Archive for the ‘body image’ Category

Valentine’s Gifts for Every Body (that includes YOU!)

Remember the Valentine mailbox you made each year in grade school? Decorated with red and pink hearts and other symbols of love, it was ready to receive the little white envelopes with a candy or two taped to the outside from your classmates. Before long, the innocence of giving a caring message to everyone was replaced with a romantic appeal to that special someone. Maybe you and your special someone still exchange gifts, the traditional roses or box of candy.

Ragen Chastain will join Darryl Roberts, director and producer, for the screening of America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments on Wednesday, February 15 at 7:30, B117 Wells Hall. Free admission!

This year on the MSU campus, Valentine’s Day occurs during Eating Disorders Awareness Week. That happenstance makes the messages that every body is beautiful, every body is important, and every body is deserving of wellness care particularly meaningful.

The one person who really knows what you need to lovingly care for yourself is you. So what are you doing for you this Valentine’s Day? Here are some ways you can care for yourself like no one else can:

  • Self-compassion—When you start with self-compassion, everything else will seem more achievable. By acknowledging your humanness, you are better able to accept yourself and the imperfections that make you interesting and unique—that is, human! In her book, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, Kristin Neff, associate professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin, suggests writing a letter to yourself from the perspective of an imaginary friend who loves you unconditionally despite your weaknesses and in celebration of your strengths.
  • Rest—Sleep is a necessity and can seem like a gift when you get enough of it. Rest has more to do with mental renewal, for example, taking time for your hobbies, connecting with family and friends, performing a service for others or just being with nature.
  • Movement—Discover what you enjoy doing, or maybe you already know. Your amazing body does so much for you. It just needs a little movement each day to keep on performing at its best.
  • Nourishment—The “how” of eating is so much more of a gift than the “what” or the “how much.” Start off with a plan—whether preparing a meal for yourself, going to the store for the food that has been on your mind, or taking yourself to a restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere—you will feel cared for by the planning process itself. Once the meal is in front of you, take a cleansing breath to bring your mind to the present and to the pleasure of the experience. You just may decide to eat all of your meals this way!
  • Check-up—A visit to your health care provider for a routine check-up and recommended health screenings is one of the best ways to love your body. Find out which health screenings you need at HealthWise Knowldege Base (enter “interactive tool for health screenings” in search box). Then give your health care provider’s office a call and schedule an appointment for a routine physical exam. 

Today is a great day to begin taking the best care of the person you will be with for the rest of your life—you!

Add a comment to expand the list or to share how you showed love and compassion for yourself this Valentine’s Day (or any day).


  • Neff, K. (2011). Self-compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. HarperCollins: New York.
  • Davidson, L., & Novello, J. (2006). 10 Factors That Contribute to Our Emotional Wellness. accessed February 13, 2012.
  • Satter, E. (2008). Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How To Eat, How To Raise Good Eaters, How To Cook. Kelcy Press: Madison, WI.
  • HealthWise Knowledge Base. Interactive Tool: Which Health Screenings Do You Need? accessed February 14, 2012.


Premiere showing right here at MSU!!

Principal Dancer for New York City Ballet, Jenifer Ringer, maintained her poise and charm as she responded to remarks about her body by a New York Times critic. In her conversation with Oprah Winfrey, aired last week, Jenifer recalled, “It was horrible to read something like that. It made me feel bad…it was embarrassing.”

Jenifer talked about her struggle with eating disorder. “I’m not sure where it started but somewhere in my teenage years, I started hating my body. I think it was because I knew I had curves and that is not what I should look like as a dancer.” At that time, her response to not fitting the stereotypical mold of a ballerina was to vacillate between not eating and eating compulsively.

Now as a 34-year-old mother at the height of her career as a ballerina, Jenifer admitted, “My first thought was, ‘It’s happened—this is my worst nightmare. Someone has called me heavy in the press. And lots of people are going to read about it.’ But my next thought was, ‘It’s happened and I’m okay, and I’m fine the way I am and I have survived it.’” Jennifer had evolved from self-loathing to self-loving.

You don’t have to be a celebrity to be the target of wounding words. Body criticism, rampant in the media, has become commonplace. We do it to others and ourselves.

I was grateful for Jenifer Ringer’s public response. She demonstrated for all to hear how she reacted initially and then how she responded thoughtfully. She countered the remark with positive self-talk. The criticism was out there. That could not be undone. But the power of words was broken in terms of the influence she allowed them to have.  Bravo, Ms. Ringer!

Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 20-27, 2011. One of the featured events is the showing of America the Beautiful: Health for Sale. Join filmmaker Darryl Roberts as he previews his sequel to America the Beautiful–right here at MSU! Darryl examines “all things health,” most specifically targeting the American obsession with dieting. This is an opportunity to consider the question “do we really understand what it means to be healthy?” 

Join us Thursday February 24 in South Kedzie Hall S-107 at 8 pm. Admission is free, seating is limited–doors open at 7:30 pm.

It’s Time To Talk About It

A billboard on my drive to work has a new advertisement for a local coffee shop. It features their signature coffee mug with a tape measure around its middle and suggests you buy their super-skinny latte to help you with your new year’s resolution. Funny thing–I have that very same coffee mug and I like it because my hand can grasp the middle indentation of the mug more easily. I would never have connected a slimming message to its shape. Not until the billboard…

We live in a culture saturated with body image messages specifically designed to make you critical of your body. So what’s the harm in that? The fact is, body dissatisfaction is the most powerful and consistent precursor of unhealthy body-related behaviors.  Not just eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia) but also problematic eating behaviors (starving, bingeing, purging), cosmetic surgery and extreme exercising. The list goes on…low body self-esteem is linked to depression, anxiety and sexual dissatisfaction.

Millions of people are affected. We have a count of those who are diagnosed with an eating disorder: 10 million females and 1 million males have anorexia or bulimia, and 15 million have binge eating disorder.

In an effort to raise awareness of eating disorders, MSU is hosting daily events next week across campus:

  • Media Monday–February 22–“America the Beautiful” will be shown at 7 pm in Parlor C, MSU Union.
  • Take Your Body Back Tuesday–February 23–Powerful evening of sharing thoughts, feelings and experiences that surround the topic of body image and the impossible standards of beauty and weight in our culture. 7-9 pm Wonders Hall Kiva. You may submit a letter to in advance of the program.
  • Wednesday without Worry–February 24–Enjoy food and celebrate yourself! Twix bars with a message will be handed out on campus all day.
  • Trash Talk NO MORE Thursday–February 25–Break free from the language of fat that is so common. Events around campus will promote positive self-talk. The Gallery at Snyder-Philips from 4:30 to 7 pm.

Visit the NEDA website for more information about Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

High Risk for Big Losers

One of the many reality shows to hit the airwaves since the turn of the century, The Biggest Loser debuted in the fall of 2004 and began its 9th season last week.  Contestants, chosen for their size and girth, become roommates on an isolated ranch. They are put on extremely low calorie diets. Work-outs with personal trainers last five to six hours each day. The competition is between teams and the grand prize is awarded to the contestant who loses the most weight. Although health and quality of life are touted as the goal, weight loss is the sole criteria for remaining on the show and winning the quarter-million dollar prize.

The amount of weight loss is staggering. Over the course of 21 weeks, leading contestants lose over 100 pounds each. Erik, self-described as the “biggest winner of all the biggest losers,” lost 214 pounds, more weight loss than any other contestant. At last report Erik had gained back 184 pounds. His experience is far from unique. Most people in clinical weight loss programs regain weight after completing treatment. The vast majority of participants in programs promoting lifestyle modifications (diet, exercise, and behavior therapy) regain 30 to 35 % of their lost weight within the year after treatment and will have regained all of the weight, often more than what was lost, within 5 years. Sustained weight loss is particularly difficult for individuals who lose 20 percent or more of their body weight.

Weight is not the only thing people lose. Endeavors resulting in major reduction in body weight cause losses of money, time, self-esteem and health. Rapid weight loss increases the risk of gallstones, cardiac arrhithmias, electrolyte abnormalities, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, sexual apathy and many physical signs of nutritional deficiency. Weight regain adversely affects blood pressure, serum lipid levels and general quality of life. Biggest Loser season one winner, Ryan, who within 3 years had regained 90 of the 122 pounds lost during the 2004 season, is quoted: “Unfortunately, keeping the weight off has been tough for me…the biggest way  [the show] changed my life is I feel guilty for gaining the weight back.”

Health implications aside, perhaps the worst aspect of The Biggest Loser is the shame brought upon the contestants for their body size. Voice-overs of contestants speak of self-hatred; trainers push competitors in grueling workouts; and teammates bully each other under the guise of motivating them to lose more weight.

Body hatred creates fear and anxiety–not the best weight management strategy. “When you’re down on yourself and your body, you’re much more likely to act destructively,” said Linda Bacon, professor at City College of San Francisco and nutrition researcher at University of California, Davis. “If you exercise as punishment for weighing too much, how can you learn to enjoy being active? If you eat salads only as a way to change the body you hate, how will you enjoy the wonderful tastes of fresh vegetables?”

People who accept their bodies take better care of them. You make better choices about what to eat, how often to exercise, when to schedule preventative medical tests–a whole host of self-care that starts with self-love.

Form an alliance-me, myself, and I

There’s a big media world out there and most of it wants you to feel bad about yourself. Hollywood and the fashion, cosmetics and diet industries net billions of dollars a year by making us believe that our bodies are unacceptable and need constant improvement. Print ads are airbrushed and touched up to show bodies that set impossible ideals. TV shows cast women with bodies not often found in nature to play the roles of fun-loving characters. In our media saturated world, how do you protect yourself from media messages and becoming your own worst critic?

Self-talk–those little conversations you have with yourself either in your head or out loud–is very influential. These dialogues are often negative and self-critical. In her book, Feeding the Hungry Heart, Geneen Roth says, “No one responds (well) to rejection-not a child, not your body. You have been filled with loathing at the sight of your arms, neck, face for years-and it hasn’t given you a different body. Rejection and loathing do not lead to change.”

“Chatter” is the term Karen Koenig uses to describe negative self-talk in her book, The Rules of Normal Eating. To turn off the chatter, Koenig suggests writing down the things you hear yourself say that run counter to normal eating and body acceptance. “Remember that chatter is nothing more than your irrational beliefs on speakerphone,” she said. Koenig advises, “Take each line of chatter and replace it with a rational thought or belief. Proclaim the new belief loudly and proudly.”

Here are some examples:

  • Irrational chatter: If I eat what I like, I’ll never stop eating. Reframed positive self-talk: I can stop eating and I will-when I’m satisfied and no longer hungry.
  • Irrational chatter: I’m too fat-just look at those hips! Reframed positive self-talk: I am a woman with natural curves. My accomplishments have nothing to do with the size of my hips.
  • Irrational chatter: No one will find me attractive if I’m fat.  Reframed positive self-talk: I am attractive because of who I am.

As contradictory as it seems, acceptance actually helps move you toward the transformations in lifestyle that you want to make. In the words of Carl Rogers, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change.”

Phenomenal woman

Maya Angelou was on the Today Show this morning having been named one of Glamour Magazine’s 2009 Women of the Year. She read the first stanza of her poem Phenomenal Woman. Here’s the poem in its entirety:
Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me. Continue reading

Enjoyable Movement Boosts Body Image

The Body Image Project 2

The Body Image Project, Beauty as a Relative Concept, exhited at MSU this week

What do you think you look like? What do you say to yourself when you catch your reflection in a mirror or window or picture? Your body image is how you see yourself in your mind’s eye. Given the idealistic images constantly bombarding us, it’s not surprising that many people think and say negative things about their bodies. In fact by adulthood, most people disapprove of their own bodies.

Children as young as 5-years-old say they don’t like how their bodies look. Recent data shows that in grade school, 40 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys are dissatisfied with their bodies. The numbers escalate through the teenage years and into adulthood when approximately 60 percent of women report body dissatisfaction. Continue reading