Tag Archive for misconceptions

Supporting The Emily Program Foundation

Our Community Educator Shares her Experience with Our Work, and Why Your Support Matters.
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Caring is the first step to making a difference in our area of work!

Why I Care

Advocating for mental health and promoting positive body image has always been important to me. Before I even considered starting my year of service with the Foundation, I researched unrealistic beauty standards and their influences on how we see people, including ourselves. At work I talk about harmful expectations of our bodies nearly every day, and my growing understanding of the mind-body connection is that it’s interrelated. One affects the other for better or worse. I’ve known this fact for a long time, and now I’m educating others about eating disorders, a mental illness that directly impacts both.

Having learned so much as a Community Educator for the Foundation, I’ve been hyper-aware of how people around me talk about their bodies. I find it empowering when friends open up to me about their own experiences; one because they trust me, and two because sharing stories related to mental illness helps reduce stigma. Hearing stories from strangers elicits further recognition that as a society we have an unhealthy relationship with food and our bodies. One of these conversations particularly stands out:

While at a community event, a group of adolescents came up to talk with me. The oldest explained the difficulty of accepting her body’s shape. She told me she would skip meals and constantly exercise. She said her siblings teased her because she wasn’t as thin as them. She couldn’t have been older than 14.

Listening to her struggles evoked two emotions: sadness for what this smart, lovely young girl of color was going through, and gratitude that she chose to share that with me.

Now be honest, were you initially picturing a white girl? She was also wearing a hijab. Does that change your perception of eating disorders? I ask because oftentimes we overlook the fact that eating disorders affect anyone of any age, race, gender, socioeconomic background, and religion.

Eating disorders are prevalent, and they affect two things we live with every day: our minds and our bodies. Caring about mental health means encouraging self-care in others and supporting organizations such as The Emily Program Foundation that enable individuals to do so.

Why Your Support Matters

Half of all people know someone with an eating disorder.

-National Eating Disorder Association

The story I shared above is not an isolated experience. Reports from the National Eating Disorder Association show eating disorders affect at least 70 million individuals worldwide. Almost half of those people are American, including 200,000 Minnesotans. In a MN student survey, we learned that at least 11% of MN high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, and 52% of adolescent girls along with 23% of adolescent boys experience disordered eating in Minnesota. And eating disorders don’t just affect our children. The fastest growing segment of the population being diagnosed with eating disorders is middle-aged women, and 30% of men in the U.S. have an eating disorder. I could go on about the statistics of individuals being directly impacted by eating disorders, but above all, what summons your support is the fact that half of all people know someone experiencing disordered eating. It’s also important to remember that people suffering from eating disorders oftentimes cannot get better without the support of others. In other words, we are all in this together.

 

 

 

 

Written by Liz Parroquin

 

 

What’s Less Isn’t Always More

Eating disorders affect over 30 million Americans…200,000 of these are in the state of MN.

The Emily Program Foundation shares a number of statistics, like the one above, demonstrating the profound impact that eating disorders have on people. The Foundation has also shared the most common behavior that will lead to an eating disorder is dieting. 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day. There is nothing wrong with wanting to eat nutritionally or consume a healthy proportion. However, it turns dangerous, fatal at times, when this goal becomes a fixation to lose weight, feeding into a $40 billion dollar industry that tells people they are not enough. Articles like 50 Things Your Doctor Wishes You Knew About Losing Weight from Reader’s Digest neglects the fact that everyone is different, and weight is not always directly correlated with health.

This article perpetuates a negative view of being “overweight”, clearly emphasizing the number on a scale, rather than focusing on how a person can be healthy regardless of weight. Remember, dieting is the most common behavior to lead to an eating disorder, and one of the main focuses within the article is dieting. One slide actually claims dieting is more important than exercise, which ignores the necessity of a holistic approach to sustaining one’s health; especially when exercise will give you those feel-good endorphins, while dieting might lead to feeling crummy about yourself and your relationship with food.

The article shouldn’t have to focus on weight loss and maintenance to offer ways to be healthier. In fact, it mentions a number of beneficial habits to maintaining a healthy mind and body. For instance:

  • Eating routinely and not skipping meals for one big meal
  • Getting your thyroid checked (it’s important to get regular checkups as a precaution for more serious health problems regardless of weight)
  • Getting enough sleep and exercise
  • Remembering it’s about progress not perfection.

Only once did the article allude to unhealthy dieting leading to eating disorders, saying that deprivation leads to binging.

While the intention was most likely to promote good health, the article’s focus on weight in controlling one’s lifestyle to lose it isn’t necessarily helpful or healthy either, particularly for those who struggle with personal insecurities. For those of you reading, think about what it means to be healthy. Keep in mind that weight isn’t always indicative of healthy habits, and it especially does not reflect the beauty of an individual. What is more important than weight or dieting, is how you feel! So be sure to get lots of sleep, exercise, eat well, and surround yourself with supportive friends and articles.

The world is YOUR body

Poem by an anonymous Foundation volunteer

The world is your body poem

Children Body-Shaming Themselves

It can be a struggle growing up in a thin-obsessed world. Seldom are people immune from the effects that media images of unrealistic bodies show us, including children. Cartoon characters, toys, and people in picture books are some of the first images kids are exposed to, with very similar body types. What happens when a child realizes their body does not look like all of the bodies they see?

Body shaming or fat shaming: a term used to describe shaming someone for their body type. It can come in the form of inappropriate negative statements or attitudes, or discrimination against individuals who might be a particular size.

Body bashing has become normalized in our culture, and we are unaware we’re doing this. Kids are catching on. Sadly they are not only doing this to other kids, but to themselves. Ragen Chastain, a Health At Every Size Activist is aware and asks the question:

So how can we support kids who have internalized our cultures thin obsession and turned it in on themselves?

Hateful words are damaging, and hateful thoughts can be fatal. We, as adults have the power to combat the shaming thoughts and actions. But, with most of the media images and messages pointing to the thin-ideal, how do we do it? Ragen’s recommendation:

We can start by modeling it ourselves.

Read more about what to do when a kid is fat shaming themselves on Ragen’s blog.

 

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#foodforthought: Disordered Eating Disguised as Healthy

By an anonymous Foundation volunteer

Eating disorders and disordered eating come in all shapes, sizes, and guises. Individuals who say they’ve never known an individual with an eating disorder may not realize that they actually have. For example, bulimia goes undetected quite often because many who suffer from this disorder tend to have a normal weight. In addition, many individuals (in my experience) do not even realize that the behaviors of binge eating, may also be a full-blown eating disorder.

One type of disordered eating — not yet categorized as an eating disorder — that was coined by Dr. Steven Bratman in 1997 — and has recently become more prevalent — is orthorexia nervosa: “a fixation with healthy eating, to the point where it becomes a crippling compulsion, described as ‘a disease disguised as a virtue’¹.”

This disorder — like other eating disorders — is also greatly impacted by the media. Not only are we constantly bombarded by images of thin women and men — we are also bombarded by ads and marketing for “clean” eating. I just googled clean eating and the webpages and blogs seem to go on forever. Not only that, but “Instagram has 26 million posts with a clean eating hashtag.”

While there is nothing wrong with eating the types of foods that eating ‘clean’ promotes, it can become unhealthy when an individual starts to cut out food groups entirely. Heavily restricting and only eating a few types of foods, actually can create malnourishment- even though the misconception is they are eating healthy or ‘clean.’

For example, individuals who decide to completely cut out animal products may become iron deficient or anemic. There is nothing wrong with that lifestyle choice, but one has to be extremely mindful of their diet (and possibly take an iron supplement). Also, individuals who decide to cut out all grains may be missing out on insoluble fiber and a variety of B vitamins, and may need to find the nutrients in something else.

“One of the problems with orthorexia is that in some ways it is more socially acceptable than other disorders. Stand in any gym locker room and you can overhear a woman admit she allowed herself a piece of fruit that day, or a man bemoan messing up his macros.”

Another danger of orthorexia is the obsessing that happens in the mind when we say this food is “good” and this food is “bad”. It starts to distort thinking and can end up leading to other disordered eating or eating disorders.

Carrie Armstrong, a London-based author and TV personality said she became orthorexic that “left her unable to walk.” She became obsessed with what she put in her mouth, cutting out most foods. In the end before seeking help, her hair was falling out and her teeth were crumbling because of the lack of nutrients her body was getting.

What does healthy eating really mean?
How about a hashtag of #eatwell or #foodvariety

#foodforthought

¹Bratman, Steven.  Health Food Junkie.  Yoga Journal 1997; 
September/October:42-50.

Sources: 
www.independent.co.uk
http://europe.newsweek.com
www.heart.org