually do have accountability when it comes to the question of, “Hey, should I drool over that woman I find attractive?” or “Hmmm, maybe I should be professional and appropriate and buckle down to work.”  Which is what women have been doing for centuries while we smile on the inside about your charming sense of humor or bulging biceps.

Anyway, once again, I was sent the message, “Hide your body.”

And,

“It’s your fault.”

Which is funny, because there are sexual harassment laws which protect us today from situations like that.  Situations in which I could have been considered the victim if I was talked to, looked at or touched inappropriately.

Just like Trayvon was the victim.  And again, it’s his fault.

Because of appearance.

And so many people will try to contest that he wasn’t a purely innocent victim, that he fought back…because the people with power don’t want to work hard and look at the fact that we’re stuck in the 1950’s in some ways.  Because they’ve never had to.

What’s your take on all of this?

Dear Media: Stop Trying to Kill My Sisters.

Dear Media,

I woke up this morning to a picture my friend had posted (mockingly) of a “Get Beach Ready!” article in some beauty magazine.  In it, the first tip suggested,

“BAN STRETCH MARKS.”

stretch marks

and I say –

Go fuck yourself.  That’s right.  You heard me.

Stretch marks have nothing to do with beauty; in fact, I think they have a lot to do with skin elasticity.  So stop trying to attach moral value to stretch marks.

Or anything else body-related for that matter.

Media, did you know eating disorders are the deadliest mental health illness?  Bypassing alcoholism?


death

Well yes, they are.  And you are contributing to many a woman’s death, on a daily basis, all for your love of money.

Stop trying to kill my sisters.  Or my daughter, for that matter.

What if you, instead, chose to publish an un-airbrushed, average looking lady on your cover?  Might that young pre-teen you’re selling to have not chosen to go on a 500-calorie a day diet?  Maybe, maybe not.  Even if you’re not the direct cause, you’re part of the equation.

And when the women who don’t kill themselves via starvation give up on attaining that perfect ideal, they swing the other way.  They start binging, because they just as well might give up and “get fat because there’s no hope for me anyway.”  You may have heard of an epidemic called “obesity.”  You play a part in that.

binge

They buy into your bullshit because you’ve inundated them with false truths since the moment they were born.  Society’s values do a number on them too – “sweet, cute, Daddy’s little girl.”  Pushed down by the patriarchy as soon as they can breathe air.

Oh, and stop trying to kill our mothers.

The other day, I heard a husband joke about giving his wife 6 months post-partum to appear as if she never had a baby.  Behind the joking that made me want to stick a needle in my eye – there is truth.  A million of your articles have been dedicated to women pretending as if they never took part in assisting the human race in surviving.  Makes sense.

babyweight2

 

Keeping women insecure earns a lot of money for you.  How do you sleep at night?  How do you live with yourself?

Either way, it’s got to stop.  You make my new-mother friend feel like she should weigh less, you make my daughter the subject of weight stereotypes, and you make me feel like my genetic spider veins are little spindles of evil on my pasty-white, untanned-and-therefore-unappealing skin.

STOP.

(Another Piece of Cake realizes there are healthy ad campaigns out there, and applauds them!  Another Piece of Cake also realizes men are hit hard by the media too, but Another Piece of Cake only writes about women because she’s, well…a woman.)

Blissful Body Fridays: Don’t Talk About Your Weight in Front of My Daughters

Happy Friday, everyone!  We made it!

elfgifThis week’s link comes to us from Pam G, a friend from college who is a caring Mom of three (one older son and twin boys – she’s my hero!)  The article is written by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, who has a TV show and books and other fabulous stuff.  It’s called Please Don’t Talk About Your Weight In Front of My Daughters, and in it she writes about the importance of adults NOT putting their own bodies down in front of kids.

Why?

Kids do what we do, not what we say.  So even if you tell them they’re gorgeous and breathtaking, they’re still probably going to have bad body image if you talk shit about your abs 24/7.

And I LOVE the attitude this lady has towards food.

Read away, and have a great weekend, folks!

(Gif provided by coed.com)

Blissful Body Fridays: The “Perfect” Female Body

babbleI am LOVING this Friday’s Blissful Body Friday link.  This was sent to me by Jen R, a very hip, astute young lady I went to college with.  In this article, Serge Bielanko writes about the ever-changing female perfect-body-ideal.  I blogged about this in a past entrybut Serge Bielanko attached all these awesome pictures to illustrate the crazy, ephemeral change of what is supposed to be attractive.

Do you know why I included this as a Blissful Body Friday entry?  Because this article illustrates how beauty is so damn arbitrary.   Hate your broad back?  Wait until 2085, then it’ll be attractive to society.  Want to get surgery for your cellulite?  In 3546 it will be the tattoos of today.  For heaven’s sake, unibrows could be in style one day.

Do you know what I mean?  None of it fricking matters.

Give this website some hits!

Enjoy, and have a blissful Friday!

Blissful Body Fridays: Debenhams Rocks!

beautylikethis

Debenhams, a high end retail store, has put the word out that they’re banning airbrushing and retouching!

Kickass.

This same department store has featured paralympians and disabled individuals as models before.  Way to encourage body acceptance all around!

They have even challenged other stores to follow suit.

You can read up on the article and check out before and after photoshopped pics here.

I don’t know about you, but I think the “real body” movement is gaining momentum.

 

A big thanks goes out to Alexandra for letting me know about this!

Blissful Body Fridays: Work Out To Be Happy!

running

Happy Friday, everyone!

I thought I’d share some “blissful” moments in my ED recovery as part of Blissful Body Fridays.  I was thinking back to some turning points in my recovery, and this one stood out to me today:

The day I started exercising for my mind, and not for the way my body looked.

THAT was a miracle, ladies and gentlemen, and if I could make this shift, you can too.

Let me explain a little about my process, and where I was at that point in my life.

It was about two years ago or so; I had moved to Winthrop in an apartment by myself, on the beach.  I had just moved out of the Somerville apartment I had terrorized occupied for six years prior.  By this time, I had given up a bunch of old, self-defeating habits and was feeling pretty good.  I was pretty busy in the evenings, so I realized the only time I could work out was in the mornings.  I had never done that before because I hadn’t taken care of myself enough to feel ok about running at 6am.

So I tried it.  And I loved it.

Why?

1.  My workout was done by 6:30, and I had the rest of the day to do what I wanted;

2.  Any anxiety that I had about the upcoming day was erased by the rush of endorphins;

and

3.  I felt powerful for the rest of the day.

And on days that I wouldn’t workout or wait until the evening, I would notice that my mood would be a little more quiet, my thoughts a little more racy.

(That’s why it’s so easy to become addicted to exercise!  You become addicted to the “high” of it.  It’s a tricky balance I still have to examine.)

So that’s when I realized I was working out for my mind, and not the number of my waistline.

Which was a pretty big effing deal for me.

Exercise became a lot more fun for me when I started doing it for my mind.  Before, it seemed tedious, something I had to “get through”.

And I believe I have been able to exercise long-term because I do it for my mind.  When I did it for my body, I did it in 3 month long increments (or so), and then would give it up for another six.

 

So, what about you?  Has exercise been helpful or hurtful in your body image/ED recovery/journey?

 

*Proceed at your own risk.  What works for me may not work for you.

Recovery Tip Tuesdays: Throw out Your Old Jeans!*

jeansThat’s right, I said it.

Yes, I’m talking about that all-hallowed, smallest-size-you-ever-fit-into jeans.

Yes, those!

(Or donate them to some nice organization.  Whatever you prefer 🙂 )

I feel like that revered pair of jeans is a part of most women’s closets.  They even made a Sex and the City episode about it (Remember, when Miranda fit into her No Excuses jeans from high school and instantly was able to flirt with a hot guy?  Funny episode, but c’mon.).

Why, you ask?

If you hold onto a pair of jeans that is smaller than what you are now, you will always be comparing yourself to that number.  You’ll always be wishing you were that size again.  You’ll always be wanting to be smaller.  And, as our great friend the Buddha taught us, distress and unhappiness take place when we reside in the “wanting” of anything.  When we accept where we are now, we are happier (and I’m betting, if you actually want to lose some weight in a healthy way, it will come off easier when you stop thinking about numbers in general.  Throw away the jeans, put away the scale, stop counting calories or fat grams or sugar grams or WHATEVER.)

A personal anecdote –

I had this size (bleep!) skirt that I bought sophomore year in high school.  It was blue satin, was bought in Harvard Square, and everyone commented on how thin I looked in it.  Years later, when I was a few sizes up, I still had it.  It sat in the back of the closet and teased me.  It taunted me.  “Why aren’t you this weight?” it said.

So, I got sick of its bullshit and threw it out.

Today, I have a closet that’s full of stretchy, one-size-fits-most type clothing.  It works for me.

Today, I’m throwing the question out to you guys – what tips have worked in your quest for good body image?

*Remember, what works for me may not work for you.  Proceed at your own risk.