Archive for October 30, 2015

My Eating Disorder on Halloween

Bat-shaped chocolates, ghost-shaped marshmallows, bags of mixed candy bars, and lots of candy corn. Halloween candy or a set up for a binge? Maybe that’s not how everyone experiences Halloween, but for many people during the haunted season, the fear of a binge is one of the scariest parts. How normal is it to go home after a long night of door-to-door candy collecting and dump a sack full of candy on the living room floor, sorting and picking out which chocolate bar will be eaten first? It is culturally acceptable on Halloween night to eat as much candy as you want, often stopping only when feeling sick.

For many, this is just a normal part of Halloween.  But for many of us who struggle with disordered eating behaviors, this is an uncontrollable nightmare. Suddenly a feeling of anxiety extends through our chest, heart beating loudly, and we find ourselves out of control .  Whether they were binges that I planned ahead or those that I fell into, once the behavior started, it was virtually impossible to stop–at least, that’s how it felt.
Maybe that is the difference between having an eating disorder and engaging in culturally normal and acceptable practices–the control part. Kids eating large amounts of candy because it’s tradition, its fun to trade favorite candies among friends, and it tastes good is not necessarily a problem. It’s when mind and emotions become hyper-focused and obsessed with that candy before, during, and after collecting that it starts to be a concern.

Until I was about nine, Halloween was one of the best times of the year for me. I got to dress up in my favorite costume, a witch costume my momma made for me that I wore three years in a row. All my friends would meet at my house and we would begin an adventure to show off our disguises, scare each other, and collect the most and the best candy in the neighborhood! Halloween wasn’t about the food then, it was about the experience and the fun.

That all changed when I entered fifth grade. I became concerned about who I was going to hang out with, what I looked like, and how much food I ate compared to my peers. Halloween night was not yet about the food or the feelings, but it was about how I could be “good enough” to fit in among my peers. That feeling of inadequacy continued to grow until I discovered that food could fill that hole inside of me, at least temporarily. In my early teen years Halloween became solely about getting the tastiest, richest, and ”baddest” (i.e., best) candy. I couldn’t wait until my friends left my house so I could be alone with my eating disorder.

Now twelve years into recovery, my attitude about Halloween has changed again. I still love the “scariest day of the year” and all of the events and activities that surround it. I love carving pumpkins, creatively designing my own costume–this year my husband and I are going as Marty and Doc from Back to the Future–decorating my home and office with scary and ghoulish creatures, and of course playing haunted music through my garage door (the theme song from Halloween the movie).

The difference, though, is that I now focus on the parts of Halloween that I love, not that scare me. Awareness however, is key to my recovery. I have to be aware that I struggled with an eating disorder for a very long time and that my first reaction to stress is to go right back to comforting, but destructive behaviors. During the Halloween season, and all food-focused times of the year, I have to make sure I take care of myself. Whether that is being sure to feed my body three meals a day, moving my body in some fashion every day, or taking time to evaluate what I need throughout the day.

When I struggle with symptom use, I know that it has started long before I actually put food to mouth.  Self-awareness, self-care and taking action are the tools I use to stay on higher ground where I do not need to fill my not-good-enough feeling with food. As long as I am in line with my body and self mentally, physically, and spiritually, I can not only participate in Halloween without obsessing about the candy, but I can enjoy the activities that come along with it and the friends I spend it with.

-Written by an anonymous Foundation volunteer

How to Act “as if” You Love Your Body When You’re Not Yet at That Place

-Contributed by Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld, from her book, “Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder?”

For many women, loving your body is one of the hardest practices there is. In fact, most people who are working on their relationships with food and their bodies report that they are able to make changes in how they eat long before they are able to improve their body image. Coming to grips with your shape and size can seem monumental, and in a culture that seems predicated upon body hatred, this practice often feels like running into the wind.

Can you act as if you love your body, even if you’re not quite there? Try these tips to start:
• Refrain from attacking your body with verbal and visual assaults.
• Take care of your body, providing it with adequate nutrition, sleep, medical attention, and other self-care behaviors.
• Exercise for health and enjoyment, not for punishment or compensation.
• Wear clothing that fits, is comfortable, and flatters your physique.
• Participate in activities that you enjoy, without letting your size keep you sidelined or from enjoying these activities.
• Maintain a healthy sexual and romantic life (your body image isn’t an obstacle to your sexuality).
• Treat your body well, and if finances allow, go for massages, pedicures, and so on.
• Accept that while you might prefer to be thinner, taller, tanner, or more toned, this is your body now.

For now, you may choose to view body love as aspirational; don’t expect to get there immediately, but aim to get there someday. A few steps (like those above) can help you toward this goal. The first step (especially important) involves working to reduce or eliminate your body hatred. Do you consistently think body-negative thoughts? Do you behave in a way that disrespects your body? Many women I see in my practice speak to and treat themselves in a downright abusive fashion. Bringing your awareness to the these behaviors can be a powerful intervention.

-Thanks to Stacey Rosenfeld for sending us this content from your book, “Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder?”, for our blog.

Readers, do you have any of your own “loving your body” tips to add?

*For more on Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld’s book click here. To see her blog that inspired the book click here.

*Follow Stacey on Twitter @DrStaceyla. Check out her website at


Slim. Charged. Ready To Go.

-Submitted by Maegan Hunt

In our society we are bombarded by advertisements everywhere we go. They’re on buses, bathroom stalls, benches, and billboards. Because we are exposed to so many ads we hardly ever take the time to think about the messages these ads are sending us. I looked at an e-cig ad to show how harmful some of these messages may be.

This is an advertisement for Blu Electronic Cigarettes. The text on the bottom reads “Slim. Charged. Ready To Go.” This phrase is short and simple. The text relates to the product because e-cigs are skinny and once you charge them they are ready to be used.  However, the words are placed more closely to the woman in the ad then the product, so it seems like the phrase also aims to describe the woman above. Yes, she is skinny and this phrase gives the illusion she is also charged and ready to go sexually.

The woman from the ad has an ideal body. Her waist is very small and gives way to a little bit of curviness. Her stomach is completely flat and even complemented with a belly button ring. Her thighs provide the perfect example of the most recently-lauded look of “the thigh gap.” The way her hands cover the majority of her upper thighs make them look even slimmer. Not only is her shape flawless but also her skin. Her skin appears to have no pores or imperfections. The natural hair growth in that area is gone. Which causes problems, for when men go seeking for a woman they’ll never find a look alike to the model because women like that don’t exist.

The woman’s body is being used to promote the product, dehumanizing and objectifying her.
In this advertisement the woman’s human elements such as her face, eyes, and mouth are cut from the photo. Doing this eliminates the model as a woman and turns her stomach, and lower region into objects.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Would this advertisement have the same meaning if a man’s body was used instead?
  2. Would you consider this an e-cigarette ad if the words were taken out of the image?

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I Can Hear It in My Ghost: Anime and Body Image

-By Liz Fox, an Emily Program Foundation volunteer

As a fumbling, highly introverted teenager who constantly stayed behind her computer screen, I ambled to a number of interests that could easily be found under the geek umbrella. I participated in a close-knit roleplaying community on Livejournal, read a lot of Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, and often had daydreams that had some silly cutesy element to them à la Studio Ghibli. My imagination was vast, so I looked for slices of media that would potentially stimulate and satisfy my yearning for a different time and place. It was no surprise that, having watched various runs of Cartoon Network’s Toonami block on weekday afternoons, anime became part of this roster.

While I still sing the praises of so many series and binge-watch stuff on Hulu, it’s hard to ignore many of the implications in the medium’s character design. The majority of men and women are usually portrayed with exaggerated proportions and unrealistic beauty (even complete with sparkles sometimes!). The most obvious? Female figures have breasts that defy gravity and other laws of physics while “bishie” men – short for bishounen, a Japanese term translated as “beautiful boy” – bear an almost alien-like androgyny that embodies perfection. It’s a well-known aspect of anime that’s often joked about, sandwiched between badly translated dialogue and fan service.

But in an age where escapism through popular fantasy is growing, it’s not a stretch to think people are prone to looking up to fictional characters as role models that exemplify their perfect selves. Scoff if you’d like, but this makes the look of anime characters particularly detrimental when thoughts of appearance and self-worth turn inward.

Not unlike a lot of live-action media with a female protagonist, anime equates “beautiful” with “strong.” The gals who wield weapons, fend off demons, or have some role in saving the world are as flawless as can be, and perhaps unsurprisingly, they hold a high standard of beauty that’s impossible to attain. Characters like Misato Katsuragi (Neon Genesis Evangelion) and Major Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell) are overtly sexualized despite their character complexities, only to reinforce the unhealthy notion that you have to be sexy to exemplify strength and confidence.

The trend extends to males as well. “Pretty boys” with lean figures and impeccable skin are wholly fetishized in anime and manga for young girls and women, which also results in unrealistic beauty and body image standards for men. The yaoi niche, which zones in on male homosexual relationships as plot points, also turns the hetero community on its head by featuring voyeuristic (and mostly graphic) shots of male muscles and genitalia. Appealing to the hetero fan base, there are also titles featuring the almighty alphas with 24-packs and impenetrable biceps. Dragonball’s Goku might be a sillier example, but Inuyasha and Yusuke Urameshi from Yu Yu Hakusho posse bear “perfect” physical forms, complete with definition and an implied machoness.

For most adults, it’s seemingly easy to draw the line between fantasy and reality, especially since anime involves visually constructed characters instead of real-life actors, actresses, or models. However, a good chunk of the industry targets young girls and boys (normally between the ages of 6 and 16), which widens the potential for damage. Some titles meant for girls even feature episodes on crash dieting and fat-phobia, as seen in episode 4 of Sailor Moon when Usagi, a typically rail-thin teen of the magical girl genre, weighs herself and bursts into tears, followed by cries of “I’m fat! I’m fat!” Supplemented by the already lean physiques of all girls involved, this is one of the most triggering instances in the anime realm and paves the way for bad body-image thoughts to invade. In fact, similar examples are sometimes found among anime fans on thinspo, pro-ana, and pro-mia pages as encouragement to continue unhealthy dieting or ED behaviors.

There are other aspects of the anime world that deal with body image in a negative light, notably the fat-shaming that takes place at cosplay conventions. There’s even an app – featuring an attractive bishie male – shouting in Japanese to lose weight! But while these instances may be almost exclusive to this community, the solution is a familiar one: to refrain from promoting crash diets and increasing diversity among physical representations of male and female. This may seem like a pipe dream, given that anime often lives up to the “sex sells” concept and looks for potential in merchandising during the character design process, but we’re already seeing some modifications in the industry. The aforementioned Motoko Kusanagi has received a less-sexualized treatment in the Arise reboot, and many recent titles feature men and women with more realistic proportions due to changes in animation techniques (i.e. we are seeing fewer and fewer disproportionate characters that still retain the anime visual style without going overboard).

These are small but valuable victories, as the industry in question is less progressive than most. But as I crowd around my ASUS computer to savor a few episodes of Kids on the Slope, I can hope some titles and heroes will help instill confidence and – perhaps subconsciously – promote healthy self-image through their characterization and design.