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Archive for August 29, 2013

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Submitted by Mel Ness, Volunteer

 

I am a words person. Always have been, always will be.

I am a literal, black and white, I-mean-what-I-say type of gal.

 

Words, to me, are not simply a form of communication, but a gift that I desperately need.

 

Words shape people’s impression of you.

Words can tear down or build up – it doesn’t take many to have a lasting impact.

Words can suck the life out of someone or breathe life right down into the soul, where one needs it most.

Words can build trust or deceive.

They are powerful.

 

The one thing that I love most about words is that they have the ability to stop us in our tracks and cause us to think and roll around in our brains an idea that we maybe wouldn’t have thought about had the words not been presented to us.  Every so often, a few words can break through the muddle and simultaneously pierce us with conviction and encouragement that we didn’t even know we needed.

 

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

6 words. That’s it.

Read them again.

Can you relate?

 

We walk around and hear all of these messages. Words that catapult us into thinking that we’re not skinny enough, pretty enough, perfect enough, together enough, planned out enough, focused enough, good enough at X, ,Y, and Z, not quite wealthy enough…etc.

 

Not only do we receive these messages from the outside, we also give them to each other. We talk about how we need to lose x amount of weight, how badly we feel because _________ makes more money than we do, we talk about our flaws and how we’d feel so much better if we only could fix this part of our body, how we’re not as perfect as _______, or how we wish we were as good of a mother, sister, daughter, or friend as __________.

 

We end up tearing down others around us, even as we speak words only intended to be about ourselves.

What would happen if we began to be more intentional about the way in which we talk about ourselves?

How would this change the way the people around us think about who they are?

Maybe if we focused on building up the good instead of bringing out the flawed, other people might believe us when we tell them, “You are beautiful just the way you are.”

 

Comparison is sneaky.

It sneaks in and steals our joy because we are setting our inward struggles, secrets, and flaws up against the squeaky clean, perfect, and beautiful external images of another – all the while not seeing that they are human, too.

 

Comparison will always win – but only if we let it.

Media Monday: People Don’t Choose to Have Eating Disorders & Other Misconceptions about Eating Disorders

Submitted by EPF Volunteer

Photo credit: Source

Photo credit: Source

“You know there are people who choose not to have eating disorders,” said my close friend after a conversation that arose from excerpts from the book, Gaining. This comment really took me aback. OK. Pause. It took a lot of strength not to speak harshly with a retort, because as someone in recovery, I felt angry and hurt by this comment. So I mustered all my strength and just said, “I’m sorry but you are wrong. People don’t choose to have eating disorders.”

And this topic: misconceptions about eating disorders, was brought up again this week when I read an article written about a recent blog by Temimah Zucker, an anorexia survivor and eating disorder prevention advocate, titled “Excuse me Doc, this was not a teenage phase.”

She was moved to write this blog as a letter to her doctor because during her annual physical he asked how she was doing with her eating disorder. After telling him she was OK, he said, “You know these eating disorders are just a teen phase for young girls.” Now, if you suffer from an eating disorder, or are in recovery, or know someone who is, or just know the facts about eating disorders—you’d know that this is a major misconception and that a comment like this can be very damaging to someone who is recovering (or still struggling).

In retrospect, I know my friends comment was not meant to hurt me—he just had some misconceptions. And we can’t blame people for ignorance, but we can speak up and get the facts out there. So in the spirit of taking action, I’m writing a list of a couple of the top myths about eating disorders based upon an article written in the Huffington Post and the Alliance for Eating Disorders website. Maybe you’ll be inspired to share them with others you feel might be receptive. Debunking these myths help individuals, families, and professionals to better recognize a disorder so they can seek appropriate treatment for themselves and others.

Myth: Eating disorders are about food.

Truth: “Eating disorders generally stem from issues beyond food and body size. They also signify an attempt to control something of substance in an individual’s life. The mistaken belief that eating disorders are about food compels friends and loved ones to encourage individuals to ‘just eat,’ when in fact, the disorder from which they’re suffering is incredibly complex” (Source).

 

Myth: Eating disorders are a choice.

Truth: No one chooses to have an eating disorder. An eating disorder is a complicated illness that has both genetic and environmental causes. Recently, they have even found a correlation between low serotonin levels in bulimia and high serotonin levels in anorexia, as well as the specific chromosomes linked to anorexia and bulimia (Source) (Source) (Source).”Between 40 and 50 percent of the risk of developing an eating disorder is genetic, and a woman with a mother or sister who has anorexia is 12 times more likely than the general population to develop the disease and four times more likely to develop bulimia nervosa. Those that develop an eating disorder likely had a latent genetic predisposition toward the illness and a precipitating event, such as going on a diet, a traumatic event or significant life change, triggered their anorexia, bulimia or related disorder” (Source).

 

Myth: Eating disorders aren’t serious.

Truth: Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates of any other mental illness. “Even for patients whose eating disorders don’t prove fatal, there are often severe medical complications associated with starvation and purging, including bone disease, cardiac complications, gastrointestinal distress, organ failure and infertility” (Source).

 

Myth: Only people who are underweight have eating disorders.

Truth: You cannot tell if an individual has an eating disorder by looking at them. Many people think of eating disorders as individuals who are underweight, but “bulimics tend to be at an average, or even above average, weight. Compulsive overeaters are typically overweight rather than underweight” (Source).

 

Myth: Only adolescent girls suffer from eating disorders—”It’s a teen phase.”

Truth: “Eating disorders do not discriminate between age and gender. One in every four eating disorder cases are male. Also, the most rapidly growing group of individuals developing eating disorders are women in midlife” (Source).

 

Myth: An eating disorder is cured after achieving normal weight.

Truth: Attaining a normal weight does not in and of itself signify a cure, because eating disorders are a complex medical/psychiatric illnesses (Source).

 

Good sites to direct people to:

http://www.ulifeline.org/articles/400-eating-disorders-why-do-they-happen

http://www.allianceforeatingdisorders.com/debunking-eating-disorder-myths

Sources:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/excuse-me-doc-this-was-not-a-teenage-phase/#.UgsF_FcqpAo.facebook

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kenneth-l-weiner-md-faed-ceds/eating-disorders_b_1179659.html

http://www.examiner.com/article/misconceptions-educating-doctors-about-eating-disorders

http://www.something-fishy.org/isf/genetics.php

Another good related article:

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20130808/OPINION03/308080040/-Almost-Anorexic-can-lead-devastating-outcomes

When you cannot remember that you are worth it

Submitted by Mel Ness, Volunteer

 

Summer’s almost over.

This was the thought that crossed my brain on my way into work this morning.

[My thoughts in the morning are usually extremely short.]

 

Anyway, summer is almost over.

This caused me to start thinking about fall, which made me think of Thanksgiving, which made me think of what I’m grateful for in life.

So in the spirit of gratefulness, this is what I have to say:

 

Today is one of those days.

Everybody has those days [unintentional Kesha reference].

Everyone has those days when they feel as if they just don’t measure up.

Those days when you feel as if everyone else has it made…except for you.

Those days when you feel like everyone else looks better than you, is smarter than you, is making fewer mistakes than you, is a better driver than you [sometimes I get a little dramatic].

Those days when you feel like everyone else’s plan is working out except yours.

 

This is something I struggle with.

I struggle with these thoughts pretty often, actually.

Partly because I’m a girl, but mostly because I’m human.

And the struggle goes deeper than the physical level. It reaches pretty much every level I’ve got.

It’s hard for me to admit this because of a little thing called pride, but it’s true.

 

Now I want to tell you why other people are so great.

Other people are great because they find it easy to speak only good about you.

Other people are so great because, for them, it’s easy to lift you up and encourage you that while you are flawed, you are also perfect.

It’s easy for other people to see you for who you truly are because they are outside of you.

They can see your value, your significance, your meaning.

They can take your thoughts of condemnation and turn them into thoughts of worth, thoughts of gratefulness.

 

So, who are your ‘other people?’

Maybe it’s your family, your friends, God. Your co-worker, your spouse, your boss. Whomever.

Who are those people that act as your memory when you cannot muster up the strength to remember?

 

When you cannot remember that you are worth it.

 

“I will keep telling you that you are important, deserving, loving, intelligent, worthy, compassionate, beautiful, creative, inspiring, brave, true, strong, and able until you finally realize it for yourself.”

-Unknown

Media Monday: “Fitspiration” of the Nation: Motivation or Manipulation?

This is a guest post by Lisa Henneman who blogs at The Watershed Addiction Treatment Center 

The female body comes in all shapes and sizes, as most understand. For a woman to be comfortable in her own skin is the pinnacle of confidence. For decades however, women have been hammered with images from the media presenting the twisted notion that beauty and desirability correlate with a delicate, and generally thin figure. Sadly, women can be vulnerable to internalizing these stereotypes, and base their self-worth on unrealistic beauty standards of mainstream media and advertising. The adverse consequences lead to insecurity and self-loathing, as well as eating disorders, emotional and behavioral disorders, and even death. While this standard of beauty still affects the self-esteem of women throughout society today, public perceptions of female health have shifted dramatically toward a focus on thinness. As evidenced particularly in the realm of social media, portrayals of beautiful women are increasing in the form of svelte, muscle-bound elite athletes with pretty faces.

“Fit is the New Skinny,” is the text on images sweeping through social media forums such as Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook. It’s become a slogan printed on a wave of images to offer what many have tagged “fitspiration.” In the pursuit of a toned physique, the images often facilitate encouragement when tempted to backslide into poor eating habits, and motivation when laziness threatens exercise regimens.  Other variations include:

  • “If you want to give rewards for food, get a dog.”
  • “Skinny girls look good in clothes, fit girls look good naked.”
  • “You can feel sore tomorrow or feel sorry tomorrow: YOU CHOOSE.”

Seems like a noble cause, since there isn’t anything wrong with eating healthy and exercising regularly. But could the subculture of fitness fanatics be molding a new standard of beauty? The idea that skinny is “out” and fit is “in,” automatically suggest a superior body type. While the images themselves may encourage a healthy lifestyle, it’s possible for women to respond to them in an unhealthy way. Before taking extreme measures to get the perfectly chiseled physique, it’s important to be honest about ways in which you will to meet your goals surrounding health and beauty. Here are some questions to ask yourself to decide if “fitspiration” is right for you.

 

What Am I Motivated To Achieve?

It’s very easy to cross the line between creating a healthy lifestyle to trying to meet a beauty standard. Try to pay attention to how you personally are inspired. Do most pictures cause you to covet an unrealistic standard of beauty? Putting in hours of grueling exercise to achieve the same rock-hard six-pack as your “fitspiration” role-model, is entirely different than strengthening your core because of the long-term health implications. Be honest, so you don’t set yourself up for overwhelming feelings of failure, and further depletion of self-esteem.

Tip: Instead of basing your success in health and beauty on an image of someone else, try giving yourself a step-by-step set of goals that are realistic, and measurable. For example, consider commitment to exercising three times per week for one hour. Maybe write down a list of short, and long-term goals you can discuss with your doctor or fitness trainer who can offer unbiased feedback, and assist in giving you a practical perspective on where your ambition in placed.

 

What Am I Willing To Do To Reach Physical Health?

Creating a healthy relationship with physical activity can be just as challenging as with diet and eating habits. If you see yourself developing obsessive behaviors all in the name of health, you may actually be doing more harm than good. The extreme desire for physical perfection has even led some to permanently change their appearance through body modification, and facial reconstructive plastic surgeries.

Tip: Accountability can be helpful, especially for those who tend to be perfectionists, or who have struggled with an unhealthy relationship with diet or exercise in the past. Sometimes, the best way to avoid developing (or returning to) unhealthy behaviors is asking someone to help keep you on the right track mentally, physically, and emotionally. Instead of just an images with motivational phrases, this would be a person you can trust to encourage you with the context of your personality and goals in mind. Whether it’s a friend, family member or medical professional, this person can help you keep the right perspective.

 

How Do I Respond When I Fall Short of My Goals?

Some “fitspiration” images can present an inappropriate message for the context or mindset a viewer is in at moment it’s received. Meaning, an image of a fitness model with the words, “You’re either a fighter, or a quitter. The choice is yours,” might make someone who just bailed on their workout feel like they’re a “quitter” and a “failure”. Following moments of weakness, do you punish yourself by not eating another meal until you’re back in a caloric deficit, or vow to sweat out every last empty calorie you ate? Extreme self-loathing can cause individuals to turn to disordered eating behavior to atone for perceptions of failure, while others are so discouraged, they stop trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle altogether. If images you post for motivation evoke self-depreciating emotions, to which you have a self-destructive response, you may want to rethink how helpful “fitspiration” is for you.

Tip: Falling below personal standards, in pursuit of health or beauty, never constitutes self-inflicted punishment of any kind. If you are someone who goes to extreme measures to relieve feelings of guilt, it’s best to talk to a professional. Remember, life circumstances don’t always allow for strict diet and workout regimes to be upheld. Keep in mind, missing a workout will not derail all your efforts.

 

It’s not wrong to take care of our bodies in the ways which helps us be the best we can be. It’s just not healthy when we start conforming to what pop-culture decides what “the best” is for us. Thoughts, feelings and behaviors related to managing food and weight can begin to interfere with our everyday activities. Focusing too much attention on our bodies and our eating can quickly lead to missed opportunities in other parts of our lives. Our personal and professional lives, as well as our overall well-being, can be drastically affected. If you or someone you care about is struggling with a negative body image, or is exhibiting dangerous behaviors in eating or exercise, there are people who can help.

 

This body is awesome precisely because it isn’t perfect

Submitted by TEPF Volunteer

My body is imperfect, as bodies tend to be. I grind my teeth in my sleep some nights and wake up with muscle headaches. There are problems with acne that leave little white scars on my shoulders and make me reluctant to wear short sleeves. I have vitiligo on my face – an autoimmune disorder that causes loss of melanin in one’s skin, so that on sunny days parts of my face tan while others scorch pink. And on hot summer days (which, in Minnesota, is pretty much every day) I get gross and sweaty and smell unpleasantly of onions.

But even on those hot days when heavy-duty deodorant just doesn’t cut it and my back is sore, I still love my body. Because in the first place, it’s mine. Think of it – the whole wide world and this one thing is the only thing that unquestionably belongs to you. And by you I mean your consciousness, or your soul, or whatever you want to call it. That’s getting into philosophical stuff that nobody really knows that answer to.

What we do know is that we are here, on this planet, right now, with the capacity to change the world for better or worse. All over the world, the seas are rising, the deserts spreading like dry rot, the mountains losing their crowns of ice. Glasses of sweet, cold tea are being poured. The wonders of the world are waiting. Someone, somewhere, is a friend you just haven’t met yet. The way I figure it, you need that body. It might not be perfect, and it might give you all sorts of trouble, but without it you either a) don’t exist or b) are an intangible spirit, and neither of those states seems optimal for really enjoying life to the fullest.

So yes, I don’t always like my body. This is probably at least partially due to our culture’s idealization of physical perfection: seems like every magazine in the grocery line is selling some fictionalized photography of womanhood. But it’s also because having a body is messy. You sweat and you cry and you break out in pimples and sometimes you think you might look better if just this one thing were different.

Some days, I do think these things, squinting critically at myself in the bathroom mirror and comparing my appearance unfavorably to someone else’s. But then I remember that I’m not someone else. I’m a very specific person, moving through time and space, and this body is the only material thing in the world that I really own. This body is awesome precisely because it isn’t perfect – if it were perfect it wouldn’t be mine. So I step away from the mirror, find some clothes I like, check my bus pass, and go see what the world is doing today. Because why not? I’m part of it, after all.