Tag Archives: women

The Truth about Guys, Girls, and Weight

17 Dec

For many girls struggling with food, body image, and weight, their eating disorder provides a sense of security and control over life events or feelings that seem overwhelming. I know this was the driving force behind mine.

But oftentimes, there are other incentives to continue manipulating food and exercise, like receiving compliments from friends and family, feeling lightheaded and invincible, and believing that being thin is more attractive. For me, it was a no brainer to pursue a full blown eating disorder because it not only helped me cope, but hey… I was also going to be admired, popular and pretty. What a bargain!

I really did believe that I was so huge and ugly that the only way someone would be attracted to me was if I became much, much thinner. Let me tell you… I was wrong.

After a certain point, people stopped admiring my “self-control” and “fitness” and began expressing disgust or concern for my health. The more emaciated I became, the less people wanted to be around me. It was as though they were afraid they would catch the anorexia like it was contagious.

Slowly, I lost what made me a woman- my butt, breasts, and curves. Instead, I looked like a malnourished teenage boy- gangly limbs, pointy elbows, sunken eyes, and prominent, countable ribs. Complete with the surly disposition due to my malnutrition and the resulting depression. I lost my body, but more importantly the quest to be the thinnest made me lose my joy. My smiles were stretched thin. Fake. And frankly, I see now why no boy would ever approach me because of that.

And now, being through the physical restoration component of recovery, I can see in retrospect how wrong I was about what exists in the minds of guys. I’m not saying I’m an expert, because clearly, I’m a girl. But I have been lucky enough to enter into a relationship with a very sweet, kind guy the past few months and have had to reconsider my previous beliefs about gender and beauty.

The first time he remarked on my figure, it took me a moment or two to recover. What? Everything my eating disorder had told me about being attractive was turned upside down. It shocked me, after talking with him, to realize that 20, 30 lbs. ago, he wouldn’t have even considered dating me… “I want to have something to hug.”

And apparently, this guy is not an exception. A recent study done at St. Andrew’s University in Scottland questioned whether the “size zero” body or a more curvaceous figure was more attractive to the 18-26 male age group. The girls were assessed for health by taking blood pressures and weights and then photographed. Then each guy was presented with the photos and asked to rate them in terms of health and attractiveness. Reports indicate that the overwhelming majority of the young men preferred the women at healthy weights over under or overweight women. What a strong message to girls who believe that you you have to be nothing but bones in order to be beautiful.

Don’t believe the lie.

Being healthy is more important that being thin. No matter what the eating disorder may say. End of story.

 The truth is, guys like happy, healthy girls.

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The Women I Waited For

29 Oct

Alone in a city of millions… what a paradox.

Yet, just over a year ago, it’s exactly how I lived. Fresh out of inpatient treatment, I went to live with my aunt in New York City. Physically, I looked better, and everyone exclaimed behind hopeful smiles at how restored I seemed. But I knew the truth. The ED spat,

“Look how you’ve let them stuff you. How dare you actually ENJOY eating when they fed you at Oliver Pyatt? I am not done with you yet… You’re mine again.”

After two days in the metropolis, my insurance terminated my intensive outpatient care and I was left with little treatment support. And my ED went wild in jubilation. It was perfect… no one to monitor, no one to force feed, just me and him… all day long.

In the sea of people, I was stranded on a desert island. The ED made me feel ashamed of my newer, higher weight, so I drew inward, clamming up, losing all evidence that I ever had a social life. It was as though I could not emerge back into the world until the ED had deemed me thin enough again. Unfortunately( or perhaps fortunately), I never reached what my ED considered “acceptable.”

No one understood what I was going through. No one could possibly comprehend the pain, the loneliness, the anxiety, and the bleakness that pervaded the summer. No one else was being eaten up from the inside out, being sucked inwardly into a vacuum, where hope did not exist.

Oh, but they did. They do.

This past weekend was a milestone in my recovery as I ventured once again to New York City. But this time I wasn’t alone. And this time, it was on my terms.

Of course, my ED protested, “You shouldn’t… you’ll have to deal with all those messy memories and not knowing every nutritional fact of every bite you eat there. Think of the apple juice on the plane, how much do those flight attendants really pour? Half a can, 3/4? Oh, and those pretzels and peanuts. You’ll have to decline those. Don’t make me remind you of the restaurants all over New York. What land mines! Really, let’s just stay here in nice, safe, cozy Austin and continue to avoid those pesky things called feelings. Doesn’t that sound just peachy?”

Shut. The. Hell. Up.

While the ED pitched its, fit, I stood unwavering, like a parent riding out the terrible-two tantrums. It was not going to keep me alone. Not this time.

So I got on that airplane. And enjoyed the peanuts and the pretzels, plus NYC’s best pierogis, sushi, and muffins. I had coffee with a new friend, wishing the whole time… if only we had met a year ago. Maybe…..    I stayed up ’til 3 in the morning gossiping and reminiscing with my aunt until my eyelids collapsed, yet my heart wanted more. I saw more in four days than I did the entire summer I lived in NYC- art museums, fashion exhibits, improv shows- or at least savored it more. And I attended a bodyPeace by Piece workshop held by Susan Weiss Berry and Margaux Laskey, where I learned new creative tools to help cultivate a deeper acceptance of what my body looks like and how I feel towards this new weight I exist at.

But perhaps, most importantly, the women I interacted with this weekend made me realize that all along, I’ve never truly been on my own. While there are times where I have felt no one could possibly “get it,” they were there, I just didn’t know it then. Their companionship, their empathy, their compassion made me appreciate how “real” these women were. How rare it was to find them. yet here was a whole group of them assembled. Finally, those unafraid to admit, “Yes, we are struggling, too. We are vulnerable and yearning for understanding. We will not turn you away because we know what it’s like to hurt, but also what it’s like to lean on one another and find strength together.”

I could feel it in their smiles, in their warm, enveloping hugs, in their joyful dance, their quiet moments of reflection, their beauty. I knew I wasn’t alone any longer in the struggle. Yes, I silently whispered…

“Thank you. You are the ones I was waiting for…”

Replacing “Shoulds” with “Coulds”

15 Oct

I hate body bashing, yet like so many other women on this planet, I can’t seem to stop. It’s such a WASTE OF MY TIME… While I spend hours thinking about thinner thighs and agonizing over that chocolate chip cookie I ate, precious time slips away and I’m no thinner, no happier, no more at peace with myself than before. And then I feel guilty… for buying into the body bashing trap and wasting so much time! What a vicious cycle!

Instead of berating yourself and thinking of what you SHOULD NOT be doing, think of how many wonderful things you COULD be doing.

You could be shimmying to music blaring from the radio when no one’s home.

You could be cuddled up on the couch with a mug of steaming tea, a good novel, and the company of the patter of rain outside the fogged up window.

You could be calling one of those friends you never seem to have time to call.

You could be singing, laughing, basking in the delight of living.

You could be outside, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin. You could be out digging in the dirt, planting new seeds, and starting new life. You could be smelling the sweetness of flowers and admiring the beauty of nature.

You could be hiking, breathing in the crisp morning air, so fresh it’s better than Pine-Sol.

You could be writing, pouring your soul out onto paper, leaving a tangible mark that yes, you were there.

You could be walking in your favorite clothes store, feeling the vast myriad of soft fabrics and wistfully creating a wishlist in your mind. You could be having an retro adventure in a vintage store, trying on the gaudiest 80’s dresses available. You could be testing in the shoe department of Macy’s, seeing what it’s like to strut in the highest stilettos they sell. *

You could be buried in the stacks at your local library, seeking out the classics and feeling smarter for just being amongst all the works of such great authors. You could be spending an afternoon at Barnes and Nobles, losing yourself in the allure of crisp, new books, full of such potential, waiting to be read. You could be browsing the nearest used bookstore, selecting the bindings that look most broken, because truly, that is the sign of a book well loved.

You could be lounging in your PJs on Saturday morning, doing nothing but enjoying doing nothing…

You could be baking cookies, brownies, cupcakes as sweet little reminders to give to others that you think about them often. That you care.

You could be walking in the park, admiring the leaves changing colors and cascading back down to the earth in fall. You could be rolling a snowman with friends or your kids, lost in the moment, not minding how frosty your fingers are because really, it’s all about fun. You could be laying at the beach, allowing the warm months to soak over you. Or in my case, you could be slathered in sunscreen at the beach, trying to stay under the umbrella with a good magazine for fear of looking like a lobster.

You could be flying a kite, allowing the breeze to blow away your worries.

You could be declaring it movie night, picking out your favorite, or a new one from the Redbox, letting yourself get lost in the fantasy, romance, or action of filmed fiction.

You could be plopped in one of those comfy armchairs little coffee shops always seem to have, whittling away the number of emails you have left to build up while sipping a fragrant vanilla latte. Ahh…

You could be getting a pedicure, allowing yourself a small luxury. You could be giving your friends pedicures, in hope that they will return the favor. You could be hosting a spa day… how fun would that be?

You could be napping, restoring your body and resting for the many, many things you will have to do in the times that will come.

You could be playing a long board game with family on the weekends, complete with rivalry and the little ones inevitably cheating. You could pretend to not notice, it’d be the right thing to do…

You could be feeding your soul, building yourself up, and tearing down the negativity. You could be creating a new path for yourself, moment by moment. You could be making memories with loved ones, so that down the line, you won’t regret all that time you wasted. You could be enjoying the finite moments you are given.

 You could be doing so much in the same time you would have spent wallowing, worrying, obsessing

You could be living.

 

 

 

 

 

An unReal Reality

6 Oct

This semester, I am taking an Honors Public Speaking class that has a concentration in speaking for humanitarianism. This past week, I delivered a talk to the class on the unrealistic image of women in the media because it has been something I have struggled with for the majority of my life and was a big part of why I used food and its restriction as my choice of coping mechanism. Here are a few of the points that I shared with the class:

  • On a personal level, I can remember being five years old in ballet class and believing that in my pink tights, my thighs looked much too fat to be a “real ballerina,” like the ones I saw on the movies. I also remember frequently pinching the “rolls” on my stomach or the imaginary jiggle on my legs and comparing myself to the other girls in the class, always convinced everyone else was thinner. I’m sure I am not the only little girl who struggled or is struggling with accepting herself. Many of the men in my audience came up and thanked me afterwards for sharing this story in my introduction because they have always worried about their daughters. Be aware of how impressionable young girls are and who in your life could be berating themselves with self-critical thoughts, even if they are very young.
  • The average mannequin, according to an independent study, is far too thin. By calculating the volume v. height of mannequins, the study found that if the average department store mannequin was truly alive, she would have a BMI too low to produce children. What a scary thought that I used to and many women still do look just as much at the mannequin’s size as the clothes she is donned in…
  • The fashion industry’s demand for thinness has taken an almost unfathomable step. Under speculation by the industry is using male models to display female clothes due to their natural tendency to be more flat chested. Androgenous males like Andrej Pejic have begun posing and strutting down the runway as very thin females, their new look being described as “very high fashion.” What does this say about our culture when women’s clothes are “fashionable” when they are no longer made for women?!
  • And finally, I shared this very poignant video by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. While I speculate about the decision to start the project(perhaps an advertising motive), I do believe it is innovative in that it is one of the first major groups to shed light on the fact that the media has skewed the reality of women’s bodies so that they are no longer recognizable as just that- women’s bodies with real flaws, real curves, and real beauty.

Feeding the Feminine Soul

23 Jun

The Setting: Huge, airy windows and sun filtering through purple stained glass. Soft lighting from global, Moroccan lamps. Organic, hardwood floors scattered with plush cushions. Calming flute and woodwind background music. Fresh, pink carnations gazing down from a tall vase. The smell of baby powder mixed with woodsy notes and eucalyptus. 

The People: Women of all ages. Dressed in the most comfortable fabrics- loose, flowing, ahh… cotton dresses, stretchy yoga pants, whispy tees. Bright-faced, rosy, healthy glows, too many smiles to count. Instant friendship.

The Mood: Eager and excited. Strong and determined. Joy. Acceptance. 

Don’t you feel relaxed already??? Last weekend I went to a mini-retreat of sorts led by body-image expert, Elissa Shapiro. Called “Feeding the Feminine Soul,” it shed light on how today’s society impacts the self-perception of ALL women, not just those with eating disorders. It was a blissfully quiet and peaceful afternoon, filled with reflection, group discussions, mindful movement(Nia), and lessons on combatting society’s skewed ideal of what women “should” be.

Here are the most important things I took away from the day:

  • The journaling question, “What if you woke up tomorrow and your body was the cultural norm/ideal? What would you change in your life?” I was shocked by this prompt; I had never stopped to consider who decided that thin was in. Though I pride myself on intellect, I have dumbly chased the “thin ideal” for years without questioning who got to decide that was what is beautiful. I was also shocked by how much relief I felt when I imagined this situation. I have wasted such a large portion of my life trying to be the ideal body type. What would I do with all that extra time I have spent and currently spend on improving, toning, losing, obsessing…? So much would change. So what is preventing me from living like this now? 
  • In an exercise where we had to ask ourselves, “Who am I?” and write down the first seven words that came to mind, here is what I wrote:
  1. an explorer
  2. a learner
  3. compassionate
  4. creative
  5. deserving
  6. a daughter
  7. limitless
             Then, we had to chose which one was the most important definition of
ourselves.Can you guess which one I chose?

             I am limitless.

  • I realized how much gratitude I have for addressing my discomfort with body image NOW, instead of dealing with it for the rest of my life. I am working with my entire outpatient team to get to a place where I can maintain a healthy weight- not too thin, not too heavy- and be comfortable there. I feel relief when I think about this ideal because I won’t have to play on the seesaw anymore- up, down, up, down. It’s so tiring, and I’m glad I get to get off the seesaw sooner rather than later. There were women at this workshop that had dealt with poor body-image and self-esteem for 40, 50, 60 years! I am so grateful I will not have to hate myself for that long. I’m addressing it now, so that I can actually LIVE in the future.
  • And finally, this poem was read aloud because it presents an ideal that is so radically different than our modern culture’s:

Imagine a Woman in Love with Herself:

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman.
A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories.
Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who trusts and respects herself.
A woman who listens to her needs and desires.
Who meets them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who acknowledges the past’s influence on the present.
A woman who has walked through her past.
Who has healed into the present.

Imagine a woman who authors her own life.
A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.
Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods.
A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.
Who designs a personal spirituality to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body.
A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.
Who celebrates her body’s rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman who honors the body of the Goddess in her changing body.
A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.
Who refuses to use her life-energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.
A woman who sits in circles of women.
Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.

           – Patricia Lynn Reilly


A woman who doesn't hate some part of herself. Who thinks she is beautiful inside and out. Hmmph... imagine that...
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