“11 Facts About Women And Body Image”

Hey all! Happy Friday:) I stumbled upon an interesting, as well as informative, list compiled by the Huffington Post entitled, “Facts About Women And Body Image” that I’m dying to share. I encourage you all to take a minute to read them over and then take some time to reflect on the facts.

slide_308927_2707237_freeSource: Glamour.com

slide_308927_2707432_freeSource: The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, “Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources,” 2003.

slide_308927_2707513_free Source: Prevention of Eating Problems with Elementary Children, Michael Levine, USA Today, July 1998.

slide_308927_2707489_free Source: Marketdata Enterprises, 2007

slide_308927_2707521_free Source: Centers for Disease Control, 2004

slide_308927_2708148_freeSource: Zucker NL, Womble LG, Williamson DA, et al. Protective factors for eating disorders in female college athletes. Eat Disorders 1999; 7:207-218.

Source: Sungot-Borgen, J. Torstveit, M.K. (2004) Prevalence of ED in Elite Athletes is Higher than in the General Population. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 14(1), 25-32.

slide_308927_2708109_freeSource: Dove Real Beauty Campaign, 2004

slide_308927_2708111_freeSource: The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, “Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources,” 2003.

slide_308927_2708096_freeSource: Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., & Estes, L.S. (1995). The Spectrum of Eating Disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18 (3): 209-219.

slide_308927_2708194_freeSource: Collins, 1991.

Source: Mellin et al., 1991.

slide_308927_2708200_freeSource: Rader Programs

It’s a harsh reality we live in, but we can initiate change by creating a dialogue and speaking up against what we believe is wrong.

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I Am Worthy. I Am Capable. I Am Strong.

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After reading over my last few blog posts I feel like I need to better explain what I am going through and where I am today. Just because I have written about two very serious issues in my recent posts does not mean that my desire for my blog to be a positive place has changed. Reality is that sometimes we have to put on a serious face to effectively get our point across. I have always been honest with you all about my own journey and I never intend to write any other way. So, here we go:

Did/Do I have an eating disorder: Yes.

Am I in recovery: Yes.

Am I capable of cultivating relationships, building a career and living my life to the best of my ability: Hell Yeah.

I don’t want anyone to take my honesty about my disease in the wrong light. My ultimate goal when I started my blog was to create a forum where I could speak openly about my feelings and finally put into words all that was going on within me. I desperately wanted to know if others could relate to me, but at the time I begin PrettyBrittyShines I had no idea if anyone would understand what I was going through. Unfortunately, I learned all too quickly that MANY of you could relate to my struggle and although I never want anyone to suffer, all of you who have shared your experiences with me have taught me that I am not alone.

But, most importantly you have all showed me that just because many of us are dealing with some heavy duty emotions doesn’t mean that we are incompetent or less than. By creating a dialogue about our feelings we are addressing our issues head on and allowing ourselves to still live our lives. It is the time we are taking out of our day to really focus on bettering ourselves, whether we struggle with anxiety, an eating disorder, or any sort of physical/mental health issue that is MOST important in our journey. It doesn’t matter how we seek help whether it’s from therapy, treatment programs, acupuncture, support groups, meditation, yoga, etc. what is important is that we are cultivating and putting forth an effort to focus on our inner selves. By doing that we are not only helping ourselves, but we are learning to empathize with others. Empathy is key folks and I hope we can all learn to embrace this emotion.

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So, Happy Friday ladies and gentleman and I hope that we can continue to keep a positive light even through our most challenging times and remember that everyone has a story and a struggle.

Being “Pseudo Recovered” Still Requires Hard Work

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Yesterday I came across this poem that really put into words many of the feelings that have consumed me since I left treatment close to two years ago. I know that I am on the path to recovery from my eating disorder and that I TRULY want to be better, but there are parts of me that ache all the time. I hurt because I am constantly fighting against a disease that is so deeply embedded inside of me, as well as society, that wherever I turn I am reminded of it. From breakfast, to lunch, to dinner… it plagues me. I mean who can say that food makes them “anxious” without feeling somewhat ostracized? Food is nourishment and is an integral part of sustaining a healthy mind/body, but honestly since it’s been my worst enemy for so long I am having a difficult time transitioning back to a normal relationship with it.

I recognize that most people will never understand me, and I wouldn’t wish upon anyone the painful task of spending 5 minutes inside of my head, but I can’t help, but be grateful for the poem above. It reassures me that I am not alone and that it’s okay that I’m still fighting even though I’ve been dealing with this disease for a few years now… It’s a marathon, not a sprint (so cliche I know), but the greatest things in life take time and I WILL be better in the long run.

I truly hope that this poem helps some of you as well. I know that it hurts, but we just have to keep fighting. Happy Tuesday 🙂

Let’s Stop “Shaming” Once & For All.

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Being overwhelmed, and even debilitated, by guilt is how I often describe what it feels like to have an eating disorder. I’m my own harshest critic and when I was fully engrossed by my ED guilt consumed my every thought. From disappointing my loved ones, to not exercising enough, to eating too much or even the “wrong thing”… I always blamed myself and felt, what I thought was, outright guilty. I never really understood why this emotion was such a dominant part of my life, but I came across a very interesting article the other day that is helping me to comprehend where this emotion emerged from and… more specifically that I wasn’t actually an individual filled with guilt all of these years, but one consumed by shame 😦

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“Shame In Today’s Society: What It Means, And Why It Absolutely Needs To Stop” by Stephanie Castillo for Medical Daily highlights how our culture has become one that is obsessed with “shaming.” Castillo argues that we must put an end to this behavior immediately. One of the most eye opening parts of this article, for me based on my own personal emotions, is when Castillo distinguishes the difference between guilt and shame. After reading her piece I finally understood that I wasn’t simply engrossed by guilt while in my ED, but I was consumed by a feeling significantly more powerful and damaging : shame. In order to clarify the difference between shame and guilt Castillo references June Tangney, author of Shame in the Therapy Hour, who has found that when a person feels guilty they, they say, “I did a bad thing.” When they feel shame, they say, “I am a bad person for having done that.”

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Holy shit was that eye opening for me. From now on I will never define my emotions as guilty ones because they are in fact those of shame. My ED thoughts correlate directly with our society’s need to shame one another based on being “too thin,” “too fat,” “too slutty,” “too prude” etc. and as a result of this I have been relentlessly “fat shaming” myself for the past couple of years. From “fat shaming” to “thin shaming” NO ONE deserves to feel defective, impaired, or wounded, which shame will always cause…and which I can truly testify to…we all just need to

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The antidote, according to Brene Brown, a renowned shame researcher is empathy. “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment,” she said. “If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re [struggling]: me too.”

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Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at California State in Los Angeles added: “The changes we need to see are more realistic media images, [starting to] value women for their minds and accomplishments, and raise public awareness of these eating disorders, and their depth and impact. Change can begin one woman at a time. And instead of shaming each other, we can support ourselves instead.”

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So, ladies and gentleman as someone who has felt shameful because of their eating disorder, body dysmorphia and anxiety for FAR TOO LONG I too am calling for an end to “shaming.” We all have enough to deal with emotionally, socially, mentally and physically so why should we make others feel badly about themselves? The answer is simple…we shouldn’t. Just because our society has become a mean one where it is ok, and even normal, to comment on women’s bodies doesn’t mean that we should continue practicing this behavior.

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From this day forward I encourage all of you to join me in pledging to stop spreading shame by looking inward and attempting to find empathy for others. We must remember that we are not alone even at our lowest points. I truly hope that since I am honest and open about my own struggles than others may relate to my story and realize that no one deserves to feel shame. This will be a challenge and change won’t happen in a day, but I believe in you all and I know that together we can make a difference, so let’s do it 😉

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Really Urban Outfitters?

As many of us know Urban Outfitters is no stranger to controversy. From their appropriation of Native American (specifically ‘Navajo’) arts and crafts to their insensitivity of mental health issues, the retail giant is constantly pushing the limit, but this time they have gone too far, for me. Urban Outfitters recently designed and marketed a graphic t-shirt that reads “Eat Less” as you can see in the image below.

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When I first saw this image I could not believe my eyes. How in the world can anyone think that selling a shirt with a pro-anorexia message on it is acceptable? As someone who has struggled with this disease, and who is currently in recovery, I know just how damaging this image and these words can be in ones journey to regaining health and happiness. Fortunately, though I am not alone in my disgust. Sophia Bush, an actress as well as a strong promoter of healthy body images for young girls, has waged war on Urban Outfitters. In her personal blog she calls out the company as she writes,

“You should issue a public apology, and make a hefty donation to a women’s organization that supports those stricken with eating disorders. I am sickened that anyone, on any board, in your gigantic company would have voted ‘yes’ on such a thing, let alone enough of you to manufacture an item with such a hurtful message. It’s like handing a suicidal person a loaded gun. You should know better.”

In an effort to combat the horrific message that this tee holds, and to help fight the normalization of unhealthy body images Sophia Bush is encouraging us all to take a stand against pro-anorexia mentalities. I truly believe that her boycott of Urban Outfitters, as well as her continued support for those who suffer from this disease is inspiring. We need to look to Sophia Bush and others who share her viewpoint as role models and not individuals, like Kate Moss, who coined the awful phrase, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” FYI Ms. Moss nothing feels better than being healthy and happy, not hungry and emaciated…that I DO know.

So as I’ve said before, but often must remind myself since it is the nature of the disease, that 0 is in fact not a size, 0 is nothing and when you are striving for that size you are equating your self worth to absolutely nothing. o is unmeasurable so why the heck do so many of us want to get there? It really makes no sense.

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0 IS NOT A SIZE. Support the cause 🙂

Back To School Time…For The Lucky Ones :)

The Columbia Center for Eating Disorders recently released a blog post entitled, “Back-to-School: Top 5 Way to Tackle Your Eating Disorder Freshman Year,” which lays out 5 ways to help individuals who struggle with disordered eating adjust to life, and all the crazy changes that come along with being a college student. I know firsthand just how scary, stressful, and overwhelming this time is because I was in this position a year ago. Even though I wasn’t a freshman, in fact I was a super senior haha, I still had never been at college while in recovery and therefore everything felt totally new and overwhelming. So because of my experience, I thought it might be helpful if I reflected back, by using the 5 suggestions recommended by the Columbia Center, on how being so well prepared when I went back to school was crucial in my journey to recovery. There is NO chance that I would be where I am today if I didn’t have a team guide me (and basically hold my hand) during this transition.

 

  1. Establish a treatment plan before you start school: 358d3dd03858c46245b2b55eff15823c About a month before I headed back to school my team and I set up a treatment plan that was specific to my needs. The most crucial part of the plan was an ultimatum that was put into place, which was that if I did not follow the rules we set up and I faltered in any way than I would need to reconsider my role as a student, and probably reenroll in an intensive eating disorder program. My plan, specifically, focused heavily on maintaining contact with my team from home as well as building relationships with the services that the college offers. I had to speak weekly with my therapist (via Skype), I had to get weighed weekly as well as get my vitals checked at the health center, meet with a nutritionist (which was an epic fail…) and have the highest/most extensive meal plan. Having all of these eyes on me was overwhelming, but it forced me to be held accountable for my actions, good and/or bad, and created stability in an otherwise chaotic environment.
  2. Don’t be afraid to work with your school’s student health services: b713793c031d592315858b775b38bc45 I know that opening up to even more people when you feel like you have told your story a thousand times over to those already helping you is daunting, but the more resources you have the better. I couldn’t have asked for a better ally in one of the nurse practitioners at my school and without her I wouldn’t be as far a long in my recovery as I am. Her willingness to listen and her desire to learn more about this disease, and how she could better help all her patients, made me feel secure as well as well taken care of. Since part of my treatment plan was to establish a direct relationship with the health center following through with that really made me feel stronger and safer because I knew I now had even more people on my side who genuinely cared/were rooting for me in my journey to recovery. Also, there is no shame in going to health services. I know that there are generally so many stigmas attached to issues of mental health, but you are doing what many other people are unwillingly to do…creating/working for a better you.
  3. Think about housing and meal plan options and how they will or won’t work for you: cbc28f0257697a2e63e5ddd2bcd21390 In regard to housing and meal plan options these two aspects of the college experience are where you need to be selfish in your recovery. It has to be less about what everyone else is doing because you know what, they most likely are not dealing with the same issues you are. So what, if living in a single is most conducive to your treatment plan? That doesn’t mean you are a loner or have no friends. What it means is that it is healthier for you to live alone because you have certain behaviors, as well as routines, that you need to follow to succeed in recovery. For me specifically I was terrified of living alone, but knew it was probably for the best because I had adjusted to a very “non-college” sleep plan while taking a year off. Let’s just say I went to bed at like 10:00pm and got up around 6:00am…total grandma status haha. But, getting solid sleep and feeling like I had my own space to retreat to when I felt anxious/overwhelmed made me a better and stronger person. And you know what? I still made plenty of new friends as well as cultivated my relationships with older ones 🙂
  4. Pick an exercise plan that’s right for you: c1ca4032b8788ccb091b0f9ac6c9dfc8 For me this meant avoiding triggering exercises, like a certain running route, that I knew would bring up memories of when I was really sick. What I ended up doing in order to create a “healthy exercise plan” was setting up a routine that worked well with my class schedule, and also fell in line with the restrictions I had set up with my team. I’m a creature of habit so by establishing a routine that was at a time of the day that didn’t cause me stress and I actually looked forward to was great. It eventually became more of a mindful time and less about a compulsion that is driven by “burning calories.” I started exercising because I loved that time of the day that was all about me and not about sweating off all that I had ate.
  5. Talk to your parents: b4e996eeec67a22bfb27b936e445bded Honestly your parents are going to be really worried about you when you go back to school. So just keep them in the loop and be forward with them. You are an adult, but they will always be your parents and they want to know how you are doing, especially after all that you have been through. They want you to recover and thrive so just keep it real with them and don’t be afraid to tell the truth when you are struggling. Mom and dad are here to listen, love, and support you so let them do that! I spoke with my parents daily and was brutally honest with them. Did that cause them some stress? Absolutely. But did it bring us closer together, as well as enable them to see when I really needed their support? 100% yes. I couldn’t have done it without them.

I just can’t emphasize enough that honesty and constant contact with all members of your team, from your parents to your therapist and anyone else who is in your corner, is truly one of the best ways for you to move forward in your recovery. Keep it real by recognizing/sharing when you are struggling, but also by celebrating in your successes. Recovery is a roller coaster ride and is never easy so we must embrace our imperfections while still fighting for a healthier and happier self.

So, all of you lucky ladies and gentleman who are heading back to school in the next few weeks stay strong as well as focused and never stop telling yourself that it can, and will, get better.

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(or hero) 😉

One Thing I’m Loving This Thursday

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So, today for “Things I’m Loving Thursday” I’ve decided to only focus on one “Thing I’m Loving This Thursday.” Earlier this week I came across an article in the Huffington Post entitled, “What Recovery From An Eating Disorder Is Really Like” by Noreena Sondhi Lewis. I am hugely grateful for this piece and Ms. Lewis really hit the nail on the head in describing the hardships ED sufferers face once they’ve chosen recovery. Deciding to let go of this disease is not all roses and daisies, but an extremely daunting journey filled with highs and lows.

I hope all of you will take a minute to read this article, which will help you better understand how eating disorders are mental health issues and have nothing to do with vanity.

Also I encourage all you to remember that recovery is a long and challenging process that can’t be rushed. So, whether you are suffering, or you are supporting someone with this disease, just try to be patient and recognize that even though it’s taking WAY longer than you’d like, happiness and a healthy life are attainable.

 

 

It’s A Mental Health Issue.

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I stumbled across this image the other day on Project Heal’s (an amazing Eating Disorder Awareness Organization) Facebook page, and I found it really resonated with my own struggle. I’ve learned that those suffering from disordered eating rarely fall under one category, whether that be anorectic, bulimic, etc. and we all, for the most part have a whole hodge podge of varying unhealthy behaviors that we have normalized. I know, personally, through my own experience I exhibited behaviors that probably fall most closely under the diagnosis of anorexic, but there was one key symptom that I never possessed, and that was being underweight.  Did I weigh less than my body type probably should…yeah, but I still never fell into the “dangerously low weight realm” according to bmi calculations and the average weight physicians associate to my height. This fact totally screwed with my own perception of the disease and for months, even after being diagnosed with a severe ED, I couldn’t believe that was what was wrong with me. I just never thought that I looked the part, and honestly many people to this day reinforce this insecurity of mine by saying, “well you never looked THAT thin…”

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So, long story short, and over a year of therapy and treatment later, I now know that eating disorders are much less about your physical appearance and much more about your mental state. No matter how thin I got I was never going to be satisfied with my appearance and that is an issue of mental health. My behaviors, not my weight, highlighted the seriousness of my disorder and I see that even more now that I have gained back some of the weight. Realizing that eating disorders are issues of mental health and mindsets is a fact that I am slowly coming to terms with. Some days are obviously easier than others, but I just need to keep fighting and working to make my mind healthier and stronger. Everyday is a struggle, but I’m not giving up anytime soon even when I am beyond unhappy with myself, which unfortunately has been more often than not these days…I know that the only way to cure this is to continue with therapy and to keep positive.

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I know that I can do this, but I also truly appreciate the support, guidance and love of others. Sometimes I feel lonely in my journey so just knowing that I have people in my corner, especially those of you who follow my blog, truly means the world to me. So I am continuing to fight and I hope everyone who relates to my story will do the same. Lets stay strong and know that we CAN recover.

Don’t Let A Size Define You

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Zero is nothing. Zero is worthless. Zero is defined as “no quantity or number” and it’s synonyms include,”nothing, nothing at all, nil and none.” Yet despite this many women desire to fit into a size 0 and idealize the size as an ultimate achievement. How does this make any sense? Why does our culture encourage women to strive to wear a size that literally has no worth attached to it? The whole concept of equating women to nothing is one I learned a lot about in my college courses yet it still shocks me to see it play out in society today. Many women, based on today’s societal values end up defining their own self worth based off of a warped and antiquated size chart that tells women that the smaller size they wear, the better they should feel about themselves.

I truly believe that women are crippled by the contemporary size guides and those with any sort of history of disordered eating are especially triggered by the charts. I know that personally I struggled greatly with sizes and constantly equated my own worth with whatever size I fit into. The smaller I got the better I felt about myself. So, now that I am in recovery and grappling directly with the effects this societal problem has on me, when I heard that J.Crew, one of my favorite retailers, is now offering a size 000 I couldn’t help, but be dismayed. What are they thinking? Isn’t there more demand for larger sizes than smaller ones? The average size of a woman has increased over the years, not shrunk. I really think they are making a mistake by attempting to appeal to a market that is exponentially smaller than that of the average women. As Mary Elizabeth Williams in her article “Are You Ready for Size 000 Jeans” argues, “Rolling out a triple zero size doesn’t tell consumers, hey, we’re just trying to please the Asian market. It instead immediately makes the triple zero aspirational for the slim-hipped fans of J. Crew’s Ivy League look, and opens the gates for other brands to do the same. It doesn’t just reduce women to a number, it reduces them to nothingness — and then assigns ever shrinking degrees of that nothingness.”

Although I don’t have an answer to this problem I can only encourage you all out there to really think strongly about how the size charts affect you. Once you’ve done that than you must remember that it does not define your beauty, you do. So, whether you are a size 000 or a size 24 it doesn’t matter as long as you can see just how amazing and gorgeous you are, inside and out because at the end of the day why should we care what anyone else thinks? All that truly matters is how you see yourself, I promise 🙂

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You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover.

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Eating disorders are diseases that do not discriminate. They come in all colors, shapes, sizes, sexes, etc. and vary across a large, and complex, spectrum. This is what makes them so hard to diagnosis and also reinforces so many of the stigmas that are associated with EDs. Brittany Miles, the creator of the amazing blog Redefine Beauty, who I featured on my Facebook page the other day, emphasizes this fact in an article for Shape Magazine entitled The Epidemic of Hidden Eating Disorders. The piece in Shape focuses on how weight is not the only, or even most important, determiner of an eating disorder. In fact the hyper attention that is put solely on an individual’s weight when diagnosing an ED can actually impede many who are very sick from getting the help they need. Shape further stresses this by interviewing professionals, one in particular from NEDA, who states: “Weight can be an indicator of an eating disorder, but it certainly isn’t the only one or even the best one,” says Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), adding that using weight as the only criteria for an eating disorder is incredibly damaging and demeaning to sufferers.”

By focusing purely on weight doctors, and other individuals who are not up to date with eating disorder research, are minimizing the psychological struggles that often cause eating disorders to develop in the first place. Disordered eating has much less to do with a low weight and much more to do with an unhealthy relationship with food, and especially your own body. The sufferer is usually overcome with pain and the eating disorder is the outlet for that hurt.

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Personally, even when I was at my smallest I never dipped down to “a dangerous weight” according to BMI scales and other sources. However, even though my actual weight didn’t set off any red flags I was really sick and extremely malnourished. I now recognize that the weight I got down to was not healthy for my body type and I was practically killing myself to “maintain it.” Finally recognizing that weight was not the most important, or only, factor in reaffirming the fact that I had an eating disorder was a crucial part in my recovery. I hope that these resources can help any one else out there who is struggling to see that just because you are not emaciated and a size 00 pant you can still have a VERY serious eating disorder. I encourage anyone who thinks that they might be suffering from an eating disorder to check out the NEDA website and take their online screening. It’s free and it can only help. It’s time for you to finally:

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