I Had No Idea…Males and Eating Disorders – National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2014

This helpful infographic from The National Eating Disorders Association helps to break down some of the key facts. Spread the word and help others by breaking down stereotypes and supporting accurate information about  males and eating disorders.  Join us on Facebook for more information and to join the #NEDAWeek conversation.

Infographic: Males & Eating DisordersThe Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt has been treating males affected by eating disorders for over twenty years yet barriers remain for those seeking treatment.  Cultural stigma regarding males and eating disorders can make it more difficult for men to come forward and seek treatment on their own. The good news is that education, support and awareness about eating disorders among males are all improving so that more boys and men are seeking and receiving the treatment they need and deserve.

More, More, More: The Dangers of Excessive Exercise

There is such a thing as too much exercise

Media messages encouraging us to exercise away our “flaws” are rampant, particularly in these summer months when many people are self-conscious about wearing bathing suits and dressing for warmer weather.   We’re nearly halfway through summer but the seasonal cultural pressures to attain the “perfect” beach body are still in full swing. The relentless marketing often focuses on incorporating the most strenuous new workouts, squeezing in more time at the gym, pushing just a little bit harder and faster every step of the way.  When it comes to exercise, the message almost always seems to be more, more, more.

It’s true that staying active and engaging in exercise is a positive activity that can have long-lasting benefits for physical and mental health.  However, it becomes increasingly important in our “faster, longer, harder, more” exercise culture to ask ourselves, can you have too much of a good thing? The Answer:  Absolutely.

 

More is not always better.

Exercise can quickly become unhealthy when taken to extremes or when the body is not equipped with proper nourishment.  Individuals who struggle with perfectionism, rigidity, obsessive/compulsive behavior, addiction or eating disorders are particularly at-risk for engaging in over-exercise (also referred to as exercise abuse or obsessive exercise.)  These individuals often start out with moderate exercise goals in an attempt to change their weight/body shape but can easily slip into patterns that become compulsive.

Often, the same messages that promote extreme exercise also encourage people to ignore their body’s cues – to push past pain and exhaustion in order to reach goals.  But when you override your body’s need for rest, healing, or even medical attention, it can have long-term negative consequences on health, not to mention on overall fitness and athletic performance. Furthermore, exercise and weight loss goals may gradually become more and more extreme, and thus more and more dangerous. It’s important to note that even individuals who do not appear underweight, may be exercising obsessively or working out beyond what is healthy for their body.  Even high caliber athletes are at risk.

“It is no secret among athletes that in order to improve performance you’ve got to work hard. However, hard training breaks you down and makes you weaker. It is rest that makes you stronger. Physiologic improvement in sports only occurs during the rest period following hard training.” [Overtraining Syndrome]

 

Signs & Symptoms of Excessive Exercise
Because exercise is such a socially acceptable and culturally applauded behavior, it can be difficult to identify when someone is engaging in healthy activity and when they may have crossed the line to over-exercise.  It’s particularly important for coaches, trainers, fitness instructors and other professionals in the exercise industry to be aware of the warning signs and red flags that someone may be struggling with obsessive exercise.  These are just some of the signs that an individual may have an unhealthy relationship with exercise:

  • Exercises above and beyond what would be considered a normal amount of time (For athletes, prolonged training above and beyond that required for the sport)
  • Refusal to build in days of rest or recovery; Exercises despite injury or illness
  • Athletic performance plateaus or declines (Overtraining Syndrome)
  • Rigidity, inflexibility regarding exercise schedule
  • Excessive concern with body aesthetic
  • Withdrawal effects (sleep/appetite disturbance, mood shifts, intense anxiety) and feelings of depression or guilt when exercise is withheld
  • Exercise is prioritized over family, work, school or relationships (sometimes to the point of neglecting important responsibilities or obligations)
  • Exercise is the person’s only way of coping with stress
  • Deprives self of food if unable to exercise (feels he/she has not “earned” or “does not deserve” the calories)
  • Defines overall self-worth in terms of exercise performance
  • After workouts, is plagued by thoughts like “I didn’t do enough” or “I should have done more”
  • Rarely takes part in exercise for fun. Activities like hiking, paddle boarding, etc, don’t seem like “good enough” exercise.

If you or someone you know identify with this list, it may be time to step back and take an honest assessment of the exercise relationship.
Excessive exercise not only interferes with an individual’s daily life and interpersonal relationships, but it is also dangerous. Excessive exercise can easily result in overuse injuries and stress fractures which could be temporary or permanent.  Women may have menstrual irregularity and men may experience a decrease in testosterone.  Among the many other potential consequences, exercising too much can lead to decreased immunity and frequent colds or illnesses.  Over-exercise is often a sign of an underlying eating disorder.  Furthermore, recent research found that the frequency of over-exercise predicted suicidal gestures/attempts and concluded that excessive exercise should be noted as a potential warning sign of suicidality among individuals with bulimia. [source: Eating Disorders Review,  May/June 2013]

If your body is telling you that it needs a rest…
You should never exercise when you are sick or injured. When you have a fever, fatigue or muscle injuries, take the day off to help your body heal.  Even a very healthy body needs adequate rest in between workouts.  It’s recommended that you take at least two days off a week to allow your body time for healing and recovery.  Also, make sure that you are properly providing your body with enough carbohydrates, dietary fats, proteins and water to fuel your workouts. Proper hydration is critical when working out.  Dehydration can lead to overheating, muscle fatigue, headache, nausea and it impairs your body’s ability to transport oxygen.

Maintain a Healthy Relationship with Exercise
There are many ways to have a healthy relationship with exercise. First, it is extremely important that you have spoken to your doctors and they have all cleared you for exercise. Just like many things in life, moderation is the key to success.  Focus on establishing a balance between working out and other experiences, relationships and responsibilities in your life.  Consider combining a variety of activities that you enjoy and are convenient to your lifestyle instead of becoming overly attached to one type of exercise for a specific amount of time each day.  Hiking, golfing, dancing, biking, tennis, kayaking and taking your dog for that much needed walk are great ways to be active in different ways. Remember that the goal of healthy exercise is not to change your body but to care for your body so that it will allow you to enjoy your life.

If you think you may be struggling with excessive exercise, we encourage you to talk with someone close to you and seek help to establish a healthier relationship with exercise. You can also visit www.eatingdisorder.org or call us (410) 938-5252.

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Additional Resources:

The Exercise Balance: What’s Too Much, What’s Too Little, and What’s Just Right for You! By Pauline Powers M.D. and Ron Thompson Ph.D.

In response to Dr. Drew ~ Exercise bulimia is not a mild mental health issue (on the CED blog)

 Blog contributions by Amy Gooding, Psy.D., CED Therapist

Invisible Victory: An Athlete’s Story of Hope & Triumph in Eating Disorder Recovery ~ Q & A with Whitney Post

In observance of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2012, The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore is excited to offer a special community event to raise awareness about the serious nature of eating disorders, the importance of treatment and support, and to help shed some light on the surprising place where eating disorders often hide - on sports teams and among athletes.  On February 26th, former World Champion rower, Whitney Post, will be speaking about her own identity as an elite athlete and how she ultimately used it to her advantage while recovering from an eating disorder.  Today, Whitney is the President and Co-Founder of Eating for Life Alliance and spends much of her time educating college students, professionals, athletes and coaches about eating disorder prevention and treatment.   

In advance of her talk, we asked Whitney to comment on this important topic and provide our readers with a glimpse into her February 26th presentation entitled, Invisible Victory: An Athlete’s Story of Hope & Triumph in Eating Disorder Recovery. 

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Q & A with Whitney Ladd Post:

Why do you think it is important to address the intersection between sports and disordered eating? What are the benefits to creating awareness and spreading education about this particular topic?

WP: For starters, we live in a culture that is incredibly rewarding of the goal-oriented, driven, take-responsibility, and perfectionistic qualities of athletes.  In addition, the media sensationalizes athletic bodies, not just athletic performances. In athletes, the body can become an obsessive focus as well as a tool for athletic success. Many of the traits that make people successful and driven athletes, can also be easily misdirected towards disordered eating and an overly-critical body image. In one study of college female athletes, 88 % felt they were overweight or needed to lose weight. Another challenge is that some athletic cultures perpetuate the myth that weight loss improves performance, and athletes may be reluctant to acknowledge a problem or seek treatment. In short, it can be very easy for athletes to hide a serious and dangerous eating disorder because they often appear, from the outside, to be excelling at their sport and may look incredibly fit and healthy.

My goal is for everyone, athletes in particular,  to understand the physical and emotional consequences of eating disorders and disordered eating in the short and long term.  Weight loss in athletics can often be presented as the magical elixir, but if it compromises health it will ultimately compromise performance.  I want athletes to know that it is a highly treatable disorder with early and proper interventions, and I want to address their reluctance to seek treatment. In my experience an eating disorder never gets better if left untreated, only worse.

Research tells us that eating disorders are biologically-based illnesses but that a variety of other factors can also play a role in how and when the illness is expressed in different individuals.  Did being an athlete affect your struggle with the eating disorder?  What role did it play in your recovery?

WP: When people ask me if lightweight rowing gave me an eating disorder, I say absolutely not. I loved being on the water, I loved the sense of team, and I loved working hard to win. Yet, I also had an attraction to the grueling process of making weight for the sport, as part of my willingness to put my body through extremes for the sake of weight loss.  Lightweight rowing offered me a mechanism to play out my unhealthy relationship with food and my body.  My years as a lightweight further entrenched my eating disordered mentality.

Yet, there are many features of athletics that can be applied to recovery if the right goals are set.  The sense of team, commitment, step-by-step training toward a goal, and positive self-coaching as well as support and guidance from others can be applied to the treatment of an eating disorder.  Part of my message is that some of the same liabilities of competition and training can be redirected toward recovery.

Your blog about eating disorder recovery is called “Invisible Victory” – why do you refer to this victory as invisible?

WP: Great question.  For me, all my goals in my sports career involved getting noticed, recognized, and praised.  There was always a teammate or a coach or spectator to witness when my hard work resulted in success.  The situation was very different with my eating disorder recovery.  I had to be my own cheer leader, because so many of my victories were not even perceptible to anyone else.  Monitoring and changing my thoughts, behaviors, and reactions were crucial to creating a new relationship with food and my body.  I had to learn to both accept the invisible nature of my new quest, and celebrate the victories big and small with or without witnesses.

When you were struggling with an eating disorder, did you ever reach a point where you didn’t think recovery was possible?  If so, what helped you push past it and what message would you give to other individuals who may be feeling that way now?

WP: Recovery felt very much the way many of my lofty athletic goals felt.  At times I faced feeling totally devastated, discouraged, and depressed, but I never stopped working in the direction of my goal.  So of course there were many times when I wasn’t sure I would ever find my way out of my little prison in which I was both warden and prisoner, but I never stopped trying.

How has your definition of health changed throughout your life as you were struggling with an eating disorder and now, as an advocate for recovery?

WP: The biggest tangible change over the years has been that my self-worth and self-image are no longer tied to exercise. Exercise is still very important to me, but now I workout mainly for the health, mood, and social benefits (I love working out with a friend).   I believe the best way to advocate for health and recovery is to live it.  I continue to place a high priority on physical, spiritual and emotional health.  Without that, nothing else works very well.

It’s clear from your bio at Eating for Life Alliance (ELA) that you’ve accomplished a great number and variety of personal and professional goals.  What would you say you are most proud of today and why?

WP: I am so happy to be freed up from the narrow vision of the world that defines eating disorders.  Instead of all the daily struggles faced when I defined myself by my body, I am now free to channel my energies to so many things.  For me, recovery from my eating disorder was a gateway to an easier and more fulfilling life.  I have a wonderful marriage and a new family, great friendships, and the opportunity to work professionally on something I am passionate about.  Before recovery these things seemed to always belong to other people, not me.

What do you hope is the take-home message for those who attend your presentation on February 26th?  Who could benefit from attending?

WP: My message is one that can benefit anyone who has been affected by an eating disorder themselves or has had a loved one with an eating disorder.  It is also important information for any parent, professional, educator, coach or friend who will likely be in a position to help someone someday if they know what to look for and how to respond.

One practical message I plan to get across to athletes and those who work with them is this: although athletes have a unique set of factors that make them more susceptible to eating disorders, they also have impressive assets that can be enlisted in helping them recover.  Eating disorders are common in athletes, and I don’t want anyone to be isolated and without the help she or he needs.

I want to offer education and encouragement to everyone who attends and wants to know more about eating disorders as they pertain to exercise and athletics, as well as to anyone out there who is looking for more hope.

Download the event flyer (pdf)

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Many thanks to Whitney Post for taking the time to provide these responses and for having the courage to share her story so that so many others may know they are not alone. 

If you would like to hear more about Whitney’s story of recovery, please join us on Sunday, February 26th at 2:00 pm for our NEDAWeek kick-off event, Invisible Victory: An Athlete’s Story of Hope & Triumph in Eating Disorder Recovery.  All are welcome to attend this FREE event.  We strongly encourage athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and athletic directors from surrounding schools and colleges to attend,  as well as any individual who has been personally affected by an eating disorder, their parents, friends, educators, and health professionals.  Please download an event flyer for details.  Attendance is free but seats are limited so pre-registration is encouraged by emailing: RSVP@sheppardpratt.org

This is just one of several special events to be offered over the course of NEDAWeek.  Find out more on our Events Page

You can also request a mailing of event flyers or posters for your organization by emailing  kclemmer@sheppardpratt.org.  

 

Bathing Suit Blues?

Summer is a season of many perks…beach vacations, picnics, holiday weekends,  longer days, blooming gardens, swimming pools, lightning bugs and flip flops, just to name a few.  But for males and females who struggle with their body image, this otherwise pleasant season can be overshadowed by anxiety and dread.  Like clockwork, every spring we are bombarded by messages telling us to “Shape Up for Summer” or “Shed those Extra Winter Pounds”.  As weather gets warmer and clothes get skimpier, even people who coasted through winter without worry, suddenly become more aware of their body weight and shape. And for those who struggle on a daily basis with negative body image or eating disorders, summer offers added challenges along the journey towards finding body confidence.  Pressure to conform can be overwhelming when surrounded by friends or family on that illusive search for the “perfect” beach body – a fruitless and unrealistic ideal sold to us by advertisers, often with complete disregard for health. For some, just the thought of purchasing a bathing suit can trigger enough worry and self doubt to allow these harmful media messages to seep in.  From crash diets to tanning beds, summer can quickly become a minefield of dangerous behaviors and deteriorating health.

So what can you do if summertime stress has you low on body confidence?  Can you make it through the barrage of destructive messages this summer and still come out okay?  Better yet, can you use it as an opportunity to gain confidence, positivity and strength?  We say yes, you can! Here are some suggestions:

Talk back. Okay, maybe this goes against everything your parents ever told you but certainly they won’t mind a little attitude if directed at the media and not at them.  Dispute harmful summer body myths with positive self-talk, and say it like you mean it…

“No one can tell me what I can and can’t wear; I will find and wear a swimsuit that fits and flatters my body JUST AS I AM instead of trying to change my body to fit into a pre-determined size or style.”

 “I refuse to miss out on fun opportunities in my life because some magazine tells me I’m not skinny enough, tan enough or muscular enough to be seen in a bathing suit.”

Stop and smell the roses…literally and figuratively.  Grow a garden, plant a tree, feel the grass between your toes, and breathe in the sweet summer air.  Sit outside and read a good book feeling the warm sunshine upon your face.  Look up in the night sky and gaze at the stars.  Be mindful of the scenery and sounds around you this summer. Sail on a boat, take a nature walk, listen to the rain on the roof during a thunder storm.  Enjoy all of your five senses with gratitude, and remember to give your body credit for allowing you to do all of these awesome things.

Accessorize. It can be fun to sport a great sun hat or trendy sunglasses that make you feel great and don’t have a size on their tag.  And while those accessories are eye-catching, we’d argue that the best beach bodies are those adorned with confidence and a smile.  If authentic confidence is hard for you right now, practice the “fake it until you make it” technique consistently, especially if you are going to be around young kids or adolescents who will be modeling your body image behaviors.

Teach others about a healthy lifestyle and show them the power of your positive energy.  Refrain from reading articles focused on weight, and talk often about how good health has nothing to do with the number on a scale.  Remind yourself and others that pressures from society regarding body size are unrealistic, unhealthy and dangerous.  Spend extra time with supportive friends and loved ones who also understand, appreciate, and embrace a diverse definition of beauty.

Change it up! Wear a different color, try a new sport or connect with a new friend.  Take a day trip somewhere you’ve never been or try a hobby you were always curious about.  Relish in the extra hours of sunlight and remember that a changing of the seasons is not about how you look in a bathing suit, but rather how you live your life.

Be kind. Treat your body, and other people’s bodies, with respect and dignity.

We’ve said it before… and we’ll say it again: Dieting does not work.  In fact, dieting damages your physical and mental well being. Chronic dieters are more likely to be depressed, have low self-esteem and most will end up at higher weights than they started. There’s a reason counting calories and adding up meal points were not included in our list of fun things about summer.   Summer is bound to go by quickly… try spending your time and energy on activities that are actually enjoyable and beneficial.  Dieting is neither of those things.

Let’s welcome summer and bid farewell to any lingering anxiety.  We hope you can spend time appreciating where you and your body are in this moment.

What are you doing to make the best of your summer and to turn the bathing suit blues into body confidence? Share your strategy on our Facebook page!

Find out more about The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt at www.eatingdisorder.org.

Blog contributions by Amy Scott, LCPC

Jet Fuel and a Handful of No Regrets: The subtle reasons why Media Literacy is so important when it comes to messages about food and weight

Earlier this week we were prepping for a media literacy presentation when we came across a few examples that point to some of the very reasons why media literacy education is so important.  Of course, it’s always very easy to locate magazine ads that exemplify the ills of photoshopping (cue the recent ALDO billboard photoshop fail) or products that perpetuate an unhealthy body ideal and the sexualization of girls (cue the recent Abercrombie & Fitch push-up bikini for 8 year olds).  And, there’s certainly no shortage of  overtly harmful (and grossly inaccurate) claims about food and weight in ads for trendy diets and diet products.  These, unfortunately, very effective ads rake in more than $40 billion a year for the diet industry.  But some of the messages we get about weight, size and food are much more subtle and in many ways, that makes them even more detrimental.

Check out these two ads for almonds found in Men’s Health - a men’s fitness magazine.   Despite the magazine’s title and efforts at health-focused articles, most readers would agree, the general tone of the magazine is usually just as image-focused as any women’s fashion magazine.   Focus on health often seems secondary to the focus on rock-hard abs and a heavy dose of scantily-clad women.  However, we found the following almond ads were somewhat effective at marketing the product in a healthful and holistic way without focusing on the body. What do you think?

“A Handful of Good News…because they’re packed with great stories to tell. Like how just a handful a day gives you 6g protein, 3.5g fiber and can even help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels.”

“A handful of jet fuel. Grab a snack that’ll give you a boost anytime, anywhere. A handful of heart-smart, nutrient-rich California Almonds with 6 grams of protein power can be just the lift you need. It can even help you maintain healthy cholesterol.”

To be honest, we were fairly surprised to see an ad for anything in this men’s fitness magazine that didn’t include a photoshopped close-up of a chiseled body.  But we were  pleasantly surprised to see these ads focusing on health vs. weight and even highlighting the utility of the body vs. how it looks.  Eating for nourishment and strength to do the things that we enjoy – for example, playing with your kids – is a healthful concept that we fully support and one that is also important throughout the eating disorder recovery process.

We were fully prepared to give this company an A+  for their marketing messages until we found the ads’ female counterparts in Real Simple, a women’s magazine that generally delivers a better-than-average display of body/size diversity and emphasizes physical and mental well-being.  Notice the difference in the  marketing  of the same exact product when it is targeted towards women?

“A handful of chocolate-covered permission. Looking to maximize goodness and minimize guilt? Satisfy more than just your sweet tooth with the antioxidant-rich duo of dark chocolate and California Almonds.”
“A handful of no regrets…Want a simple snack without the guilty aftertaste? Make sure your heart-smart, nutrient-rich California almonds are always within reach. Just a handful a day can help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels.”

Internal feelings of “guilt” and “regret” are introduced to the female consumer where previously existed “good news” and “fuel”.  A very different message gets portrayed – one that implies women should rely on external permission to have a snack instead of their own body’s internal hunger cues and legitimate need for nourishment and strength.  These ads also suggest that women should feel guilty or experience regret if they eat certain foods.  These are not uncommon experiences for individuals who struggle with disordered eating*, and it is often this very cycle of eating and the subsequent guilt/regret that perpetuates chronic dieting and many of the symptoms involved with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders.  While extreme dieting and eating disorders are a growing problem for both females and males, this marketing campaign clearly capitalizes on the female experience.

Ads such as these do not cause negative body image or disordered eating by themselves.  However, they help to perpetuate unhealthy beliefs within a culture that is already saturated with mixed message about food, weight and an obsession with unrealistic beauty ideals.  Most interesting in this example may be the clear distinction between the two genders.   It’s essential to educate youth and adults about media literacy so we can collectively begin to protect ourselves and our families from the repercussions.  It’s also important to remember that sometimes the very subtle messages about how we “should” relate to food are even more invasive than those with obvious intentions to mislead us.

Be a critical viewer of the media.  Question the images and the advertisements you come across.  Compare ads that are targeted to different genders, ethnicities and ages.   Ask yourself what messages they are sending and what effect they might have.

Do you consider yourself to be media literate?  How do you resist subtle messages like the ones discussed above? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter.

*Disordered Eating: A significant deviation from normalized eating patterns that may include dieting, fasting, bingeing, or skipping meals. Disordered eating disregards internal regulation of hunger and fullness and provides the body with much more or much less than the body needs to function properly.  Instead of feeling good after a meal, someone who has disordered eating will often experience feelings of guilt, shame, discomfort, fear or discontent.

Positive Body Image is Always In Season: 7 Tips for Year-Round Body Image Boosting

With two of the most influential annual body image campaigns about a week behind us, the seeds for change have been planted once again.  As proposed in our previous post,  Fat Talk Free Week is Over – Now What?, it becomes important for each of us to think about how we can maintain the national momentum of positive body image on a long-term basis in our own lives.  Yesterday, we shared a few startling statistics that show just how pervasive negative body image is in our country;  whether you’re three years-old or thirty-years old, it is something that can have profound effects on self-esteem and overall quality of life.  So in an effort to help fuel the positive energy triggered by Fat Talk Free Week and Love Your Body Day, we wanted to share several easy ideas for body image building all year long.

  1. Plan ahead. It’s always okay to schedule a positive body image session for a later date.  Page through your daily planner (or scroll into the future on your iPhone calendar) and jump ahead a few weeks or months.  Insert positive body image statements on random days or write down empowering statements on birthdays and special events that will help you remember and commit to appreciating your body and being “fat talk free”.
  2. Don’t forget to share. Have you seen this Tri Delta Fat Talk Free Video from the 2008 campaign?  This is powerful stuff!  Post it on your Facebook page or share it with co-workers any day of the year.  Spread the word so that you can begin building a support system of body positive people around you who also choose not to engage in “fat talk”.
  3. Speaking of Facebook…check out the Center for Eating Disorders FB page and become a fan to receive positive body image status updates, motivational quotes, and links to helpful resources and events.
  4. Reconsider monthly magazine subscriptions.  Research has shown that even just 3 minutes of looking at fashion/women’s magazines can have a significantly negative impact on our self-esteem and body image.  Similar effects can be attributed to men’s health/fitness magazines which have been shown to encourage body dissatisfaction and unhealthy weight control behaviors among males.  Consider switching subscriptions or signing up for a positive affirmation email so you get a reliable dose of confidence in your inbox instead of a monthly blow to your self esteem.
  5. Celebrate the seasons. As the season changes and autumn is here, feel the brisk air as you breathe, notice the colors of the leaves you can see, taking in all that nature can offer and remember that it is your body that allows you to have these experiences.   Start to focus on your body’s functionality more often.  In each season there are opportunities to reflect on what the body can do and its ability to maintain balance even as things change around us.
  6. Break it down. For individuals with eating disorders or severe body image distortion even just one day of “loving” your body may seem like an insurmountable or overwhelming task.  Setting goals is good but when we set goals too high too quickly we set ourselves up for failure.  If  loving your body doesn’t sound do-able at this time in your life, remember that body image is not an “all or nothing” concept.   Any changes, even small ones, that can be made to help you realize how special, unique and beautiful your body truly is can be seen as an important step forward in recovery that often leads to further acceptance of self and health.  Start with something small like giving yourself permission to accept a compliment instead of immediately trying to disprove it.  Or, you can work with a therapist to come up with a specific body image goal that’s right for you.
What else have you tried to keep the positive body image momentum going?  Share your comments below or on our Facebook Page, and check out some of our most popular body image blogs from the past year:

Written by Kate Clemmer, CED Outreach Coordinator and  Amy Scott, CED Admissions Coordinator

Above photos courtesy of  blogs.targetx.com and www.youtube.com

“Fat Talk Free” Week is Over – Now What?

Last week was an important one in the world of positive body image promotion and eating disorder awareness.  Tri Delta’s Fat Talk Free Week (Oct. 18-22) interjected with the NOW Foundation’s  Love Your Body Day (Oct. 20)  created some much needed opportunities for public discussion around our country’s deeply rooted body image struggles.  On an individual level, these national campaigns provided people of all ages with a platform on which they could freely verbalize or begin to feel love for their bodies and hopefully offered an extra incentive not to engage in the destructive day-to-day “fat chat” that is so common among friends and family.

On a national and even international level, these campaigns garner a lot of well-deserved attention, stimulate some incredible events (especially on college campuses nationwide) and provide much needed education and awareness about body image health, media literacy and self-acceptance.  This year, media attention for Fat Talk Free Week seemed to grow, even catching mentions on MSNBC, Rosie O’donnell’s radio talk show and many online sources including Time magazine , Marie Claire and  Glamour.

Today, however, is a new week and these great campaigns are officially behind us until October of 2011.  So what  happens now that the event fliers are coming down and press outlets have stopped paying attention?  What happens to our ability to appreciate our bodies today, next week or next month?  And how can we make sure that the messages of Love Your Body  Day and Fat Talk Free Week stick with us even after these campaigns come to a close?  Consider for a moment that we celebrated  “Love Your Best Friend Day” once a year… surely we wouldn’t have much trouble remembering to feel gratitude for our bff a month later, and we certainly wouldn’t let his or her pant size determine their worth in our lives.  Yet, sadly it continues to be difficult to bestow this same respect on ourselves and our own bodies after the public attention to the cause dies down.

When people feel badly about their bodies it can affect their core sense of self, inhibit interpersonal relationships, impact school/work performance, deter participation in sports and social activities, and it is the most reliably observed risk factor for the development of serious eating disorders.  Despite our increasing knowledge about these consequences, there’s  expanding normative discontent with our bodies across all ages and gender:   

  • Nearly one-third of 3 to 6 year-old girls would change something about their physical appearance and nearly half of them worry about being fat.
  • At age 13, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies” -  this grows to 78% by the time girls reach age 17.
  • 67% of women over 30 were dissatisfied with their body weight
  • 62% of women over age 65 want to lose weight
  • In the past two decades the number of men who openly report dissatisfaction with their physical appearance has tripled — and today, nearly as many men as women say they are unhappy with how they look. (Males & Body Image)

Certainly, the goal of national body image campaigns are not to reverse these trends overnight but instead, they provide a jumping off point and help to plant seeds for ongoing change and steady progress.  Now it’s up to each of us to take the small steps necessary to make sure they grow into something that is long-lasting and, hopefully, contagious.

Check out our follow up to this  post about daily, monthly and seasonal steps you can take to make long-term improvements to your body image… Positive Body Image is Always In Season: 7 Tips for Year Round Body Image Boosting. You can also click on the photos above to find out more about how the NOW Foundation and Tri Delta are continuing to spread important education and messages about body image all year round.

Questions about treatment for eating disorders and body image? Visit  The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt homepage or call us at (410) 938-5252.

National Men’s Health Week, June 14th – 20th, 2010

Reality and research have shown us that eating disorders do not discriminate based on age, race, ethnicity, or gender.  No one is immune, yet males who struggle with eating disorders – sons, husbands, fathers, grandfathers - can often feel extremely resistant to asking for help or seeking treatment for an illness which, for so long, was viewed primarily as a women’s issue.  In recognition of National Men’s Health Week, we want to help men, and the people who support them understand the importance of pursuing recovery  and remind everyone that seeking help is a sign of incredible strength, regardless of gender.  

Over the last ten years, the number of males in the U.S. with serious eating disorders has grown to more than one million.  This rising number is likely representative of our culture’s ever intensifying focus on appearance, bodily perfection and the relatively newer trend of  diet, exercise and fashion industries heavily marketing to men.  Societal body pressures for males might be different in shape – for example, muscular for men versus thin for women - but the intensity of these messages is often just as pervasive.  However, eating disorders are not 100% about body image, and its important to remember that men are just as emotionally impacted by these illnesses as women.  Acting on symptoms of an eating disorder becomes a way to cope with stress, discontent and difficult or uncomfortable emotions which may be exacerbated by a trauma history, co-occurring substance abuse or interpersonal problems.   Likewise, men’s bodies are just as susceptible to the serious physical health repercussions of eating disorders including cardiac irregularities, electrolyte imbalances, bone loss, serious gastrointestinal problems, dental erosion, infertility and even death.  These are just a few of the consequences that make it an important topic for discussion during National Men’s Health Week 2010.   

While its certainly not a positive sign to see eating disorders on the rise in any segment of the population, its quite possible that part of the increase we’ve seen in males with eating disorders may actually not be an increase at all but just a more accurate sample as a result of decreasing stigma.   Improved treatment options for males has helped lessen stigma and the subsequent secrecy and isolation for those with the disorder.  As a result, it’s meant more males are speaking out about their struggle and more are being counted.  We are encouraged to see more boys and men seeking treatment for their eating disorders - overcoming  internal and societal resistance  to find their way into support group circles, therapy sessions and nutrition appointments in an effort to move towards emotional and physical health.  

As National Men’s Health Week culminates with the celebration of Father’s Day on Sunday, we encourage you to take time to recognize the men in your life.  Remind them to schedule regular check-ups, sreening tests and follow-ups with specialists as necessary.  Educate yourself and others on the signs and symptoms of eating disorders.  If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder and you’d like to ask questions or find out more about treatment, please call us at (410) 938-5252.

 

Visit The Center for Eating Disorders on the web:
Homepage:  www.eatingdisorder.org
Facebook: http://facebook.com/eatingdisorderhelp 
Twitter: http://twitter.com/CEDSheppPratt