Archive for August 31, 2015

Caution: The Body Acceptance Movement is Flawed

By Christine Hanwick


“The body acceptance movement, despite its good intentions, is flawed.”

What do you think of this statement? Perhaps before you make a decision, you’ll let me debrief you on the thought process behind this statement.

In her article, “Body acceptance movement fundamentally flawed,” writer and theologian, Louise McEwan explains her stance that,

“Body acceptance has little to do with clothing size — it has everything to do with the condition of our interior life. If we obsess on our appearance to the exclusion of our inner transformation, we will never be comfortable in our own body.”

I have to tell you, I appreciate this view so much more than focusing on whether or not there is a woman deemed “thin” or “fat” by societies standards on the cover of a magazine (BTW, why is it we don’t ever use images of women who fit within that spectrum?).

While I agree that a variety of shapes and sizes on the covers of magazines and online help to create acceptance for all shapes and sizes — I don’t believe this is the answer to eradicate disordered eating — it doesn’t get to the root of the issue.

For example, if you have weeds in your yard — perhaps those beloved dandelions or thistles— if you really wanted to get rid of them (tangent: I personally would love a yard full of dandies) — you wouldn’t just pluck the head or thistle top and leave the stem, right? Instead, you’d dig them to the root to get rid of them for a more sustainable amount of time.

The same is true for body image. We can’t get rid of body image issues and disordered eating just by changing sizes and shapes on covers.  As history has shown us, there has always been an evolving “perfect” body image — and most likely, there always will be.

The only way to attain body acceptance then is through “true” body acceptance, which can be found through rigorous work on self-acceptance and self-compassion.

Self-acceptance comes to us in a variety of different ways, and we can find what it is by learning to listen to our inner selves. Some questions we can ask ourselves and meditate or journal about to dig deeper: Why am I unhappy with what I see in the mirror? What are the deeper pains that I am holding onto? What keeps me from loving myself (and others) just the way (they are) I am? What is it about myself that I love?

Self-compassion is extremely useful in creating more peace and acceptance within — it’s a beautiful practice that we could all benefit from. Interested? Check out these links: (Loving Kindness meditation)

Want to work towards eradicating disordered eating at the root? Let’s transform ourselves — from the inside out.



College and the Pressure of Perfection

By Tori Sundholm

My heart sank at my friend’s response, Oh, I used to think you had it all together. I had just told her about some of my insecurities and doubts I had being at Bethel University. Like so many of my conversations with Bethel girls confessing our struggles, we realized we weren’t alone in the end. Even after a staggering amount of these “tell-all” conversations, I sometimes still felt alone in my unhappy phases because everyone around me seemed like they were thriving and happy. They put on a façade and I finally learned I was doing the same.

About half way through my freshman year I realized this need to be perfect, especially from the girls around me. There were ground rules I quickly learned: A girl needs to be assertive, but not too aggressive. Beautiful, but not too obsessed with her appearances. Always brag about how much you eat, but make sure to have a perfectly toned body. Curl your hair for class and make sure you are in at least two clubs. These were the basics.

I even felt pressure through signals I received from Bethel’s administration. After all, I was a freshman at their amazing school. There were clubs to join, events to attend and friends to be made, how could I not be happy? There was certainly no time for feeling a little uneasy about the whole process. Colleges often overstimulate their students to make them too busy to think about any struggles or doubts. For some students, this works. For others, it has the exact opposite effect and can plunge them into darkness.

A recent New York Times article hit at the heart of the pressures of perfection and suicide on college campuses. Scelfo reported on the enormous amount of pressure college students face to join clubs, become star athletes, get outstanding grades, land the perfect internship and secure a marriage proposal all within the short span of 4 years. The article explained the pressures at Penn State and the infamous “Penn Face,” an apothegm long used by students to describe the practice of acting happy and self-assured even when sad or stressed. The article highlights one of Penn’s most surprising suicides, Madison Holleran. Holleran seemed like she had it all, but ended her life at age 19 during her freshman year. After Holleran’s death, a Penn student wrote in a blog: What the hell, girl?! I was supposed to be the one who went first! You had so much to live for! This student thought Holleran had “so much to live for” largely based on her social media accounts.

ESPN featured an article on Holleran, which focused on the staggering difference between her pristine social media accounts and her suicidal jump off a parking garage. Holleran appeared to be a happy and thriving freshman at Penn – good friends, great grades and a star runner on the track team – at least that’s what her Instagram account portrayed. Inside, Holleran was battling depression and the feeling of not matching up against others. According to ESPN, Holleran once asked another struggling friend at Penn, What are you going to say when you go home to all your friends? I feel like all my friends are having so much fun at school.

College is a time of questioning. Classes encourage deep thinking and self-analysis, which can lead to unanswered questions. As Scelfo explained, the existential question “Why am I here?” is usually followed by the equally confounding “How am I doing?” Many of today’s college students gage how they are doing based on social media. They base their success on how many likes they get, how cool and exciting their lives appear, their achievements and their body image. No matter how silly it is to base your life on someone else’s edited version of theirs, most people still do it.

One day I was talking with a group my friends about a classmate’s impeccable Instagram feed when my roommate suddenly proclaimed, I am proud to say I unfollowed her! This stunned me. Yet at the same time, I totally understood her statement. We all felt the pressure to be perfect and by our third year we were utterly exhausted from trying to achieve this perfection. My roommate was sick of comparing herself to a perfectly filtered feed of an unrealistic life and I was proud of her. But why is it so hard to “unfollow”? Why is it so hard not to compare?

One reason is due to the promotion of the perfect life through social media. Fashion and beauty blogs are enormously popular among college females. posts blogs titled, “How to Take the Perfect Instagram.” Where readers can learn what the best filters are and how to crop a picture to ensure the best photo. I understand the fun and light-heartedness of social media, but there is a point where it becomes an unhealthy game of portraying everything but reality. It sends the message of, “This is what life is supposed to be like” and when the game ends, no one can match up.

This attitude is not just between females in specific colleges, but appears in variety of circumstances for males and females in all colleges. It’s extremely unhealthy – I don’t have a clear cut way to change it. We can start by not pretending our lives are perfect. By admitting we have bad days and understanding an extra pound on the scale or one bad grade isn’t the end of the world. Instead, it’s a chance to learn how to love yourself in all stages and realize perfection isn’t the goal.


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Joyful Swimming

By Erin Maas.

Have you ever been embarrassed to go to the beach in a bathing suit?  I love swimmingPerhaps you talked yourself out of going until you lost a few pounds or found a day when you felt your body was looking its best.  I had many moments like this when I was a young adult.   I remember seeing pictures of celebrities splashed across covers of magazines that had big announcements about their unflattering swimsuit images.  If celebrities could be ripped apart in this manner, then so could I.  My fear of what others would think of my body kept me from the beach and pool for six years.

Finally when I had my first child, I re-experienced what it was like to look at the world with excitement and without inhibition related to how others perceived me.  I still remember pulling out my bathing suit, staring it down, and telling myself that no matter what, I was getting into that suit and going to the pool with my daughter.  I was so determined to make my daughter’s first experiences in the water a great one that it did not seem to register in my mind that perhaps my pregnancy weight was still hanging onto my body.  All that mattered was being able to take the opportunity to share a first experience. I got to be the one who showed her how to splash, how to blow bubbles underwater, how to float on her back, and how to jump off the side of the pool.  Today I get to be the proud mom swimming next to my daughter as she kicks her way across the deep-end of the pool and amazes onlookers.

If you have yet to take out your swimsuit this summer, take a minute to reflect on what is stopping you. My wish for you this summer is to feel like that child again as you walk on the beach or step onto the pool deck in your swimsuit.  Love every minute of the water splashing and cooling your body.  Let out a shriek as you submerge your head under the cold water.  Hear the voice of the little child inside you who loves to be in the water doing tricks and singing silly songs at the top of your lungs.  For me, nothing could be sweeter than hearing my daughter shout, “I get to go swimming with Mommy!” as she races to find her suit.


By Dana Rademacher Beauty in all

On social media, “challenges” are all the rage these days and just about every week, I stumble upon a new one that is gaining popularity. The latest to grab my attention was the #DontJudgeChallenge. For those who haven’t heard of it, the challenge included people posting videos of themselves to Vine, Twitter and Instagram with fake unibrows, drawn on acne, messy hair and glasses. Then, they would transition and show their “true selves”, what they thought defined beauty, which mostly included perfect hair and makeup.

This challenge, which aimed to be body positive and anti-body shaming, drew a lot of criticism due to its judgmental undertones. By the standards shown in most #DontJudge videos, they were essentially saying that people with glasses, unibrows or acne are not beautiful and instead of being uplifting and inspiring, they were demeaning and mocking. Beauty is absolutely personal and it blows my mind that a campaign whose goal was to eliminate body shaming would actually promote this exclusionary message.

Because of this challenge, a new hashtag was introduced by the critics to counter the #DontJudge videos to truly show that there is beauty in everyone, not just those without acne and great eyebrows. The #BeautyInAll hashtag went viral and did a much better job of showing the diversity of beauty our world has and did so without mocking anyone. This hashtag instead focused on loving ourselves, even with all our “flaws”.

Similar to this hashtag war, a beauty blogger, Em Ford recently posted a video entitled “YOU LOOK DISGUSTING” showing some of the genuinely hurtful comments people have made on her pictures and videos. Comments ranged from both judging her appearance without any makeup on to criticizing her for wearing makeup; essentially showing women can never “win” when it comes to beauty and will be criticized for almost anything. The most powerful part of video is the ending line, “You are beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Not even yourself.”

While I’m sure the #DontJudgeChallenge started with good intentions, it is important to recognize when a hashtag or challenge is yet again promoting standard ideals of beauty and is being bullying and exclusive. I think the important take away message from all of this is that there isn’t just one strict definition of beauty and that is exactly how it should be. Be proud of who you are and don’t be afraid to share your true self with others.

All you need to be is you. Your true self shines with more beauty than your eyes can even see.