Archive for March 23, 2015

How masculinity, media and body image are all connected

Submitted by Dana Rademacher

Everyone knows that today’s endless influx of media images negatively affects girls’ self-esteem and body image. Constantly seeing unobtainable body shapes in advertisements. Not so subtle nods that women should change their bodies to be “perfect”, whatever that is. What is lesser talked about though is how the media industry is also failing our boys and feeding toxic messages to them too. This is what spawned Jennifer Siebel Newsom (creator of the acclaimed Miss Representation) to uncover American masculinity in her new film The Mask You Live In.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this film at a pre-screening at the University of Minnesota. I highly enjoyed the documentary and after watching it, it really got me thinking about male targeted media and the common themes boys are receiving in today’s culture. All too often, boys are told to “man up”, to not show emotions, to be extreme athletes. I thought about my nephew who is just four years old, who is the sweetest, sensitive, most loving kid and I don’t want him to be made fun of or change these qualities within himself because of the standards shown by the media on a daily basis.

I actually started paying attention to how ads and media portray men, and I saw some of the shocking themes the film points out. Like, how lead protagonists in hit shows like Breaking Bad and countless others resort to violence and their physical power to get what they want and how male deodorant and clothing ads almost always show men with Greek God-like physiques. This is what boys see day in and day out and it is no shocker this can lead them to have a distorted view of masculinity and body image.

It is estimated that about 1 in 33 adult males struggle with an eating disorder, which is a much higher statistic than most people would realize. The way in which masculinity is displayed in our media is definitely not helping this statistic and we need to realize as a culture how detrimental certain messaging can be for people’s body image, including males. But together we can educate our boys and show them they do not need to bulk up, be in “perfect shape” or have muscles in order to be masculine; you are perfect how you are and that message could go a long way.

For more information on males, eating disorders, and body image, check out this blog & video from The Emily Program.

For more information on The Mask You Live In, visit www.therepresentationproject.org/ films/the-mask-you-live-in.

I am an agent of change.

Submitted by Lorrie Bouley

The Emily Program Foundation is excited to offer 4 scholarships of $300 each in order to help individuals attend the EDC’s Spring Lobby Day on Wednesday, May 13th in Washington DC. Click here to download a LOBBY-DAY-APPLICATION.  The application is due April 13th.

Read below to learn more about Lorrie, a previous scholarship recipient, as she reflects on her experience at the EDC’s Lobby Day last fall.

 

During the fall of 2014, on Capitol Hill, the Eating Disorder Coalition gathered LorrieB Lobby Daypeople from all around the country to march for the awareness about Eating Disorders. Everyone was to wear purple if they themselves survived or knew someone who survived from an Eating Disorder. They wore green, to march for those who lost their battle with an Eating Disorder. As I stood back and listened to the stories, songs and memories being shared, I saw a flood of purple. There was still a handful of green, but the high number of purple shirts stood out to me because it was a reminder that we are creating change.

This quote dawned on me at the march, “Nothing’s impossible; the word itself says I’m possible.” As I listened to the voices that were shared that day from mothers and survivors, I felt empowered to stand up and make a difference. No one should feel ashamed. No one should feel the stigma that comes from struggling with an Eating Disorder. No one should lose sight of their goals and dreams in life.

The next day we were able to discuss with Legislators the importance of research and education about Eating Disorders in the clinical realm, the harmful effects BMI Report Cards have on youth and what it means to be healthy.

As I begin a career in nutrition and dietetics, my goal is to provide the resources individuals need to prevent and treat Eating Disorders, because Eating Disorders are real and the damage is real. I will strive to understand the complexity of why they begin and will continue to fight to make a difference.

Settling with Imperfection

About the Author: Emily Champoux is a sophomore nutrition student at the UMN-Twin Cities

 

Unfortunately many of us unintentionally take on more than we can chew and don’t quite realize we are in over our heads until we are already struggling to stay above water. Whether it’s a new a job, a diabetes diagnosis that requires major lifestyle changes or the death of a loved one, all of these little things can pile up and add more stress to our already busy and chaotic lives. No one ever intends or wants to be overwhelmed by stress but it still seems to happen from time to time. Even when we have good intentions with our commitments and new goals, the outcome is sometimes anything but optimal.

 

Take for example joining that neighborhood book club. It may seem like only 5 hours out of your week, but on top of your other full time job, familial obligations, and “you” time, those extra 5 hours turn into 5 hours that you could have spent rock climbing, playing with your children, or going to that new Indian place with your wife. Those seemingly harmless 5 hours start to add up, and not necessarily in the way you had initially expected them to. Again, the intentions were optimal, but adding more to your plate only ended up making you more stressed, and then the dreaded stressing about being stressed begins to set in.

 

Ironic right? That the source of more stress could be attempting to not be stressed. That book club was supposed to be fun, a great way to get to know the other mothers in your neighborhood and simultaneously being able to read up on some New York Time’s Best-Sellers… But it’s turned into added stress in your life; another thing that has slowly made its way onto your plate. Now, it may not necessarily be a book club for you, but it’s more the principle that I’m getting at. That even when we try our best and work really hard at relieving our stress, we sometimes end up adding more to our plate and not less.

 

So lets go back to the simple principle that our mothers taught us when we first wanted to wear make-up. Less is more.

 

As a full-time student, I am all too often a victim of stressing about being stressed. It’s a vicious cycle that tends to go from seemingly harmless nerves to full blown anxiety. So what can we do?   How do we beat this vicious cycle in a world that is driven by the need to always be on the move and strive for the next best thing? We settle. Now, I’m not advocating that when you bomb that final exam because you didn’t study for it you should just settle with a bad grade. Or that when you completely blow your diet and gain those 20 pounds you should just say screw it and give up. I’m merely saying that settling with imperfection is the best way to move forward. Once we are able to move past perfectionism and accept that we as humans are flawed, I strongly believe that we will all not only be a lot less overwhelmed, but a lot happier too. We will realize that being happy isn’t determined by big successes or taking on more, but merely stepping back and realizing how much we are already doing and observing how far we have come from where we once started.

 

Settle with take-out when you have a busy day, and don’t stress or feel ashamed for not “eating healthy” and following your New Year’s resolution to eat better. Why? Because Chinese take-out is delicious (especially those darn fortune cookies), and because you deserve to settle and not feel guilty about a food choice. Settling doesn’t mean defeat, it’s acceptance; and when we all start to accept our decisions we will start to move towards being happier and healthier individuals.

 

So start to settle. Settle with running three miles instead of five because of the simple fact that your body is amazing for carrying itself any distance. Settle with that bowl of Rocky Road ice cream instead of depriving yourself of all sweets because that one bowl isn’t going to change the way you look today. Settle with choosing to stay in and watch Grey’s Anatomy after a long week instead of getting cocktails with the girls, (believe me, everyone needs a little self love sometimes). But above all else, settle with the fact that you are an imperfect human, because regardless, you are strong and you are beautiful.

Love, Live, and Let go

Submitted by Kristine Strangis, EPF Volunteer

 

What does it mean to be recovered? This is the ultimate question, right? When one suffers from an eating disorder, we tend to think in rigid ways; everything in our worlds is black and white, all or nothing, this or that, etc. But, what if we were to stop that unattainable train of thoughts?

 

We tend to think that our recovery stories need to have a beginning, a middle, and that perfect happy ending where we fly off into wonderland and scream freedom. But, what if we take that narrowed and perfectionistic thinking, and turn it into something more infinite and flexible? Easier said then done of course; but, in time, we begin to realize that in recovery, and life for that matter, there is no end to the story, but rather a life full of new beginnings.

 

Throughout my long, but enlightening journey battling an eating disorder, I have found recovery to mean that I am living my life to my fullest, enjoying every moment of the journey, and taking everything one step at a time. One of the most important lessons that I have learned is that life is a journey and that anything worth fighting for takes time, dedication, hard work, and hope.

 

Recovery is not a linear progression, but rather, a process that is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, slips and slides; it can be so confusing at times, and that is why we need to stop thinking so hard about it and just let it be what it is. Those of us with eating disorders tend to be deep thinkers and highly intelligent, which is why this simplistic thinking can be so hard for us to just do. But, the moment I realized that I could not think my way around the problem and needed to take action against my eating disorder was the moment when I finally started to get it. All that I had to do was love, let go, and live.

 

Love. This was hard. Relationships have always been tough for me, especially since I am an introverted person, but they are crucial to recovery, and that is why it is so important that you have a support team in place and multiple people that you can trust to turn to when your eating disorder gets loud. My support system consists of my family, friends, co-workers, fellow volunteers and advocates for mental health rights, and my online recovery support groups. I keep trying to add on to the list because you can never have enough support. Throughout my recovery, I slowly started letting people into my life again and, once I started opening up to them about my struggles, nearly everyone that I reached out to was compassionate and wanted to help. Every now and again you will get someone who leaves, but that just means that they were not a good friend in the first place. You will never know until you try, right? As I opened up and accepted others back into my life, I started to accept myself and, eventually, learned to love myself for all that I am.

 

Live. This is an important one. Once you have learned to love others and accept yourself, you need to start exploring life outside of your comfort zone. The eating disorder is so manipulative and controlling and it will feel like it is your whole identity, but it is not. There is a beautiful person inside just waiting to break free, you just have to give him/her a chance to shine through the darkness of the eating disorder. I did this by continuing to explore all of the things that I thought I would be interested in; for example, I tried to bring some of the hobbies that I used to love doing back into my life such as playing the drums, kickboxing, writing, journaling, and reading; I also tried new things such as knitting, nail painting, drawing, yoga, volunteering, and meditation. Some of these things took hold right away and others did not, but the point is that I tried each and every one. Recovery is about exploration, and the only way that you are going to find yourself beyond the eating disorder is by finding what it is that you are passionate about and grabbing hold of it.

 

Let go. I know that this sounds nearly impossible, believe me, it took a long time-seven years!-for me to get to this point, but eventually I learned to just let my eating disorder go. Eating disorders are all about control; it creates this illusory sense of control over food, exercise, weight, etc. that, ironically, leaves us feeling powerless. Well, in order to overcome your eating disorder, you must let go of control and give all of it over to the experts-your treatment team. I know that it is going to be extremely hard to trust them, but no one said that recovery was easy. In fact, it is probably going to be the hardest thing you have ever done, but think about who is really in control here, the eating disorder, not you, and therefore, you need to let it go.

 

Overall, recovery is a journey. I believe that recovery is an individual process; you will know when you are there when you start living your life, not the eating disorders, not the one that anyone else tells you should be, but your life. To me, being recovered means living in a place of balance, not that fantasy happy ending where everything is all rainbows and sunshine, and not a miserable life with an eating disorder, but rather my life. I am recovered because, even when I struggle or slip, I keep choosing recovery, I keep choosing to live in the moment, continuing to do the next right thing, even when I slip.

 

Life is a journey, and I am choosing to live mine.

 

Are you?

Media Monday: Making Small Strides

New movements in “beauty” by Jenna Theis

How beauty is seen in the media has created an unrealistic expectation for all people, but the beauty movement is making changes. Many companies are moving towards untouched photos in their advertisements and showing women of all sizes. The Dove Beauty campaign and Aerie Real are a few that have been advocating for this cause. The pressure of beauty has also been weighing down on celebrities. The recent leak of Cindy Crawford’s and Beyonce’s untouched photos has caused discussion on the use of retouching programs. Browsing through social media, you can now find that many celebrities have posted photos of themselves without wearing makeup and encouraging all people to do the same to break the idea that you aren’t beautiful without makeup. Although there is a lot more progress to be made, these small changes have given many people hope that the media is changing the idea of beauty. Another step that needs to happen is to have men’s companies jump on the same boat. Men also receive a lot of pressure from the media to have perfect muscles and be athletic. Men would also benefit from changing the ads they see and perceive what they are supposed to look like. Browsing through the Internet, I have still not been able to find a realistic picture of a man on an ad. Small steps are being made and I hope the beauty movement continues to evolve.