Archive for Health at Every Size

How I Broke the Cycle: Living Life Without Restriction

By Amy Hastie

Physically, I may have looked “healthier” during those times, but in reality, I was still living a life full of rigid rules around what I could and couldn’t eat. It was exhausting, anxiety-inducing, and destroying me from the inside out.

I can vividly recall the first time I decided to restrict my food intake.

At 17, someone sat me down and told me that I should exercise more often and reconsider my food choices. I initially felt deflated, self-conscious and hurt, but those emotions soon turned into an overwhelming desire to change. I distinctly remember writing a letter to my best friend at school the very next day, excitedly boasting to her about this revelation regarding my lifestyle and how I was going to cut back on everything that I ate as part of a magical transformation. It was going to be amazing!

Looking back, it seems utterly frightening to me that I had been so determined and self-assured that I was doing the right thing, despite all of the potentially dangerous risks to my health. This particular teenage diet didn’t last longer than a week, but it instilled in me a lingering awareness of inadequacy in relation to the foods I chose to eat and how much I weighed. It’s like my eyes had been exposed to a horrific image that was etched in my mind and could never be erased.

A couple of years later…

When other things in my life seemed out of control, I made a few more attempts at diets. Again, nothing stuck until the year leading up to my 21st birthday when I fell, head first, down the dark and destructive hole of Anorexia. What followed was more than a decade of severe bouts of restriction, chronic dieting, and incredibly harmful physical behaviors.

There were months, sometimes years, within the past decade when I wasn’t being entirely controlled by Anorexia, but still being intensely dictated by diet culture. Physically, I may have looked “healthier” during those times, but in reality, I was still living a life full of rigid rules around what I could and couldn’t eat. It was exhausting, anxiety-inducing, and destroying me from the inside out.

I feel ashamed to admit this now, but up until recent times, I ate the same thing for dinner every week-night for about 10 years. Every single week-night. No deviations. No adjustments. No tweaks. The same. It was monotonous, a far from nourishing meal choice and a devastatingly obvious coping mechanism. Family and friends would often ask why my husband and I didn’t eat dinner together at home. I always used to brush it off by saying we had very different tastes. That wasn’t true at all as we actually shared many similar loves in food. However, the thought of deviating from my “safe” meal on a week-night scared me more than just about anything else in the world.

Then something finally changed for the better.

I had hit breaking point in the lead-up to our wedding. When it was all over, something began to shift in me, but in a good way this time. On my honeymoon, my husband and I ate a variety of exquisite food every day and every night. Part of me waited for a drastic change, something to go horribly wrong with my mind or body. Nothing did. In fact, with each delectable consumption, the better I seemed to feel mentally and physically. The only effect was the thrill of tuning into my hunger and honoring it fully.

amy longstaff

During the honeymoon, I realized I was beginning to create an infinite distance from restriction. I was at a coffee shop, and I ordered a delicious beverage. The friendly young guy taking my order gave me a nod as he was writing it down and said, “Yeah! It’s Friday! Why not, right??”. I think I nodded in agreement with the well-meaning gentlemen at the time, but as I walked away, I found myself marveling at my progress. I had, without thought or hesitation, just ordered the drink I wanted, having no reason to choose it above its scrumptious taste. I hadn’t selected it because it was the week-end or even considered it to be a treat in the first place. I just had it because I felt like it. It may sound simple, but this kind of mental progress is huge for anyone who has endured what I have.

Decisions like what to order had not always been that natural. Menus were overwhelming, regardless of whether it was a day of “clean eating” or one where treats were “allowed”. While my friends and family would look at a menu in excitement (or simple indifference), Anorexia would sit with me and meticulously calculate the meal that would do the least “damage”. It was a consistently agonizing process, and one I certainly do not miss. After that day in the coffee shop, I started to perceive menus as lists filled with infinite possibilities of satisfaction, not rule books.

I told myself that when we returned from our trip, I would continue this new-found lifestyle … and I did. It was like that indignant feeling I had when I first decided to diet at 17, except this time, I took a stance on always eating exactly what I wanted. I vowed to never restrict again because this new way of eating (of living!) was far too liberating to give up on. I began reintroducing beloved old favorites or tasting entirely new ingredients. Foods I had once banned for making me feel “out of control” were no longer scary because they weren’t “off limits” anymore. I had legalized them indefinitely. It was all so wonderful and invigorating.

As I continue this intuitive eating journey, the next challenge is learning to cook...

Despite being 33 years old, I am well and truly back to basics, teaching myself how to prepare all kinds of new and gratifying meals. It’s certainly not easy, (I have already inadvertently created some minor kitchen fails!), but it is the power of choice over restriction that pushes me to persist with my culinary ventures.

The most life-changing aspect of my recovery has been the new-found belief that I am not only worthy of all foods today, but tomorrow and every day of my life. After so long, I have learned to listen to what my body instinctively wants, just like I used to as a little kid. Now, there are no “treats”, no “cheat days” no “naughty foods”. Anything and everything is quite literally on the table, and I am loving every single minute of it.

 

The Dreaded Scale

By Katy M.

Why do we ask ourselves so many questions on what we should weigh and what size we should be?

So many people step on the scale daily to see if they’ve lost or gained any weight, asking questions like: What does the scale say? Am I the right weight for my height?

If you think about it logically, the scale doesn’t tell us anything of real value.

It's a number. 

A figure that means nothing when it comes to our own worth.

My favourite quote is:

The number on this scale will not tell you what a great person you are, how much your friends and family love you, that you are kind, smart, funny and amazing in ways numbers cannot define. That you have the power to choose your happiness, your own self-worth.

This quote is more accurate than any scale you’ll step on. When I believed in the dreaded scale, I was still unhappy at my lowest number. I was hungry and miserable. Eventually I understood that if you are happy and comfortable in your skin, you do not need to be a certain size because there is NO such thing as “the correct size”.

If you read celebrity magazines, you’ll see they are constantly criticising someone’s figure. This is not how life should be. Life is so much more than what you weigh; it is you as a person!

We are all beautiful with or without that number on a scale. It’s time we all start believing it.

 

scale

What is “Healthy”?

By Bethany C.

We live in a society that constantly tells you how to live, how to act, how to eat, how to dress, how to love, and how to be healthy.

Today, “Healthy” is choosing the salad instead of the French fries you’ve been craving all day. It is staying on the treadmill a couple extra minutes because you know you are going on a date, and those always end with some type of dessert. It’s the gluten free cookie that tastes like cardboard instead of the regular cookie, and it’s ordering a non-fat, sugar free skinny vanilla latte at Starbucks on your way to work instead of eating the Poptart that has been calling your name for the past 3 days (not speaking from experience or anything *wink wink*).

Growing up in today’s culture is full of a lot of really great things, but it also makes the positive “self-talk” and “healthy” eating decisions that much more challenging.

I recently read this book called Intuitive Eating: A revolutionary program that works. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. Whether you’re tired of trying to diet and failing, or wanting to find something that makes eating food fun again, READ IT. enjoying your food is good for youMy outlook on the term “healthy” changed drastically. In the book, it talks about how it is more effective to listen to your body and hunger cues and simply eat what your mind and body is craving.

Stop what you’re doing and think about what your body is craving right now. How much more satisfied do you think you will be if you eat “it” instead of eating a salad and then just snacking to try and find that satisfaction your body wants from the food you’re not giving it?

I’m a nutrition major, so I am not saying you should eat a cookie or 3 for every meal, every day, but if your body is craving a cookie at 10 AM and it’s distracting you, do your body a favor and EAT THE DANG COOKIE. In the long run, that cookie is going to do your mind, your body, and your soul more good than neglecting that craving and causing yourself to be unsatisfied the rest of the day. I love my body and I strive to live a balanced and healthy lifestyle. So eat a cookie, take a bath, and join me on this intuitive eating journey.

Evolution of the Dove “Real Beauty” Campaign

By Awazi, a Foundation volunteer

The Dove “Real Beauty” Campaign launched in 2004, and started as a “global conversation” to find the definition of beauty and what it means to people who identify as women. The original mission was to find The Real Truth about Beauty as a widespread Global Report.

Only 2% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful.   Dove went on a mission to change and “challenge the beauty stereotypes.” Dove wanted to create an atmosphere where people who identify as women could talk about their own beauty and be confident about it.

During the first campaign Dove decided to use “real women whose appearance were outside stereotypical norms” that were traditionally shown in advertising to make a point that beauty can come in different shapes, shades and sizes. Dove’s Campaign even inspired others, for example in September 2006 Spain banned overly thin models from its fashion runways.  This truly spoke to the campaign and added on to the debate. Dove responded in a short film called Evolution which they explain “depict[s] the transformation of a real woman into a model and promot[es] awareness of how unrealistic perceptions of beauty are created.”

In 2007 Dove Beauty Campaign took an interesting turn as they narrowed in to the identities of woman and age. This campaign explained women aging and how that is not seen as pleasing for people who identify as women or society. The global study, Beauty Comes of Age viewed that 91% of women identified folks ages 50–64 believe that society needs to change their opinion on aging people. As a result of this, Dove held a celebration to acknowledge women of older age with wrinkles, age spots, and grey hair. This was made possible and created with internationally renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. The campaign focused on people who identify as girls and women who feel capsized by the fact that people they see in magazines are unrealistic and altered. This increased awareness of the fact that beauty images impact self-esteem.

In 2010 Dove paired up with the Girls scouts of the U.S.A, and Girls and Boys clubs of American to encourage a boost of self-esteem for the youth. They also included educational programs to motivate young girls.  Dove has reached over 7 million girls so far with these programs, and set a global goal of reaching 15 million girls by 2015. 

For 2011 Dove has pushed the ball even further by conducting a much larger study of women identified folks’ relationship with beauty, this was called The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited. The study revealed that only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful, and that anxiety about looks begins at an early age.  Over 1,200 10-to-17-year-olds, a majority of those who identified as girls, 72%, said they felt tremendous pressure to be beautiful. Very few girls and women use the word beautiful to describe themselves. Although the self-esteem levels of people who identify as women are very low, Dove is trying to make a difference to change that in a positive way! This Campaign is continuing to promote and spread awareness today.

I think dove is doing a great job of going to the source, real people, and asking them what they think beauty is. Even better, they found a problem and addressed it. They found that people who identify as women were not happy with their bodies or how they look. They also found women identified folks were not happy with not seeing their types of unique bodies in ads and commercials. Most of them had low self-esteem about their appearance and wouldn’t even call themselves beautiful.

We are all beautiful in our own ways! People who identify as women have had to be strong, have had to fight for their rights, and to me that’s beautiful! Beauty is not always about looking good or having the cutest shoes, beauty is being your best and sharing that wherever you go! I feel like Dove’s campaign is trying to share that beautiful information with everyone- no matter if they identify as a woman or not.

What do you think? Feel free to rate this campaign review and comment below!

 

The Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty." The Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty.
UNILEVER , 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 June 2014. 
<http://www.dove.us/social-mission/campaign-for-real-beauty.aspx>.

What Is With That New Weight Loss Thing?

As you might have heard, the FDA approved a new weight loss device called the AspireAssist. This brings up a multitude of complex issues that are not black at white and cannot be oversimplified. Today, we highlight one person’s response to the device while next week we will consider another perspective to the issue.

Written by Volunteer Elise Byron.

I have been guilty of joking with friends that “calories don’t count on Friday” or that “these chips actually have negative calories!” I have also wished I could go back and erase caloric intake after eating one-too-many pieces of birthday cake. Had I ever purged to complete these post-birthday party wishes, I can only imagine how easily I could have been lead down a road to disordered eating. The FDA recently approved an ‘obesity treatment’ called AspireAssist in which, a tube is inserted into the stomach to drain up to 30% of caloric consumption into the toilet following each meal. The announcement recommends that the device be used three times a day for optimal success by individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 35-55. The patients must be monitored closely by their doctor to shorten the tube as they continue to lose weight, as well as to the replace a portion of the drain tube which automatically stops working after 115 cycles of use.

Justifying their endorsement, the press announcement cites that, when compared with a control group who received only nutrition and exercise counseling, individuals who used AspireAssist in addition to such therapy lost 8.5% more of their body weight. However, the use of such an invasive technique comes at a cost: numerous side effects like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can occur, not to mention a long list of complications, including death, that can occur from the surgical placement of the gastric tube and the abdominal opening for the port valve. While the financial burden of such frequent trips to the doctor mandated by the use of AspireAssist is not mentioned in the article, even more disturbing is the lack of consideration of its potential psychological effects. This is an article put forth by an organization which connotes a sure sense of health and safety; it implies to anyone overweight that the removal of food after it has been consumed will effectively make one more ‘heathy.’ AspireAssist, in other words, is a form of purging, and its message rings clear everyone, regardless of their size.

We are psychologically driven to trust authorities. We are also psychologically driven to justify our actions and twist facts to match up with what we want the truth to be. To someone who has already begun to convince themselves that their purging behavior is normal, healthy, or necessary, an article like this only confirms that belief: “Vomiting at home is way less invasive version of this, so it must be okay.” It disturbs me that this logic is correct; it is the premise – that AspireAssist is a beneficial and healthy option for someone struggling with their weight – which is flawed. The whole idea behind this tube is that overweight individuals who are trying to lose weight are universally eating 30% more calories than needed. Isn’t that assumption much too sweeping a generalization? Are they at all concerned about malnourishment?

These questions remain unaddressed by this press announcement, and I think it’s because lines get blurred when it comes to obesity and eating disorders. In the media and mainstream health education, we learn about all the health risks of obesity, and we see pictures of overweight people eating super-sized McDonald’s meals. We also learn about individuals who struggle with eating disorders, and see a portrayal of a stick-thin woman looking in the mirror at her distorted perception of herself as ‘fat.’ I think these polarized images implicate the assumption that the overly-thin simply need to eat, and the overweight simply need to not. This is an inaccurate portrayal of both health and disordered eating which leads us to a faulty prognosis of how these individuals should proceed, rooted in a sense that we know what is best for them. By so doing, we are robbed from a compassion for individuals struggling with healthy eating, as well as the humility to recognize the situation is far from black-and-white. None would recommend a purge of 30% of caloric consumption to an individual with a normal or underweight BMI, out of concern for their health and well-being. Obesity and eating disorders need to be understood and addressed head-on. Ironically, it seems the efforts to lower the prevalence of obesity and eating disorders are at odds with each other, when in reality, both fight for the same cause. Body positivity and fitness are not enemies and I think it’s time we prioritize the health of all shapes and sizes. We need to stop separating empowerment into opposing camps of “#RealWomenHaveCurves” and “#MyWeightLossJourney.” Real women are all shapes and sizes, and they are all equally deserving of our respect. Healthy looks different for everyone, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve a painful weight loss tube protruding from my abdomen.