This Week in #MediaLiteracy | 2 Campaigns You Should Know About

The world of social media presents an interesting dichotomy.  The challenges of existing in an online community are ever increasing.  Concerns about safety and security are high on the list of course (particularly for parents with tech savvy kids) but additional risks to overall well-being and self-esteem are lingering close behind.  Dangers include online bullying, exposure to harmful imagery or media, and the less sensationalized, yet still problematic, body bashing and body comparison often experienced within sites like Facebook and Pinterest.

Yet while these risks exist, these same online communities also provide a great opportunity for social change and grassroots organizing.  We’ve seen two such examples of powerful social media campaigns this week that we thought were worth sharing.  If you struggle with the body toxic environment online OR offline, perhaps these are opportunities for you to help create change for yourself and for others.   Take a look, find out more, get involved.  Just think, every minute you spend advocating for media literacy, body positivity and truth is one less minute you have to engage in the alternatives.

#TruthInAds

The Truth in Advertising Act of 2014 (HR4341) was introduced earlier this week with bipartisan support from Representatives in Florida and California and with collaboration from several great organizations including The Eating Disorders Coalition and The Brave Girls Alliance.

The groundbreaking bill calls on the Federal Trade Commission to develop a legislative framework for advertisements that alter the human body (i.e. shape, size, proportion, color, etc.) and asks for recommendations and remedies for photoshopped ads that are determined to be false/deceptive and which may contribute to a series of emotional, psychological and physical health issues, and economic consequences – particularly affecting, but not limited to, girls and women.” (via Brave Girls Alliance).  If this is something you support, its easy to get involved in any of the following ways:

  • Add your name to the Change.org petition by Seth Matlins
  • Read this great write-up about the Truth in Advertising Act by Matt Wetsel over at his blog, …Until Eating Disorders are No More.  He makes it easy to  find your representative in Congress and how to let them know you support the bill.
  • Take to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and any other social media site with the hastag #TruthInAds to help spread the word. You can even stop by The Brave Girls Alliance for toolkits, images and talking points for the campaign.

#AdoptTheIllusionists

The Illusionists is a 90 minute documentary about the body as the “finest consumer object” and the pursuit of ideal beauty around the world. Or: how corporations are getting richer by making us feel insecure about the way we look. 

The hard thing for most people about speaking out against society’s narrow ideals of beauty is that it can feel like you’re a fish swimming upstream in a strong current of Photoshopped bodies, fat talk, and dieting.  Taking a stand can mean you’re up against some pretty powerful forces like the beauty and fashion industries, the diet and weight loss industries and even the larger television and film media that rely on funding from these sources. This pressure compounds when you’re an independent filmmaker working to expose the stories and financial benefits behind the WORLD’S beauty ideals.  That’s what filmmaker, Elena Rossini is doing with her documentary The Illusionists and it’s why The Center for Eating Disorders has been a supporter of the film since it first launched via a Kickstarter campaign in 2011.

Now that the film is almost complete, Elena is swimming against that cultural current once more, and has taken to Twitter with the #AdoptTheIllusionists campaign to help the film, and its message, get the widest possible circulation. On her blog, Elena writes, “My passion for the project stems from its potential to incite activism: I strongly believe that The Illusionists can ignite important conversations about consumer culture, mass media, and the epidemic of body image dissatisfaction around the world. It only takes one person to believe in The Illusionists for the fate of the film to change. It could be a producer. An actress. A writer. An activist with the right connections. It could be you.”

The film has already caught the eye of accomplished artists and activists including Geena Davis and Stephen Fry.  If YOU want to see the first 4 minutes of the film and then show your support for the film, visit Elena’s post, It Only Takes One Person or go straight to the #AdoptTheIllusionists campaign page for supportive statements that are ready-to-tweet.

Let us know how you’ve supported the above campaigns and other ways you engage in media literacy activism.  Leave a comment below or join us on Facebook and Twitter.

An open letter to Dr. Drew Pinsky…

Earlier this week, Dr. Drew Pinsky made some misleading comments about “exercise bulimia” in a video featured on CNN iReport.  The comments sparked concern because of the implications they could have for individuals who are struggling with excessive exercise and for those who may be at-risk.  Dr. Harry Brandt,  CED Director, was motivated to reach out to Dr. Drew in hopes of opening a public conversation that will shed light on eating disorders and spread accurate information regarding just how serious excessive exercise can be. The letter is published below: 

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Dear Dr. Pinsky:

By way of introduction, I am the Director of the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, and former Director of the Unit on Eating Disorders of the National Institutes of Health.  While generally, I think you have done an excellent job of increasing awareness of major mental illnesses to the population at large, I was concerned about your recent video comments regarding “exercise” bulimia.  I felt compelled to blog about it on our website, and have received many responses from patients.  Here is a link to the blog:  In response to Dr. Drew ~ Exercise bulimia is not a mild mental health issue.

I would be most appreciative if you would consider following up on this issue publicly to raise awareness about the seriousness of bulimia nervosa, with particular attention to those individuals that use compulsive exercise as their means of purging.  

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you further.

With best regards,

Harry A. Brandt, M.D.

Director, Center for Eating Disorders
Sheppard Pratt Health System

Head, Department of Psychiatry
St. Joseph Medical Center

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Making a Difference ~ Fat Talk Free Week 2011

This is the 6th post in an 8-part blog series  about eating disorders on campus.

Fat Talk Free Week 2011

“I’m having a fat day.”

“Does this outfit make me look fat?”

“I can’t go on that date until I lose more weight – I’m so disgusting.”

Have you ever uttered these words? Have you thought them? Heard other people say them? These types of statements have become far too acceptable as part of our every day speech and social conversation. In an effort to combat this way of speaking to ourselves and others, Tri Delta Sorority launched their fourth annual Fat Talk Free Week going on right now, October 16-22, 2011.

The following description of this initiative is posted on their website:

Fat Talk describes all of the statements made in everyday conversation that can contribute to women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies by reinforcing the thin ideal. Examples of fat talk may include: “I’m so fat,” “Do I look fat in this?” “I need to lose 10 pounds” and “She’s too fat to be wearing that.” Statements that are considered fat talk don’t necessarily have to be negative; they can seem positive yet also reinforce the need to be thin –“How do you stay so skinny?” or  “You look great! Have you lost weight?”

Fat Talk Free Week, our cause campaign in support of Reflections, is an annual week-long event to raise awareness about the damaging effects of Fat Talk. We’re encouraging everyone to change the conversation to create a more positive body image for women everywhere!

Negative body image is one of the most persistent symptoms of an eating disorder. In fact, for many people, their eating disorder symptoms will be well under control before their body image begins to improve. This is a frustrating experience that can also be very triggering, leading some, unfortunately, to revert to their eating disorder behaviors. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to actively work on nurturing and accepting your body. There’s still time to enlist some friends or family members to take part in Fat Talk Free Week to support you in creating a world less focused on appearance and unrealistic body ideals.

Stop Fat Talk: Instead of talking with others about your appearance, start conversations about which classes you are taing, your weekend plans or how you are feeling that day. Compliment others on their accomplishments, style, or humor instead of highlighting their appearance or weight. If others are engaging in fat talk, politely redirect the conversation or let them know about your goal for the week and encourage them to join in.  You can connect with others on the End Fat Talk Facebook Page.

Make a List, Don’t Check it Twice: On one half of a piece of paper, write a list of the things you dislike about your body. On the other half write the things that you like about your body, you accomplishments and your personality. Tear off the half that details the negatives and rip it up into pieces. Throw it in the trash where it belongs! Put the positive half somewhere that you can look at it frequently to remind yourself of your great qualities.

Treat Your Body: This would be a great week to schedule a massage or a pedicure. Strapped for cash? Check out local spas that might have student discounts or get some friends together and swap accessories that emphasize your favorite feature. Sometimes, it is a treat to simply take a nice, long shower at home and actually take time to enjoy the scents of the shampoos and soaps that you use.

Apologize: It may seem silly, but every time you catch yourself thinking a negative thought about your body, pause and apologize to your body for being so harsh. Instead, try to express your gratitude for what your body does for you. For example, if you are thinking your thighs are too big, stop and thank your legs for giving you the ability to walk from place to place.  You might even want to write your body an apology letter for having been so critical in the past. Then write your resolutions for how you will treat it better in the future.

Get Creative: Tap into your inner artist and create a poster for CED’s 6th Annual Love Your Tree positive body image and poster campaign.  Colleges and  student organizations in the state of Maryland can even request a free Love Your Tree creative workshop for your campus facilitated by the program’s creator, Julia Andersen.  More details here.

Out with the old, In with the new: This would be a great week to do your body a favor and get rid of any old clothes that don’t fit or simply don’t make you feel great when you wear them. What is the point of holding onto jeans that don’t cooperate with your body? They’re only taking up space in your closet, and you could be focusing on the jeans that fit you and flatter you now. Host a clothing drive in your dorm or with your friends; donate those clothes to Goodwill or take them to a consignment shop. Everyone wins!

We at The Center for Eating Disorders encourage you to sign the Fat Talk Free Week Pledge.  Over 3,000 other people have already made the commitment to befriend their bodies, will you?

Remember, Fat Talk Free doesn’t have to end on Friday.  See how much better you feel when you focus on life outside of clothing sizes, diet goals and the media’s harmful messages about beauty. You may find that you want to make it a daily commitment.  Need a little extra motivation?  Check out Positive Body Image is Always In Season: 7 Tips for Year-Round Body Image Boosting and join us on Facebook.

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Written by Jennifer Moran, PsyD. as part of CED’s 8-part college blog series for students struggling with disordered eating and body image concerns on campus.

“Navigating Our Culture’s Body Anxiety & Finding Body Confidence” ~ Q & A with SUSIE ORBACH

Susie OrbachSusie Orbach is a psychoanalyst, activist and author of many books including the classic, Fat is a Feminist Issue and her latest publication, Bodies. In addition to co-founding The Women’s Therapy Centre  in London and The Women’s Therapy Centre Institute in New York, Orbach serves as consultant and co-originator of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.  She is also convenor of www.any-body.org through which she recently organized a series of international summits aimed at promoting body diversity and changing the way our culture turns individuals against their own bodies.

As an author and international body image activist, Orbach lectures extensively worldwide.  On October 2nd, 2011 we are excited to welcome her to The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore where she will be presenting a free talk for the community entitled, Navigating Our Culture’s Body Anxiety and Finding Body Confidence. You can get the details and reserve your seats for the event here.

In advance of her presentation, we asked Dr. Orbach a few questions about her upcoming talk and her responses are below.
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Q & A with Susie Orbach:

Q: The title of your upcoming talk at CED is “Navigating our Culture’s Body Anxiety and Finding Body Confidence”.  In your own words, how would you define body anxiety?  How do you define body confidence?

Susie: Body anxiety: Waking up and worrying whether it is going to be a good day or a bad day in relation to food; scrutinizing your body –dreading it will have the faults you see there, hoping it won’t; feeling pierced throughout the day with negative body thoughts; making plans to change the way you eat, exercise because you must ‘punish yourself’ and so on

Body confidence: waking up and feeling your physicality; reflecting on what you are doing that morning and what you might want to wear. Eating just what you want and relishing it when you are hungry. Moving your body because it feels good. Enjoying going about your life trusting your body will be there in a good way with you.

Q: In your opinion, where does the responsibility lie for this culture of extreme body dissatisfaction we have come to accept as the norm?  With whom does the responsibility lie to change it?

Susie: Big questions I hope to answer in my talk…The important thing is that whether in advertising, the media, food industry, the beauty industry, there are things we can to do change the situation. We need bold strategies from the individual, to the corporate to the political governmental

Q: What would you say is the biggest cultural myth that affects body image and/or weight struggles?

Susie: That the diet industry is on our side. It isn’t. It is part of the problem not the solution

Q: You have played an integral role in the creation of an international movement called Endangered Species.  What is the mission of this project?  In what ways has the project begun to accomplish its goals and what is on the horizon?  How can individuals contribute to the movement?

Susie: Come and join us one and all…set up a group in Baltimore, propose a project or join one of our existing projects. You are really welcome and needed.

Endangered aims to transform the culture that makes us afraid of our bodies and their appetites. We launched this year on the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. In London we are working with Parliament, with Girl Guides, with the Y, with many different Body Activist Groups – some in Fashion, some in education,  to take on those industries which grow fat on making girls and women, and increasingly men, feel wary of their bodies and their desires.

*Check out some great highlights from the Endangered Species Summits compiled by  Elena Rossini who is also the director of the upcoming documentary, The Illusionists.

Q: Many people, especially individuals with eating disorders, often struggle with intensely comparing themselves and their bodies to other people.  What do you think are the origins for this process and what roles do you see body competition and comparison playing in our society today?

Susie: Body competition is destructive and ubiquitous and not made easier by the cosmetic surgery industry, photo shopping and celebrity culture. Our visual culture is so full of images of people that don’t actually exist and it is very damaging.

Q: In your experience treating individuals with eating disorders and body image disturbances, what one piece of advice would you offer to individuals working towards recovery and body acceptance?

Q: Susie: Look back at pictures of yourself from a few years ago when you thought you looked awful (if you kept them), the odds are, you’ll find you were quite ok, lovely even. Then reflect upon the sad fact that you didn’t trust you looked ok then but you did so perhaps you have to risk feeling a tiny bit ok now…….

But in truth I wouldn’t give one piece of advice! It would depend on the individual….

Q: What keeps you hopeful that we will be able to push back against society’s damaging messages with regard to body satisfaction?  Do you think we will see real change in the way future generations relate to their bodies?

Susie: I am deeply pessimistic. But I also think: what choice do we have but to challenge the hurt and the vicious attacks on bodies. What gives me hope are the number of body activists out there – young, old, across cultures and class who are insisting on something more humane in relation to our bodies.

Q: After attending your community talk in Baltimore on October 2nd, what primary message do you hope individuals will take from your presentation and put into practice?

Susie: Gosh, that’s tough. We are all individuals and will take and give different things to the day and so what hits home will vary, but I hope it is the determination to make peace with our bodies.

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We hope so too.

Do you have your own questions for Susie Orbach? Join us in Baltimore on October 2nd for the chance to ask.  A reception and book signing will follow the presentation.  Attendance is free but seats are limited – don’t forget to RSVP.  Get details HERE.

Are you a treatment professional?  You may also be interested in the continuing education event taking place earlier the same day:

October 2, 2011 (8:00-11:00am) The Body in Therapy: An In Depth Look at Countertransference and the False Body with Susie Orbach, approved for 2.0 CME/CEU credits.  Download the program Flyer (pdf)


Momentum of Positive Change: The AMA’s Photoshop Policy & Beyond

On its website, the American Medical Association (AMA) states that its mission is to “help doctors help patients by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional and public health issues.”  It speaks volumes then, that in their most recent press release, the AMA announced the adoption of a new policy to discourage the rampant use of photoshopping and American Medical Association Logophoto editing by advertisers.  In the policy, AMA cites the connection between unrealistic/altered images and adolescent health problems, particularly body image and eating disorders. A press release about the new policy included the following statement:

Advertisers commonly alter photographs to enhance the appearance of models’ bodies, and such alterations can contribute to unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image – especially among impressionable children and adolescents. A large body of literature links exposure to media-propagated images of unrealistic body image to eating disorders and other child and adolescent health problems. The AMA adopted new policy to encourage advertising associations to work with public and private sector organizations concerned with child and adolescent health to develop guidelines for advertisements, especially those appearing in teen-oriented publications, that would discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.

Its important to note that eating disorders are biological illnesses with a myriad of  genetic, hormonal and neurobiological factors.  Just as parents do not cause eating disorders, nor do airbrushed magazine ads. (In fact, Carrie Arnold over at Psychology Today’s Body of Evidence does a great job of examining this aspect of the AMA’s statement).  But our hope is that this new policy is not just focused on removing a risk factor for those who may be genetically more susceptible to the “thin ideal”.  A society saturated with computer-generated images portrayed as real bodies is unhealthy and harmful whether it contributes to an eating disorder or not.   Its harmful to females and males.  Its harmful to kids and adults.  Its harmful for anyone that struggles with negative self-esteem or body image.  In this way, the issue of photoshop and media ethics is more than an eating disorder prevention issue but one that addresses self-esteem and body image on a societal level.

While some will say the policy doesn’t accomplish enough, its encouraging to see a well-respected, national organization like the AMA acknowledging the issue and prompting further attention to it. What’s most encouraging isGirl Scouts of America logo that this recent action by the AMA, seems to be part of a larger momentum of change including the Girl Scouts’ announcement of its’ project, Healthy MEdia: Commission for Positive Images of Women and Girls which is being co-launched by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), and The Creative Coalition.

The new policy also arrives amidst several specific wins in the fight against harmful media practices surrounding weight, food, beauty ideals and sexualization.  Most recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) won a settlement against Beiersdorf, Inc. (parent company of Nivea) Inc. that prohibits them from making continued false claims that its Nivea My Silhouette! skin cream can reduce consumers’ body size.  In June, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) publicly applauded Yoplait for agreeing to pull a troubling ad campaign after being warned by NEDA that it normalized dangerously disordered thoughts around food and weight.  And thanks to international body image advocates Sharon HaywoodMelinda Tankard Reist and more than 5,000 signatures on a petition at Change.org, major networks MTV and VH1 both agreed to ban a violent and misogynistic music video starring Kanye West and other high profile music stars.

Lots of individuals and organizations are pushing back against the tide of false bodies, diet myths, weight prejudice and general negativity in the media.  They’re making great strides in the promotion of positive body image, self-esteem and overall health (vs. weight).  In addition to those we mentioned above, here are just a few more organizations and individuals that are doing good and speaking out for change:

When it comes to body image and media literacy, what other successful campaigns and positive social changes have you noticed lately? 

Join the discussion and check us out on Facebook & Twitter.

“There is Hope” for Eating Disorder Recovery

Today, April 12th,  the Eating Disorder Coalition (EDC) will lead of group of advocates to Capitol Hill to help lobby in support of The Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders (FREED) Act, which is the first legislation to comprehensively promote research, treatment, education, and prevention programs for eating disorders.  It’s an important day of advocacy and one that can be very empowering for recovered individuals, supportive families and treatment providers who attend and use their experiences and their voices to share knowledge, stimulate change and spread hope.

One of our most recent guest speakers, Johanna S. Kandel, Executive Director of The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness,  will be on the Hill today using her voice too.  Johanna is the author of Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder, a moving book about her own recovery and a must-read for anyone who has ever been touched by an eating disorder.  When Johanna was at The Center for Eating Disorders in February 2011 to help us celebrate National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, she spoke with passion and honesty to a packed auditorium about the importance of spreading hope, using your voice and making a difference.

Click here to WATCH a VIDEO CLIP of Johanna Kandel speaking about using your voice to spread the message of HOPE and RECOVERY.   (from her February 20, 2011 presentation in Baltimore, MD)

Even if you can’t be at the EDC’s Lobby Day today there is still a lot you can do.  Get some ideas from Johanna’s clip above or visit the EDC’s “Take Action” page to find out how you can contact your legislators and ask them to support the FREED Act. You can also make a difference by sharing recovery-focused feedback on message boards like CED’s Online Forum where individuals can post anonymously and ask for support along the road to recovery.

What creative ways do you use your voice to spread hope and let others know that recovery is possible?  Leave your comments below or chime in on our Facebook Page.