Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Celebrities & ED's

Two of the hot stories making the rounds on the gossip blogs this week have been Katie Couric disclosing her bulimic past, and Lady Gaga's weight gain and subsequent cry of "eating disorder."  These two ladies have made the same admission, but I can't help but feel that one of them has cheapened the struggle for those in the depths of the disease.  Let me explain.

The photo that inspired my fury.
Katie Couric "came out" (I hope I am not offending any gay people by using this phrase but that's really how it felt when I told my family.  My big dirty secret was out there for all to see and to judge.  And trust me, there was judgement.) on her talk show while talking to Demi Lovato about Demi's struggle with the disease.  Katie's problems had been in her early 20's when she was just starting on the broadcast circuit and, to me, seemed heartfelt.  She wasn't doing it for attention (Tyra Banks she is not), she was just relating to her guest. It lacked sensationalism, which I think is a good thing.  I took her seriously and could tell she understood many of the same things I had been through.

Then you have Lady Gaga.  Like all things Gaga does, she "came out" in a way that reeked of a calculated PR move.  After some unflattering photos from her recent concerts were published in some tabloids, Gaga admitted she had gained 25 pounds in the past few months.  Great, good for you, you eat, and you enjoy life, I dig it!  What I did NOT dig however was her reaction to the "haters"  today.  She posted a photo of herself, looking waifish mind you, in just a bra and underwear with the caption "Bulimic and Anorexic since age 15..."

To this I say: bitch, please.

I always try to be supportive of women, famous or not, when they come out and admit they had an eating disorder, but Gaga posted this photo under the guise of promoting body acceptance, which is the last thing I think it does.   For one, anyone who's had an eating disorder and been treated for it knows about triggers.  You'll notice in this blog I never talk numbers, inches, pounds, or clothing sizes (except for my Gap post) because I know they can be triggering.  So to post a photo of yourself where I can see your ribs and IN YOUR UNDERWEAR doesn't scream body acceptance, it screams insecurity.  She is posting these photos to prove to the haters she's not fat.  THAT'S body acceptance?  No, that's narcissism.

I have no idea if Gaga has had an eating disorder or not, and just because she doesn't think about some of the treatment buzzwords before posting does not mean she never struggled.  Maybe she never got treatment.  Many don't.  But to try to twist the story around to imply that we should be ok with her weight gain because she had an eating disorder is ridiculous.  We should be ok with her weight gain because she's still a healthy weight and SHE'S ok with it!  Why do we need to see photos of her in next to nothing to "prove" that she accepts her body?

It really pisses me off when someone with influence in the public realm dumbs the issue down to such an extent.  Instead of inspiring conversation like Katie Couric's revelation did, Gaga reduced her struggle to a sight gag.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Skinny" people have feelings too.

The blogosphere is all atwitter (social media pun alert!) about a recent post in which the author discusses why gay men hate their bodies.  Since I am fascinated by the degrees of body acceptance in cultural groups different from my own, I was very excited to read this, especially given the fact that it had stirred up a lot of anger in the blog community.  Though the post was maybe slightly too tongue in cheek at times, for the most part, I understood where the blogger, Orlando Soria, was coming from.  LA is a city of Barbies and Kens.  It's hard to feel good about yourself some days, no matter how skinny you are.

I figured there would be the usual critics shouting "it's what's on the inside that counts!" The typical name calling as people criticized him for being narcissistic or superficial.  What I was not prepared for was people saying he had no right to feel this way since he was thin.

To which I say, are you fucking kidding me?  (pardon my French)

Yes, this is what some "skinny" people really DO
see when they look in the mirror.
NEWSFLASH: being skinny is not the key to self esteem!!!  When I was at my lowest weight I was also on my knees in a rest stop bathroom throwing up the road trip junk food I had inhaled in the car.  Do you think I felt GOOD about this?  No.  Every time I looked in the mirror I wanted to punch the fat slob that was looking back at me.  And it's ok for me to feel that way.  Just like it's ok for a person at ANY weight to feel good about themselves.  Who the hell are we to decide how a person should feel about themselves?

Seriously folks, I know a lot of people think that skinny people have no reason to ever feel bad and I wish that was the way the world worked but it's not that simple.  That was the biggest lesson I learned from my ED, when I had to say to myself, "Congratulations, you're skinny.  And where exactly has that gotten you?  How has it changed your life?"  The answers to those questions were, "nowhere," and "It hasn't."

So before you start completely invalidating a person's feelings because to you they look perfect, maybe just try listening to them and understanding where they're coming from.  Sometimes that's all we need, is someone to listen and recognize our feelings as valid.  THAT will help to build a better self image than any amount of congratulations for fitting into a size 0 ever will.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt

I'll admit I currently have one large fault as a woman: I hate shopping.  I used to love it but ever since I've become stupidly happy with my life, the idea of "things" just doesn't excite me as much anymore. Sadly, we do not live in a world where clothes that fit and that I like magically appear in my closet so I was forced to go shopping today.  And instead of being a fun, zen like activity, I left the store infuriated.  (and not because of the prices!)

How my jeans normally fit.
I headed to the Gap for some basics and soon made my way to the dressing room with 2 sweaters, a pair of jeans, and a pair of shorts.  I even had a little pep in my step because it's been so long since I've been able to go in a store and find something I'm even interested in trying on.   That old feeling of being on a shopping high was returning!

Then, I discovered the ridiculousness that is Gap's vanity sizing.

When I tried on the jeans that were in my usual size, they were too big.  And I don't mean there was room to pinch an inch, I mean suddenly I was standing there wondering why it was so drafty in the dressing room until I realized it's because my pants were down around my ankles.  One size smaller?  Too big.  Two sizes smaller?  Now we're getting somewhere but it was at this point that I stormed out of the store in disgust.

How pants at the Gap fit.
Really, America? THIS is what we've come to?  We're so in denial about our own weight problems that instead of being responsible for what we put in our mouths we have made it so that manufacturers realize the key to our wallet is to call a size 16 a size 8?

This is complete and utter bullshit.

I am so sick of the entitled, coddling attitudes this country takes towards ourselves and I'm here to call it out.  If you want to/need to lose weight, deal with it like an adult.  Figure out what's going on, take responsibility for it, and make a change.  I absolutely realize a lot of weight problems are driven by emotional issues, but that is not an excuse!!!  The only person who can make any changes in your life is YOU.  So WHY are we blaming everyone else but ourselves?  Think we're not?  Then how do you explain how one of the biggest stores in America has CHANGED it's sizes in order to accommodate our new girth?

Maybe this sounds odd coming from me because I am very much about feeling good about yourself.  But let's turn the tables: would you think it's good that Gap is making a size 0 fit like a size 8 in order to help me deny I have an eating disorder?  NO.  I would hope you would tell me to get my act together and realize that I'm NOT healthy even if some designer's mislabeled pants tell me I'm fine.

It's time for all us of to put our girl/boy pants on and DO something instead of spending millions of dollars creating things to help us avoid facing our problems.  I know I can't single-handedly go in and re-label every pair of Gap jeans correctly, but I hope that I can inspire just one of you to make a change.

Want an example of one?  After my disaster of a shopping trip I took the stairs, all 6 flights of them, back to my car instead of taking the elevator.  If we all start making little changes maybe these sizes will go back to normal, our health care premiums will drop, and we'll live longer, better lives.

It's time to take off your fat pants, America.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Healthy Life Mantra: I Don't Give a $*@&# !

I spent many, many, many years being a slave to what my peers thought of me.  I asked for a nose job for graduation, (spoiler alert: I didn't get one.), I gave way too much of the money I earned working as a bra salesgirl (yep) to Express and Abercrombie so I could look cool, and yet, those damn "popular" kids still found ways to make me feel like crap about myself.

In college, this trend continued.  Same for my first year out of college.  Til I made my first big decision all for myself: I was moving to Los Angeles.  Everyone had an opinion about this: my parents (don't go!), my sister (don't come back!), my main gay (girl, don't forget to write!), but for the first time in my life I made a decision for me and frankly, I didn't give a $*#@ what anyone else thought.  This turned out to be one of the greatest decisions I ever made.

If anyone tries to rain on your parade just give 'em a Nene.
Thus, the era of not giving a fuck was born.

Suddenly, I was making choices for ME and no one else.  And many of those choices have gotten me to where I am today which, I'm happy to report, is the happiest in my life I've ever been.  Now, before you get all excited that I'm giving you permission to not give a damn about anyone but yourself, bear in mind there are limits to this.  Let's explore.

Example A: "I don't have to workout because I don't give a $@%& if people think I'm fat."
Example B: "I don't have to do the new ballet barre class every twit in town tells me I have to try, I'd rather learn to box."

Now, which one do you think is the correct implementation of my foul languaged life mantra?  Duh, Example A.

I kid, I kid.  Obviously it's Example B.  The underlying sentiment of the whole thing is to make yourself happy and ignore anyone who tries to get in your way.  You don't have to go to spin class just because I love it.  Your goal in getting fit doesn't have to be so that you can look good in a bikini if you don't give a $*@^#( about swimming.  It doesn't matter what your motivations, habits, and patterns are as long as they are making you happy and successful.  Who cares if people think they're weird?  Not me.

The best part of this mantra is that it isn't limited to the superficial things.  For instance, some people find it strange that my boyfriend and I only see each other 2 or 3 times a week.  But guess what?  I don't give a $*@#!  I am stupidly happy with him, we trust each other, and we both like our space.  So this is what works for us.

My point?  Do what works for YOU even if it's not "normal."  Do what you like even if it's not "cool".  And if anyone chooses to judge you for it?  Just don't give a $@#*!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mom was wrong: peer pressure makes us better people!

One my mom's favorite phrases as a teenager was the oh so annoying, "If *friend I told her was cooler than me* jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?"  Of course, at the time, my smart ass answer was "Yeah, if it looked like a good time!"  But fortunately I did not have a lot of friends that were in the habit of jumping off of bridges.

Oh I do so love a good pun!
However, according to according to this article , peer pressure is not always a bad thing.  The gist of it is this: the 5 people in your life you spend the most time with directly affect your level of success.  You are the "average" of their level of success.  So, want to be more successful?  Spend more time around more successful people!

I thought about this and realized this doesn't have to be limited to just your success at work, it's totally true for your health/fitness success as well.  In college, I lived with a roommate for 4 years who was a cross country runner in high school.  During that time, I ran my first half marathon.  Prior to that the most I had ever run was probably 4 miles.  But because of the time I spent with her, and the fact that we loved to obnoxiously challenge each other to see who was "tougher", I became a long distance runner.  (OK so our drinking contests were the negative version of this but hey, nobody's perfect.)

So if you want to increase your chances of fitness success, spend time with your friends who like to go hiking on a Sunday morning instead of doing sake bombs on a Saturday night.  Go out to lunch with your coworker who always has her fridge stocked with fruit instead of a candy jar on her desk.  Become BFF's with your trainer, make a skin coat out of them, and assume their identity.

OK just kidding about that last one.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Me and Charlize Theron

Who the hell am I comparing myself to a supermodel, you ask?  Well, according to a nifty little chart from the BBC, our BMI's are probably pretty similar.

What am I talking about? This, the global fat scale!  This is a fun and informative gadget where you enter your weight and height and it spits back a bunch of information at you like what your BMI is, where you rank on the national scale of your country (average, above average, etc.) and what country's people your BMI most resembles.  Mine is South Africa, hence the Charlize Theron connection.

Here's an interesting fact: I had a few of my friends do this and not one of them had a BMI similar to an American.  My friends are a pretty fit bunch so I wasn't too shocked, but it says a lot about the size (literally) of our country when people who are of a healthy weight are not the common denominator.

This is not ok.

Yeah.  I said it.

I know you have heard me preach about body acceptance day after day, but there is a big difference between acceptance and denial.  We are a country that's in denial.  And because we see so many people around us who are also in denial, this has become the new normal.  I repeat: this is not ok.

When I was in throes of my ED, running to the bathroom to throw up my food post meal was my "normal".  Is that an ok health behavior to you, dear reader?  No?  If you saw me doing this would you try to tell me to stop?  Well then why should I stand by and watch you eat yourself into an early death?  Someone needs to grab us by our collective shoulders and shake us into waking the hell up.

Yes, losing weight is hard.  Yes, it can be un-fun.  And yes, even once you lose the weight you have to maintain healthy habits, which isn't as easy as downing 4 beers on a Friday night.   But what IS fun is being able to go hiking with your friends, to be there for your kids into your old age, to be able to move a table you bought off craig'slist into your apartment (Did it this week, thankyouverymuch!).

The only way we can improve our standing in the international health rankings is by each making a commitment to our own health.  I'm not asking you to be responsible for the American population's average BMI, just yours.  So check out your chart, and if you don't have a healthy BMI, let's get moving! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Parents just don't understand.

I recently came across another article in that favorite tabloid of mine, The Daily Mail.  This one was written by a mother who was a former bulimic and how she approaches weight issues with her children. You can read it here.  Basically, the woman's 10 year old son complained that he had a belly and mom agreed with him.  While I think it is important for parents to be realistic with their children, I also think that there are ways to talk to kids that emphasize health and not weight.  This is not one of those ways.

Will Smith, circa 1988, made a good point.
My own parents were great examples for me to grow up with; I cannot recall one time during my childhood that I ever heard my mom express any dissatisfaction with her body, and my dad was a super athlete who worked out every day.  However when I "came out" about my eating disorder they made some of their own cringe-worthy comments that sometimes surprised me. Fortunately I was at a point in my recovery that I was able to see the comments for what they were: confusion about how to deal with this a situation they were unprepared for.

But the aforementioned article & my own parents reminded me of an important lesson that we often forget:  parents are not perfect.

Yes, I can judge this woman for what she says to her son, but I also understand that she is coming from a place of love, even if I feel that the execution is wrong.  As much as therapists want us to blame our parents, I think that if you can remove yourself from a conversation in which your parents made a misstep, you can (usually) find that the comment is coming from a good place.

BUT, just because it's coming from a place of love doesn't make it ok.  If your mom or dad is consistently making comments that bother you, don't just assume that if you roll your eyes or indulge them with a "ha ha" that they'll understand the effect their words are having on you.  Sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns and say "Hey, that really hurts my feelings."  9 times out of 10 your next of kin will probably be shocked to hear this and will instantly knock it off.  But you must remember that family (and friends) are not mind readers.  From time to time you will have to help them help you feel good about yourself.

I think it's important for us as adults to make this distinction and stand up for ourselves.  We are no longer the defenseless kids who would be grounded for talking back to our parents.  If someone makes a joke about you going back for a second slice of cake/being single/laying around in your PJ's watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade instead of going for run, it's important for your own self awareness and acceptance to let them know if it makes you feel bad.

In the words of Jerry Maguire, help them help you.