Categories
Body Image Parenting Recovery Teen Activism

Surefire Girls: Teen Girls Empowered

BodyCollageSurefire Girls is a groundbreaking event happening THIS WEEKEND for high-school girls to ask questions, discover ways in which to empower themselves, get internships, and find their voices in relation to media literacy and self-awareness.  The event is, Saturday, October 12, 2013, 10 AM – 5:00 PM at the Art Institute of California:  2900 31st Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405.

 

This Surefire Girls event is smaller and more of a sneak peak into what will be, however a larger event is slated for 2014.  Online registration is closed, however, there will be limited tickets available onsite. There are workshops for parents too, so while teens are working in one workshop, parents are working in another. 

 

Teen workshops include:

  • Your Story & Social Media
  • Fashion
  • Beauty
  • Fitness
  • Change Your World
  • Money Matters

For parents,  workshops include:

  • Websites and apps to make your life easier, and decoding the ones your daughters use
  • How to listen and communicate with your teen
  • Getting back your inner calm
  • How girls can be influenced by the media in body image as well as career choice

 

Being a teen is not easy. Bodies are changing at a rapid pace, the brain is developing, and the individuation process is in full force. To add to the melee, teens are confronted with the influences of media, their peers, pop stars, et cetera, which are often confusing and misleading. Finding our authenticity is hard work, and harder still when you are bombarded with distortion as the status quo.  Surefire Girls presents a wonderful opportunity for forward-thinking, curious young ladies to smash down the existing paradigm of beauty to create a more empowered, sustainable existence.

 

Melanie Klein, MA, writer, speaker, expert contributor at Proud2BMe, a NEDA project, founder and co-coordinator for Women, Action, Media (WAM!), and adjunct teacher at Santa Monica College (teaching Women’s Studies and Sociology) will be doing her Body Collage project at Surefire Girls.  In this workshop, Melanie will talk about the cultural limitations of beauty ideals, and she will facilitate a process of uncovering and discovering that beauty is limitless, dismantling this idea that there is only one type of attainable beauty. The Body Collage involves creating a floor to ceiling montage of commercial images using poster board. The girls stand in front of this and find that they are not represented, viscerally shifting their perspectives on reality. As part of the project, I will be hosting a photo booth, further facilitating the shift toward acceptance. It’s incredibly empowering to see how beautiful YOU are in the midst of photoshopped, surreal imagery.

You can read more about Melanie and the Body Collage Project in this more in-depth interview with her from Shaping Youth.

Categories
Body Image

Dove Wants to Know You See Yourself

Check out the latest ad campaign video from Dove. They’ve always been at the forefront when it comes to raising awareness around body image and helping to change the way advertisers sell their products or at least the way we, as consumers, view ourselves in relation to those products. This video is powerful: an artist shows us how we see ourselves versus how others see us. You may be amazed at the difference, but I doubt it. We tend to be our own worse critics but we are much more beautiful than we think we are. In fact, we are beautiful and diverse from the inside out.

Dove makes an interesting point with this video. As one who is a fierce advocate for body image awareness and acceptance, I have to say, I am pleased to see a company bold enough to show us our vulnerability surrounding our appearance. Those of us with eating disorders, who struggle with that image on a regular basis can really understand that vulnerability. However, we are not our outsides, we are not our clothes, or hair. We are, in fact, wondrous beautiful creatures within. We are magnificent, capable, courageous, and yes, beautiful. Next time you look in the mirror try  saying this: “You are magnificent.” Eventually, you will believe it.

Categories
Addiction Eating Disorders Recovery Smoking

Eating Disorders: Using Smoking As Weight Control

Smoking cigarettes in adolescence has always been considered a pathway to coolness, or a way to fit in. For a time, smoking began to be considered passé, but amongst teens in recovery, it still holds the mythical status of cool and is often key to fitting in. So much so, kids who want to quit or who don’t really want to smoke may even start smoking E-cigarettes in an attempt to reach the same level of cool. (It is just vapor, right?). I digress. For girls who smoke, there may be another reason behind the nasty habit: presumed thinness, or a path to thinness. Some assume that smoking is also the answer to hunger pains and subconsciously satisfy (albeit temporarily) the desire for food.

 

In their working paper titled “The Demand for Cigarettes as Derived from the Demand for Weight Control,” Stephanie Von Kinke Kessler Scholder and John Cawley found that “among teenagers who smoke frequently, 46% of girls and 30% of boys are smoking in part to control their weight.” We see this behavior all the time within our recovery community, particular among those suffering from and beginning to recover from eating disorders. For some, the idea is that it’s far easier to go smoke than to eat lunch. We are highly aware of this predilection amongst our eating disorder population and we take great measures to stop these behaviors in their tracks. Some of which include supervised meals and several focus groups dedicated to eating disorder recovery.

 

But what about someone struggling with an eating disorder who is not in the safe, healing environment of a treatment facility? What if they are on their own, doing the dance of recovery solely through meetings and fellowship? Will they notice their use of cigarettes to stifle hunger pains? More than likely, they will not. I remember being new and bragging that I was surviving on a diet of coffee and cigarettes, ever chasing the goal of “perfection.” At the same time, I also had a raging eating disorder, consuming my thinking and vision. I was clueless. It took me years to learn to recognize that smoking was a key to assisting me in my process of acquiring thinness.  In fact, one of the fears when I quit smoking was the presumed assurance of weight gain.

 

As always, one of the first steps to recovery is asking for help. This is not a feat that comes naturally to an addict or alcoholic. We are accustomed to “doing it all ourselves.” Still, going to meetings, getting a sponsor, finding a therapist, all of these things can help us begin the healing process. Beginning the process of digging deeply and getting to the root cause of whatever is causing you to harm yourself with addiction, starvation or binging, or binging and purging is crucial. We cannot recover alone, nor can we stop the insanity of our addictions without asking for help.

Categories
Body Image Eating Disorders Recovery

Body Image and You: Stand Up to Your Inner Voice

#EDAW13 #LoveMore

In honor of NEDA‘s annual Eating Disorder Awareness Week or EDAW, I had the opportunity to speak about body image and photography at Cal State Northridge. Conversation is a huge part of my photographic process and a key component in working with people.  It’s not uncommon for me to hear self-deprecating commentary from photography clients about their perceived weight issues, body expectations, body shape, size, imperfections, et cetera. We are never exactly where we think we should be, right? In those moments where we are particularly vulnerable (in front of a camera, for example), why wouldn’t we talk about how insecure we might feel? After all, we are inundated with manufactured “perfection” in advertising and media on a daily basis. I find it an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to use these moments to be of service as a body image advocate to honor whomever I’m photographing in order to create a creative partnership. In those moments, we can quiet that angry inner voice of delusion.

 

Recovery asks us to be of service. In my own recovery, I try and bring the energy of service work into everything I do: to love others, even when loving them is difficult. To love myself, regardless of my own perceived imperfections. Eating disorders and disordered eating both have this in common: body image issues. If anything, it is a side effect of being a human being in a visually saturated world, but it doesn’t have to become a necessary evil. There is a way to challenge the negative body image messages we encounter in our everyday lives. Changing your body image means changing the way you think about your body.

 

Start from within:

When you wake up, set an intention to say 3 nice things to yourself throughout the day. Write those things on post-its if you need to and stick them where you won’t miss them.

 

Change negative perceptions to those of acceptance and positivity

Silence your inner critic. Begin to recognize that A: you are not your thoughts,

and B: feelings aren’t facts.

When you hear that negative self-talk revving its engine, try and counteract it with a positive comment.

 

How do we learn to love ourselves when what we see is distorted?

We see reflections of ourselves wherever we go: shop windows, bathroom mirrors, dressing rooms, elevator doors, brass coverings, and random reflective surfaces. Our reflections are everywhere, but are they really a true reflection of us? Most often, they are not.  Many professionals are talking about “Mirror Fasting.” In this practice, you are asked to “fast” from looking at your reflection.

Try this: Make a decision to stop looking at your reflection for a day. See how you feel. Add another day. See how you feel. Women and men who do this tend to have an increase in self-esteem, and a more positive image of their bodies. What we see is not always reality when it comes to mirrors; when we suffer from body dysmorphia, what we see really becomes skewed. Kjerstin Gruys, a 29-year-old sociology graduate student documented her yearlong Mirror Fast in her blog, Mirror Mirror…Off the Wall. In that process, she learned to love her body. I’m not asking you to skip mirrors for a year, but perhaps trying it out for day or a week, noting the emotional effects would be beneficial.

 

Body image issues are something many of us face. Even in recovery, even knowing what we know about the negative factors behind a poor image of self, we struggle. But with what we know, we have to find the temerity to stand up to that inner bully and put a stop to the barrage of self-deprecating chatter. Today, I stood up to that voice and looked in the mirror and said, “You are magnificent.” It felt incredible.

Helpful reads:

How Yoga Changed My Mind (And My Relationship to my Body) by Melanie Klein

Starving for Connection by Chelsea Roff

Voice in Recovery

Categories
Eating Disorders Mental Health Parenting Recovery Treatment

Stress, an Eating Disorder, and Mental Health

…Eating Disorder… (Photo credit: ĐāżŦ {mostly absent})

A while back, I wrote about a child of 8 years old who was showing early signs of disordered eating behaviors. As noted at that time, the behavior was fueled by a father with his own poor relationship around food and a mother who is also victimized by his negative body and food talk. I’ve watching this child over the last year, hoping I was wrong, but knowing more and more that the signs I was seeing were none other than an eating disorder being nurtured and fed by self-hatred, stress, and a negative environment. Her organization of food has gotten more intense, as has her open disgust around whatever is on her plate. It’s not so much about being “fat” but more about her discernment around eating a growing number of “certain” foods.

There’s stress all around this kid: her father is impatient and fixated on his own weight and body image. Her mom is reacting to his actions by persistently apologizing when she eats, joining Weight Watchers, and choosing to ignore the cry for help at the dinner table. As a regular in their household, it’s been hard to watch and harder still not to say anything for fear of being shut out entirely. I’ve used my presence as an opportunity to change the dialogue when I can, but it’s hard speaking to a room full of deaf ears. I finally did say something when the negative talk was directed at me and as expected, my comment, despite coming from love, was met with a “Nah, I’m not worried about that.”

 

Stress is a huge culprit here. According to the Eating Recovery Center, “childhood stress is typically: personal, interpersonal, interfamilial, or global (a stress reaction to national or world news).”

  • Age is not a factor: Children of all ages experience stress, though they may express it differently.
  • Children are vulnerable.
  • Children respond differently to the stress in their environment.
  • Stress is cumulative. Adults aren’t the only one’s who can “only take so much.”
  • Change is stressful. Even positive change. I am reminded here of reorganizing a room in my house and my son getting utterly overwhelmed even though the change was positive. Our nervous systems are indifferent to our whims and desire to pile on more and more and the fact that we all may have a different response is something to be noted and respected.

Parents and adults alike would be wise to open a dialogue with their kids about stress and one’s perceptions of how things are. In the case of my young eating disorder study, dad is never around and only available on weekends; when he is there, he’s impatient and obsessively exercising or on his computer—detached from everyone. This provides a huge source of stress for her and for the rest of her family. Unfortunately, this has been weaved into her negative self talk and commentary about her family and hinders her relationships with others and with food. She’s angry, stressed out, and starving herself in response.

What can we do? We can start with the following:

  • Be an example of positive body talk.
  • Talk to our kids. Be open and honest, but be loving.
  • Eat mindfully. Turn off the TV. Make mealtime a place of solace and connection.
  • Don’t talk about stressful subjects at the dinner table. In other words: keep it light.
  • Don’t use food or eating as a means of punishment. (You’re going to bed without dinner).
  • Encourage self-care and self-love: At dinner, ask each person to express one thing they are grateful for.
  • Cook together. Show them that food isn’t the enemy.
  • Go on hikes or family walks.
  • Have family meetings. We do them council style in my house. It makes a world of difference.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help.
  • Be honest with your therapist. They can’t help you if you hold back.
  • Find a support group—being alone with your child or family is in crisis is too much for anyone.
  • Take care of yourself so you can take care of those around you.

If you’re worried that your son or daughter might be developing an eating disorder (note: boys are not immune to this!), look out for some of these signs.

(Please note, certain behaviors are warning signs, but in combination and over time, they can become quite serious):

Behaviors specific to anorexia:

  • Major weight loss (weighs 85% of normal weight for height or less)
  • Skips meals, always has an excuse for not eating (ill, just ate with a friend, stressed-out, not hungry).
  • Refuses to eat in front of others
  • Selects only low fat items with low nutrient levels, such as lettuce, tomatoes, and sprouts.
  • Reads food labels religiously; worried about calories and fat grams in foods.
  • Eats very small portions of foods
  • Becomes revolted by former favorite foods, such as desserts, red meats, potatoes
  • May help with meal shopping and preparation, but doesn’t eat with family
  • Eats in ritualistic ways, such as cutting food into small pieces or pushing food around plate
  • Lies about how much food was eaten
  • Has fears about weight gain and obesity, obsesses about clothing size. Complains about being fat, when in truth it is not so
  • Inspects image in mirror frequently, weighs self frequently
  • Exercises excessively and compulsively
  • May wear baggy clothing or many layers of clothing to hide weight loss and to stay warm
  • May become moody and irritable or have trouble concentrating. Denies that anything is wrong
  • May harm self with cutting or burning
  • Evidence of discarded packaging for diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics (water pills)
  • Stops menstruating
  • Has dry skin and hair, may have a growth of fine hair over body
  • May faint or feel dizzy frequently

Behaviors specific to bulimia

  • Preoccupation or anxiety about weight and shape
  • Disappearance of large quantities of food
  • Excuses self to go to the bathroom immediately after meals
  • Evidence of discarded packaging for laxatives, diuretics, enemas
  • May exercise compulsively
  • May skip meals at times
  • Teeth may develop cavities or enamel erosion
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes from self-induced vomiting
  • Swollen salivary glands (swelling under the chin)
  • Calluses across the joints of the fingers from self-induced vomiting
  • May be evidence of alcohol or drug abuse, including steroid use
  • Possible self-harm behaviors, including cutting and burning

If you notice even one of these, it’s time to address it. Talk to your daughter or son, talk to your doctor. If necessary, elicit the help of a treatment facility. In other words: Get help. Showing our kids that we care and are willing to stop our own negative behaviors in order to help them is invaluable. It’s a family problem, not an individual one.

Categories
Body Image Eating Disorders Mental Health Recovery

Recovery: Living With ED

Being in recovery from an eating disorder isn’t a finite thing. There are days when the disordered thoughts may come rushing in, triggered by outside sources . There may be times where our body dysmorphia gets the upper hand and we can’t discern reality from our own delusion.  There also may be times when we find ourselves in a relationship with someone who’s at the tipping point of their own eating disorder. Typically, these types of circumstances are not emotionally safe, but in many ways,  they provide opportunities to engage in the practice of self-care: Ask for help, and whenever possible, walk away.

Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors are tricky: the risk of sliding is always there, because, well, we HAVE to eat. Our bodies require the fuel, the love, and the dedicated care that feeding ourselves provides. But even in recovery with days, months, or even years of abstinence, there may be some rough days where we may get off track. The trick there is, do you have enough tools in your recovery tool box to ask for help and stop ED in its tracks?

Recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating is a process. It’s an exercise in letting go of control and learning to trust those in your circle of support instead of the distorted voices of irrationality.  You may find that the practice of self-care will be the pièce de résistance in your recovery. Eventually, we discover that we are eating because we are being kind to ourselves. We are eating because we deserve to be healthy. When we feed ourselves,  we are taking care of this incredible body that we get to hang out in.

Here are some ways to practice healthy self care (adapted from this list from NEDA):

  • Remember that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. There is not “right” way to look.
  • Celebrate all of the amazing things your body can do, like: breathe, run, jump, laugh, dream!
  • Keep a top 10 list of things you like about yourself that are NOT related to the way you look or how much you weigh.
  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. .
  • Use positive affirmations when the negative internal tapes start playing. You can even place post-its with positive affirmations on them in strategic places: like on your mirrors!
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable. In other words, work with your body, not against it.
  • Take care of yourself: get a manicure, go on a hike, take a bubble bath, read a good book.
  • Schedule some “do nothing” time so you can recharge.
  • Be mindful of your media intake and the messages you receive. Pay attention to messages that make you feel bad about yourself. Say something and maybe you can effect some change!
  • Be of service. Helping others gets us out of ourselves and into service. This is another way to make some positive changes.

As we continue down this path of recovery, our care for ourselves will allow us to care for those around us. We are so much more than our outsides.

“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Resources:

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

National Association for Males with Eating Disorders

International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals

Eating Disorders Coalition

Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Resource Center

Voice in Recovery

 

Categories
Body Image Eating Disorders Mental Health

Adios, Chubby Chatter!

Image by Brent Weichsel via Flickr

“Do I these pants make me look fat?”

“OMG, I feel so fat today!”

“I can’t believe she’s wearing THAT!”

I honestly wish this commentary occurred less than it actually does, but the reality is, it doesn’t. It occurs on a daily basis in the lives of girls (and boys) from elementary school age to women in their older years. It’s the baseline for many conversations and it’s more often than not done without concern for those around them. Think about this: when someone who’s a size 2 says to a friend who’s a size 10 that she feels “fat,” there is an  implication of body-image judgment, regardless of intent or level of self-esteem of the person hearing the comment. As soon as we start adding to the ever-present dialogue that one body type is somehow better than another, we inadvertently fuel the fire of low self-esteem and negative body image. In fact, when asked about the consequences of fat talk, Elizabeth Easton, PsyD and clinical director of child and adolescent services at the Eating Recovery Center says, “Negative body image is an easy hook for individuals who struggle with self-esteem or identity to latch onto as a way to feel more confident and even accepted by others.” Fat talk is damaging, no matter how you look at it.

Parents play a huge part in this as both contributors and as allies in our efforts to combat this type of language. We need to be mindful of what we say about ourselves, letting go of the delusion that we are “just talking about ourselves,” because in the eyes of an impressionable young girl or boy, the negative impact is very real. We are our kids’ first teachers, and if we teach them to hate themselves because of our own perceived weight problem, we potentially create a lifetime of body-image issues that can translate into disordered eating and/or eating disorders. I’ll never forget the kindergartener at my son’s school who burst into tears during a dress rehearsal because her costume made her look fat  (she was playing Toto!); or the 8-year-old who won’t eat because she’s afraid she might get fat. Neither of these kids have a weight problem: rather, they have a perception problem brought on by the fear-inducing commentary from their parents, peers, and media. Fat talk is a real issue and one we need to ardently address. There are some very real consequences to this constant barrage of body bashing, and it shows in these eating-disorder statistics from NEDA:

  • In the US, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are struggling with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia;
  • 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance;
  • The mortality rate for 15- 20-year-old  females who suffer from anorexia is 12 times the death rate of all other causes of death;
  • Anorexia has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness;
  • 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are girls 15-19;
  • 54%  of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat;
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).
  • 67% of women 15-64 withdraw from life-engaging activities like giving an opinion, going to school, and going to the doctor because they feel badly about their looks;
  • Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of most American women (Smolak, 1996);
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005);
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992);
  • 91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting, 22% dieted “often” or “always” (Kurth et al., 1995);
  • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full syndrome eating disorders (Shisslak & Crago, 1995);
  • 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day (Smolak, 1996).

Next time you wonder if you look fat in your outfit, or feel compelled to use body bashing as a conversation starter, name 3 things that are positive about yourself. Challenge yourself to be kinder to YOU so you can affect positive change on those around you. You’re worth it.

For more information on eating disorders:

National Eating Disorders Association’s Information and Referral Helpline: 1-800-931-2237  | www.NationalEatingDisorders.org

References for aforementioned Statistics as documented at NEDA:

Collins, M.E. (1991). Body figure perceptions and preferences among pre-adolescent children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 199-208.

Crowther, J.H., Wolf, E.M., & Sherwood, N. (1992). Epidemiology of bulimia nervosa. In M. Crowther, D.L. Tennenbaum. S.E. Hobfoll, & M.A.P. Stephens (Eds.). The Etiology of Bulimia Nervosa: The Individual and Familial Context (pp. 1-26) Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis.

Fairburn, C.G., Hay, P.J., & Welch, S.L. (1993). Binge eating and bulimia nervosa: Distribution and determinants.

In C.G. Fairburn & G.T. Wilson, (Eds.), Binge Eating: Nature, Assessment, and Treatment (pp. 123-143). New York: Guilford.

Gordon, R.A. (1990). Anorexia and Bulimia: Anatomy of a Social Epidemic. New York: Blackwell.

Grodstein, F., Levine, R., Spencer, T., Colditz, G.A., Stampfer, M. J. (1996). Three-year follow-up of participants in a commercial weight loss program: can you keep it off? Archives of Internal Medicine. 156 (12), 1302.

Gustafson-Larson, A.M., & Terry, R.D. (1992). Weight-related behaviors and concerns of fourth-grade children. Journal of American Dietetic Association, 818-822.

Hoek, H.W. (1995). The distribution of eating disorders. In K.D. Brownell & C.G. Fairburn (Eds.) Eating Disorders and Obesity: A Comprehensive Handbook (pp. 207-211). New York: Guilford.

Hoek, H.W., & van Hoeken, D. (2003). Review of the prevalence and incidence of eating  disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 383-396.

Mellin, L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G.B., Crawford, P., & Obarzanek, E. (1991). A     longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27-37.

National Institutes of Health. (2005). Retrieved November 7, 2005, from
https://www.nih.gov/news/fundingresearchareas.htm

Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). I’m, Like, SO Fat!. New York: The Guilford Press. pp. 5.

Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., & Estes, L.S. (1995). The spectrum of eating disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18 (3), 209-219.

Smolak, L. (1996). National Eating Disorders Association/Next Door Neighbors Puppet Guide Book.

Sullivan, P. (1995). American Journal of Psychiatry, 152 (7), 1073-1074.

Categories
Body Image Eating Disorders Mental Health

Graduation: Europe or Lipo?

“Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, 
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss
Image by MarinaCr via Flickr

Certainly, for some teens, plastic surgery can be positively life-changing. For example: a child who’s subject to excessive teasing because of an inordinately large nose may positively benefit from rhinoplasty; a burn victim can return to relative normalcy with appropriate plastic surgery; a breast reduction can allow a young girl to exercise without neck and back pain. On the other hand, what lies beyond what’s necessary for some is the skewed perceptions of beauty and perceived normalcy inadvertently thrust upon teens through social and mainstream media.  The innate dissatisfaction with how we look contributes to how we meet the world. To really illustrate this, we can look at the recent uproar that came about when a mother defended her decision to give her 8-year-old daughter Botox injections. Makes you wonder: What 8-year-old has wrinkles? Better yet, what 8-year-old is even aware of wrinkles?


 
“Statistics gathered over the last several years indicate a decrease in the overall number of cosmetic (aesthetic) surgeries of teenagers (those 18 and younger) having cosmetic surgery, with nonsurgical procedures including laser hair removal and chemical peels being the most popular in 2010.”

These statistics are both good and bad. I mean, the fact that less invasive surgeries are on the decline is certainly positive, but I am concerned about the remaining high numbers of girls seeking these procedures.  We know teens are up against extraordinary pressure to look and be a certain way–some of it is normal adolescence–but when parents start giving their kids gift certificates for a new nose or new breasts, the lesson becomes less about self-esteem and more about trying to attain the pop-culture paradigm of perfection.

So, what does this mean from a recovery standpoint?  Well, if we start by parenting our children with this idea that they aren’t enough, we end up sowing the seeds of self-hatred and dissatisfaction. Instead of laying a foundation of confidence and positive self-esteem, we end up paving a rocky road to addictive behaviors, which inevitably contributes to disordered eating and eating disorders alike. There’s no reason why this can’t be a springboard to have a heart-to-heart with your teen. It’s also an opportunity to look at what messages we are trying to give our kids. Being a teen is tough; let’s not contribute to the social tyranny by fanning the fires of social awkwardness. This too shall pass.

Bottom line? There are far more appropriate gifts for your teen than going under anesthesia and accumulating scars, no matter how small they are.  

Links that may be of interest:
Categories
Body Image Eating Disorders Mental Health Recovery Therapy

Starving at 8

image © sarit photography

I know an 8-year-old who’s been known to choose an outfit specifically because it makes her “look thin.” This same 8-year-old often doesn’t finish meals because she thinks she’s fat. She’s the same 8-year-old that has begun to develop food rituals, often leaving the table with a reorganized plate full of uneaten food. Simply put, she already has an irrational fear of getting fat.
It’s hard being a girl. It’s hard to find a way to look at your unique self without comparing it with images of Barbie or Bratz. It’s hard to accept that  the beauty standard set by Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty isn’t actually real. But children, whose minds are filled with wonderful imagination and fantasy, aren’t going to cognitively recognize images that are potentially harmful. Instead, many will attempt to achieve the pink, thin, fluffiness of a Disney princess, or the skinny sass of a Bratz doll. Often times, even when parents are encouraging a healthy body image, the education on the school yard has a dramatically different lesson plan than the one from home. I’ve overheard conversations on the school yard that have made me pause – -it’s clear that body-image issues are in abundance and the pressure to look thin and svelte is invasive and intense.

So what can parents do? Start with eliminating the shame game. This might mean letting your daughter dump that maple syrup on her pancakes or having a cupcake at a birthday party. It’s a treat, not a vehicle for punishment!  Encourage healthy eating, but can you do it with compassion rather than the mallet of criticism?  Eliminate “fat talk”: your kids don’t need to hear it and frankly, it’s not good for you either. Stop trying to control what those around you eat. It’s not your job!  I’ve seen dads controlling the food intake of their wives and daughters to the point of devastating eating disorders (my dad was one!); and I’ve seen moms spewing “fat talk” or signing up for any and every diet fad while their daughters learn to eat in secret or restrict because they’re terrified of the incendiary reaction of their parental food monitors. These behaviors certainly don’t encourage self-love. If anything, they sow the seeds of self-destruction.

If you’re worried that your son or daughter might be developing an eating disorder (note: boys are not immune to this!), look out for some of these signs.

(Please note, certain behaviors are warning signs, but in combination and over time, they can become quite serious):

Behaviors specific to anorexia:

  • Major weight loss (weighs 85% of normal weight for height or less)
  • Skips meals, always has an excuse for not eating (ill, just ate with a friend, stressed-out, not hungry).
  • Refuses to eat in front of others
  • Selects only low fat items with low nutrient levels, such as lettuce, tomatoes, and sprouts.
  • Reads food labels religiously; worried about calories and fat grams in foods.
  • Eats very small portions of foods
  • Becomes revolted by former favorite foods, such as desserts, red meats, potatoes
  • May help with meal shopping and preparation, but doesn’t eat with family
  • Eats in ritualistic ways, such as cutting food into small pieces or pushing food around plate
  • Lies about how much food was eaten
  • Has fears about weight gain and obesity, obsesses about clothing size. Complains about being fat, when in truth it is not so
  • Inspects image in mirror frequently, weighs self frequently
  • Exercises excessively and compulsively
  • May wear baggy clothing or many layers of clothing to hide weight loss and to stay warm
  • May become moody and irritable or have trouble concentrating. Denies that anything is wrong
  • May harm self with cutting or burning
  • Evidence of discarded packaging for diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics (water pills)
  • Stops menstruating
  • Has dry skin and hair, may have a growth of fine hair over body
  • May faint or feel dizzy frequently

Behaviors specific to bulimia

  • Preoccupation or anxiety about weight and shape
  • Disappearance of large quantities of food
  • Excuses self to go to the bathroom immediately after meals
  • Evidence of discarded packaging for laxatives, diuretics, enemas
  • May exercise compulsively
  • May skip meals at times
  • Teeth may develop cavities or enamel erosion
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes from self-induced vomiting
  • Swollen salivary glands (swelling under the chin)
  • Calluses across the joints of the fingers from self-induced vomiting
  • May be evidence of alcohol or drug abuse, including steroid use
  • Possible self-harm behaviors, including cutting and burning

If you notice even one of these, it’s time to address it. Talk to your daughter or son, talk to your doctor. If necessary, elicit the help of a treatment facility. In other words: Get help. Showing our kids that we care and are willing to stop our own negative behaviors in order to help them is invaluable. It’s a family problem, not an individual one.

Some helpful links:

NEDA
WebMD
Voice in Recovery
Peggy Orenstein
maudsleyparents.org
Also, check out “Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle With Anorexia” By Harriet Brown