Saturday, May 18, 2019

Scare Tactics

It seems people are finally starting to be more tolerant and understanding when it comes to weight fluctuations during puberty. It's refreshing to see some of the pressures young girls feel about their bodies being lifted and exciting to see more support of health over appearance. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case when it comes to menopause.

I'm actually pretty disgusted to see how people target older women when it comes to weight. Dietitians on social media use scare tactics to get attention. Buy my book, product, or program and you can avoid gaining weight! What a fucking scam. What a gross way to behave. How unfortunate that there are still people out there who are more concerned with people looking a certain way instead of offering them the freedom of self-compassion and self-trust. 

The problem is that some people are so grossly unaware of the messages they are sending, just completely oblivious to how damaging it is to try to scare people into believing that if they don't follow a certain plan, they will gain weight and that will be the worst thing ever. Many of these people haven't even gone through menopause, yet they think they can predict what will happen to YOU and believe that they hold the answers, your answers. What a load of crap. 

It gets really old seeing people constantly inflict their own fears and insecurities onto everyone else, all while pretending to hold the key to your happiness, but only if your happiness is entirely wrapped up in a fucking number on a scale. Hey, it's easy, just become obsessed with every meal and exercise three hours a day, and you, too, will be super happy

And, as if this isn't bad enough, I was horrified to see one of these types post a meme suggesting the cycle of restricting and binging is a lame ride. Can you imagine how anyone who is in the throes of this kind of cycle would feel seeing that, how dismissive it is to suggest that painful, deep struggles are a "lame ride"? Fuck that. Some people should really step out of the "health" industry and stop pretending they give a fuck about anything else but being seen and making money. 

Maybe this is a little harsh, but I want to get my point across. Don't buy into the bullshit other people spread. Nobody who uses scare tactics has your best interest at heart. Find healthcare workers and dietitians who treat you as an individual and with respect.

Don't be afraid of menopause, puberty, or other big life changes. Trust yourself and your own process. Menopause doesn't really cause weight gain. That's a myth. Hormones change as we age, and that can lead to a shift in fat distribution. This isn't saying a whole lot and means very little when it comes to actual weight. Instead of thinking about weight loss during times of potentially difficult transition, think, instead, about how to better nourish yourself. That's what's most important. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Let me Try to Unpack This Mess

Twitter is a horrible platform for debate. I'm not sure why I continued an argument months after it started when, more recently, someone jumped in an old thread to say a lot of what had already been said, but I did and only sort of regret it. I am not good in that kind of setting, except for an occasional well-put response here and there.

Since I already addressed the topic pretty fully here, I won't go into all the details again. My main concern is that people are still perpetuating the myth that mental illness is the result of some kind of weakness. It's not. This is a generalized stereotype and immediately excludes customized responses to individuals. The person who jumped in at last minute suggested that mental illness is a form of weakness several times. She also said a lot of other things I had a hard time digesting and later addressing on a platform that limits characters.

One humorous bit was when she publicly threatened me after several tweets about how people should be nicer. That actually made me laugh, but it just goes to show how ridiculous Twitter can be. I apologized for my part in what she perceived as me antagonizing her the following day, but I still want to make a few things clear.

Though it may not sound like it, I think this person and I agree on the big issues. We just differ on the details. For example, I think we can both agree that bullying in all forms is bad. My point is just that body shaming is more far-reaching. We also agree on topics around body image, and I actually missed some of her replies relating to that until the next day when I read through my notifications more thoroughly.

Right off the bat she was unkind. First she suggested I was fat and bullied skinny girls, then she claimed I'm emotional. It was pretty clear these were random digs, but it didn't help me feel like being civil to her. I did my best there, though. She was trying to get under my skin, nothing more. This was because I stated an opinion that countered hers. It's as simple as that.

For someone who jumped on a high horse while I swung my leg up and toppled over the other side of a small pony, it seemed strange that the person with whom I was debating insisted she was replying to a single comment I made on a separate page, but every reply was in response to someone else's comment. That means that, despite the fact that several other people were all tagged in her every response, she somehow convinced herself that she was replying only to me and my single tweet on a different page. It's OK. I've made mistakes on Twitter, too. Again, it's a bizarre platform for debate.

I also don't think she realized that someone else briefly jumped into the conversation, which might be why she suggested I cussed at her, which wasn't the case. At the very end, I said Jeez, Jesus, and Fuck in an effort to show general annoyance, but I never once cussed at her, just to be clear.

Things started off a little wonky. She claimed she's fat and "used to be beautiful," but in another tweet shortly after, she admitted she's a few pounds away from being overweight. See how those two statements don't quite go together after you've just claimed you're secure in your body?

Please understand that I get people can and should be comfortable at any weight, but this is a distorted view to see yourself and others as fat when you admit you're technically not. That's a problem. I don't blame her. She, like all of us, is a product of our society and the messed up messages that are held. Fortunately, pretty much everyone in the thread who responded previously agreed that the initial person in question is not fat. I believe she was the only one who disagreed there. Anyone on Twitter is entitled to her opinion, but it's hard to see the point after such a contradiction.

Early on, she suggested that I blame her and people like her who bully others for my own and other people's eating disorders. Saying bullying contributes to the development of eating disorders isn't placing blame anywhere; it's merely stating what statistics show. Bullying contributes to a LOT of other negative outcomes, too, but I'm not suggesting it's the sole cause of depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, suicidal ideation, or any other issues it has been linked to. That doesn't mean I'm blaming anyone. Obviously, bullying isn't going anywhere. If anything, it's just getting worse, despite our first lady's "Be Best" efforts, or lack thereof. That said, I have every right to express my distaste when body shaming or any other kind of bullying becomes a main theme on a TV show.

I wasn't happy that she brought up her son and his metabolism. This was likely in an effort to counter something I said suggesting that overweight people are not lazy and often don't eat too much. How do you determine what "too much" is for someone else? That's a myth and contributes to a really dangerous and harmful stigma about anyone who's overweight. Look at insulin sensitivity, hormones, medications, underlying medical conditions, physical limitations, personal choice, certain fertility treatments, metabolism, other mental illnesses like depression, and other eating disorders, and you will see it's much, much more complicated than that. All of these can contribute to weight gain.

It's possible but unlikely that the majority of overweight individuals eat and exercise a certain way, but when you're discussing someone who's not fat to begin with, none of this is even relevant, except that it perpetuates falsehoods embedded in our culture. When you make assumptions about others based on weight, you promote stereotypes, in this case, very negative ones about laziness and gluttony.

Below are a few statements of hers I want to address more fully.

"Bullying doesn't cause a disorder." I never said it did. I said it can (and often does) contribute to the development of one. In my case, it certainly did, and statistics show it's a major factor for a lot of people. Plus, it reinforces unhealthy cultural norms when you call people who aren't overweight fat or when you use fat as a derogatory term.

"If you had a strong healthy mind, w/good role models, then bullying wouldn't give you a disorder." 




Wait, didn't you just say bullying doesn't cause a disorder, but now, because it fits you new narrative and you want to take a jab at me, you're suggesting it does but only in people with weak minds?

Actually, this is all kinds of wrong. There's a recent movement to consider mental illness a medical condition. This isn't likely to occur simply because the brain is far too complex an organ to find the exact pathology or, more likely, pathologies that lead to a particular mental illness. That is to say, there is no actual biomarker for mental illness, but brain circuits, thought patterns, behavior, and, yes, genetics are all strongly connected. All of this just supports the idea that mental illness is not due to a lack of mental toughness. Ideas suggesting it is are outdated and unsubstantiated.

In terms of eating disorders, they are complex illnesses. No one thing causes them. I stand by my original statements suggesting bullying can and often does contribute to the development of an eating disorder. I don't know how much more clear I can be in that. And, body shaming, in particular, has an effect on those witnessing it.

Imagine if that were the case, though. Imagine what those kinds of comments would do to a person struggling. I don't take Twitter too seriously. It invites some of the ugliest comments, but suppose I were as weak and fragile as she suggests. What was the end game with those kinds of comments?

Unfortunately, I'm used to trolls who drop in the online eating disorder communities and say these kinds of things and worse, much, much worse. People have told us we should kill ourselves and have mocked those of us going through grief and loss. She would have to do a lot worse to rattle me.

It's the inaccuracies that bother me, in this case, the reinforcement of warped ideas when it comes to weight, eating disorders, and recovery, which she claims (and is also incorrect in saying) is impossible. Statistics show that 60% of those who seek treatment recover. That's a big improvement from when I was first diagnosed when only about 30% recovered. It shows that with improved treatment, early detection, and removing the stigma around mental illness, more people are in a position to recover. True 40% only partially recover or don't make any improvement, but it's completely inaccurate to suggest that recovery isn't possible. That's another outdated and incorrect myth people, unfortunately, perpetuate.

"I know what genetics is little girl." That may be, but it didn't seem so when she then said that her mother was anorexic but she wasn't, which proves nothing about general statistics. Too often, people assume personal experience defines worldwide norms. It doesn't. Her response related to one of my tweets mentioning a genetic component in eating disorders. Her reply was:

"genetic meaning ur mother or father made comments. Maybe ur sister developed an eating disorder so you were exposed and more likely to have one. It's not that u were born to have an eating disorder. It's how you deal with it mentally and logically w/rational thought or not."

Obviously, this quite clearly proves my point that she didn't fully take in what I was saying, but it goes much further because this individual is not alone in thinking these kinds of backward thoughts about mental illness. Those who develop an eating disorder are born with a predisposition. Avoiding one has nothing to do with being mentally tough. If simple mental toughness and logical thought were the keys to recovery, I can guarantee more people would fully recover, and the path there wouldn't be so difficult.

The insult was because I pointed out that she wasn't understanding what I wrote, which she obviously didn't. I'm sure she thinks she schooled me, but the reality is that she made herself look bad by reinforcing incorrect ideas and stereotypes, misunderstanding basic eating disorder terminology, and spreading misconceptions about very serious illnesses.

I'll own the fact that I have a little OCD going on. She mentioned that in response to my 25 tweets addressing the nearly 60 she posted. Pot-kettle-black much? But I don't fault her for tweeting that much. Again, Twitter is a weird platform, so one simple thought can take multiple tweets to complete. The point is that I'm not going to be mean about someone trying to get a point across. Weirdly, she also claimed I probably deleted some of my tweets, but I definitely did not and have a few screenshots of everything, just to be safe.

The last issue I want to clear up has to to with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). In many cases, BDD can develop in anorexic individuals, but not all anorexic individuals experience it. Also, not all people with BDD develop anorexia. I said that it was a symptom, but that's not be completely accurate. I'll own that. Still, if you look at those who are not anorexic but suffered starvation through some outside means, some of them developed BDD the more they were deprived. Technically, though, she's right in saying that it's a separate disorder, however, she's incorrect when she suggests that BDD causes anorexia. BDD can affect the way a person sees her face, eyebrows, muscles, or any other body part. It's not always specifically weight related. Again, there is no one single cause of an eating disorder, so in the same way bullying can contribute to the development of one, so can BDD or other disorders.

As you can see, this would have been difficult to dump out in a series of tweets, but hopefully I cleared up a few issues.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Here's Something I Never Thought I Would Write About

The other day, a comedian posted the following:

Ladies screaming “my body, my choice!” but still circumcising their sons.

This rubbed a lot of people the wrong way for a lot of reasons. Unfortunately, as is often the case with Twitter, things got a little bit weird and complicated when people responded.

For starters, saying "ladies screaming" is a really derogatory way to portray women who are upset about an issue. You might as well call them emotional or suggest they smile more. Comments like this conjure up images of the hysterical women of the past, the ones that needed to be put in their place. Women speaking up has often been associated with madness. Think about what happened to women during the witch trials. Let's not go back there. Suggesting women tone it down comes off as sexist and condescending.

It's also a bad comparison. Most people in the Twitter debate agreed that both issues should be addressed, however, a lot of us think this isn't the way to go about it.

Another issue with this statement is that it implies that a large group of hypocritical women are the ones making decisions about circumcising babies. Statistically, there has been an increase in the number of young boys and men opting for the procedure themselves and a decrease in the number of neonatal procedures. In other words, we're moving in the right direction when it comes to men eventually being able to choose for themselves whether or not they want this procedure done, whereas the restrictive abortion bills and laws are throwing women's rights backward.

Specifically, the Georgia "heartbeat bill" bans abortion when the fetus has a detectable heartbeat, but it goes one step further by declaring the fetus a "natural person," which is ridiculous from many standpoints, including a biological one. The fetus technically doesn't achieve "personhood" biologically until later, after myelination has occurred in the brain. This process starts in the spinal cord at about 11 weeks and progresses to the brain later. Until it occurs in the brain (about the second and into the third trimester) it's a fetus. It can't feel, though, like an amoeba, it will move away from outside stimuli, and it can't think or survive on its own. Other states have already passed some of these kinds of bills into law, which is scary and the reason why women are speaking out. 

It's true that some people are exaggerating what this and other bills like it mean, but the wording is intentionally vague and tricky. For example, the Georgia bill seems to say that women who have an abortion will be prosecuted, but right now, it's the doctors performing any in utero abortions who will be. But! And this is a big but, if a woman miscarries, she could be criminally investigated to see if anyone assisted her in performing an abortion. So while women might not be locked up for life for having a miscarriage, they are still looked at as criminals unless they can prove what happened wasn't intentional and that there was no assistance. Think about how backward this is. 

The real fear and why women have every right to be concerned is that these bills and new laws are one step closer to moving the debate about Roe v. Wade to the Supreme Court. Many abortion opponents seem confident that Roe will be revisited and eventually overturned. So, hell yeah, let's scream to prevent this possibility from getting that far. 

Getting back on topic, the main difference between the circumcision debate and women being shocked and upset about the new restrictive abortion laws and bills being put forth in places like Georgia and Ohio is that parents have the right to choose or not choose to circumcise their child. Obviously, the child isn't able to give consent, just like he's not able to give consent about vaccines, what he wears, or what food goes into his mouth. I understand many people would like there to be laws banning circumcision or banning it except in cases in which it's medically needed, for example, when the foreskin too tight, but the choice is in the hands of parents right now. In pretty much any US state, one parent can make a choice to have the child circumcised. If the other parent is against it, all he or she needs to do if file an injunction.

It's possible we need new laws around circumcision, but the way to get there isn't for a man to kick women out of the spotlight and complain about her screeching. I mean, really, Fuck that bullshit.

I'm not sure if this will make my point more clear, but it is possible to support two separate issues and not want them intertwined, sort of like when you have a campaign going to save the endangered whales and someone blurts out, "You keep talking about the whales, BUT WHAT ABOUT X?" Right, both need attention, but I'm allowed to focus on one at a time and not put down the people who are concerned about one versus the other.




Thursday, May 9, 2019

Looking Back

I ended up with some kind of flu after the race this weekend. Actually, that timeline isn't accurate. I see now that something was probably festering for a while, and the race taxed my system enough to allow whatever I was fighting leading up to Saturday to manifest days after the 5K. In other words, I was not 100 percent going into the race. It's easy and I'm quick to think a lack of motivation is a mental issue, but it's often some combination of physical, emotional, and mental. In this case, I think quite a lot of it was physical. That doesn't change what I need to work on in races and in training, but testing myself will have to wait until I can first jog again and then pick up the pace a little. Right now, my lesson is rest.

***
In an unrelated event, someone sent me an email with a screenshot containing dialogue from a forum I stopped frequenting long ago. Actually, I was banned when the moderator lied about me, taking some of my personal information and twisting it all over the place, and didn't want me there to defend myself. Seems like a strange move to ban someone who hasn't violated any terms of service, but cowards will hide in whatever hole or hovel they can find.

What's funny is that I'm still occupying space in her messed up head even after all these years have passed. I need to give myself the same advice I just gave someone else. When people lie about you, trust that everyone else knows who's fibbing. This I believe 100 percent. It's an uncomfortable position to be in, but I am convinced that anyone who knows me knows who I am, and chances are, especially in this case, those who know her also know her true colors.

I'm not concerned. I bring it up because it's a good reminder that liars typically are haunted and have to constantly try to push their narrative even many, many years later. And their story usually changes. First I was the poor victim of continual abuse by someone, then I was the great big manipulator who orchestrated everything (for what reason??), now it's something vague, no real details, of course. My story has always remained the same, and I'm not afraid of stating it publicly, again. I don't need to hide it in some random forum.

I had a personal issue that included a few chaotic incidents. I shared this confidentially with someone in the forum who shared it with others without my consent. God knows what she said, but I honestly think she meant well. At one point, I left the forum. The moderator then, behind my back, exaggerated and misrepresented what I had said to the one person in whom I confided and plastered her version of the information in the forum for all to see. Friends let me know. I came back to the forum but was almost immediately banned. There was some pushback, so she changed her story, implying I made the whole thing up and suggested I falsified police reports. Then she suggested I deserved it or started it. And she's still trying to claim I did this for attention or something ridiculous. Anyone who knows me knows I'm pretty much the opposite of an attention seeker. So in her own words, fuck 'em. Oh, and welcome to 2019.


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Stigma



Stigma hurts lives and stigma kills.

Weight stigma.
Mental health stigma.
Racial stigma.
Trans stigma.
Queer stigma.
HIV stigma.
Disability stigma.
Addiction stigma.


Do your work to learn your biases.
Then do your work to unlearn them.


How Stigma Harms by Lize Brittin

In May of 2019, Amber Nicole was attacked and beaten badly outside of a bar in Denver, Colorado. Her jaw was broken in several places, and she suffered nerve damage and partial paralysis on one side of her face.

Her crime? Amber Nicole identifies as transgender.

Nobody watching her being beaten that night came to her aid. Her friend was eventually able to get her into their car and to the hospital, but she has been seriously injured and will likely carry the emotional scars of the attack with her for a lifetime.

This is an extreme case of an individual enactment of stigma, a criminal attack against someone seen as "lesser than" or flawed. Stigma doesn’t always lead to hate crimes and violence. Offenses against victims can be more subtle: dirty looks, rude comments, general discrimination, taunting, or neglect. In certain kinds of situations, "courtesy stigma" can occur, wherein those close to the one being judged are also stigmatized. This can lead to isolation of both those being labeled and their friends and family members. In short, stigma affects everyone, from those who hold it to those who experience it to those who witness it.

Stigma can be a powerful weapon that negatively affects the self-esteem of both those who experience it and those who see it occur. Self-labeling and what we tell ourselves about who we are contribute either positively or negatively to our sense of self. We can have a positive self-narrative or one that tears down our self-esteem. Often, we internalize the negative comments or stereotypes that others specifically heap on us or that we know prevail in society at large, and wind up engaging in pessimistic self-dialogue. This can lead to feelings of shame, a fear of reaching out when in need, and a reluctance to defend oneself and others.

One in five Americans deals in some way with mental-health conditions. Stigma is primarily based on sweeping generalizations and usually incorrect assumptions. Flawed ideas related to mental health can be especially unfavorable, and often lead to prejudice and marginalization. We often don’t see how quickly poor opinions of others can lead to the abuse of human rights. We criminalize addicts and the mentally ill and treat those who suffer as if what they experience comes down to a simple choice, forgetting that many factors contribute to the development of mental-health issues. A genetic component or predisposition, environmental factors, and possible underlying medical conditions can create the perfect storm when it comes to the development of mental illness, addiction or both. Sadly, the same mistreatment often occurs in regard to those who are simply "different."

In the realm of eating disorders, those who suffer are stigmatized in two ways, the physical and the mental. They also deal with self-stigma and body-image problems. Many who have life-threatening illnesses don’t perceive themselves accurately, and feel that they aren’t sick enough to seek treatment or insist they don’t deserve help. Their feelings of insecurity and self-loathing can run so deep that they neglect the medical help they so desperately need and deserve.

Therapy provides those in need with the tools to deal with stigma and its far-reaching effects. Therapists are in a position to teach those who are affected by injustice how to rise above any put-downs and bullying. As Rebecca Lombardo says, it is essential to keep talking mental health. This is the only way we can begin to address the harm that mental-health stigma or stigma in general causes. Mental illness is not weakness of any kind.

Individuals take a great risk when they delay or deny themselves treatment as a result of the negative views associated with mental health issues. The side effect of refusing help can lead to a deterioration of physical and mental health, poor self-image, feelings of isolation, and even suicide. In other words, when a person who’s struggling doesn’t reach out, it’s a potentially dangerous, but all too easy, form of inaction.

What is needed are more safe environments in which people who are struggling feel supported enough to open up about their situations. Sharing relieves some of the burden of living with mental illness and reduces the shame around struggling. There is no shame in our struggles. All humans have issues of some kind. Removing stigma entirely might be impossible, but we can create more and more welcoming pockets of shelter from the abuse of others.

In order to create healing around deep-rooted biases, it’s up to all of us to take a look at the beliefs we have and learn how to become more tolerant and open-minded toward both others and ourselves. Dominant beliefs in society need not rule how we view the world. It’s time for us to learn new ways of seeing each other. We don’t have to buy into the stigmas others create and project. Mental-health treatment doesn’t have to be about attaching labels to everyone. Who we are goes deeper than that, and we all need to recognize that we are not our illnesses. We are more than our disorders, and we should never, ever be oppressed or mistreated for showing vulnerability.



Sunday, May 5, 2019

Race?

Technically, I ran a 5K race on Saturday. It didn't go very well, but I'm working on making the best of it. There were a few weeks in which I was feeling good while running back in March, but somewhere along my journey, I stumbled left into "meh" territory. I have felt flat, overly nervous, mentally fatigued, and disappointed the last month or so. In many ways, I've managed to move forward, but I feel like I'm stuck in a hole filled with thick mud. There's also a strange sadness in my life that comes in waves, though I can't remember the last time I cried, possibly back in February when I fell and tore my bicep, but that was more crying out than actual crying.

As for the race, my stomach wasn't feeling great on the warm up. Not even 100 meters into it, I almost quit, but then I reminded myself how many years I endured horrible cramps with the adenomyosis and figured I could hang on for 25 minutes, give or take.

I didn't realize that the race would take place on sidewalks, not the road. This was difficult for several reasons, the many 90-degree turns being one of them. My feet with all their nerve issues did not like that one bit, but the reality of the situation was that my stomach and lack of oomph were what held me back most. I couldn't find another gear for the life of me, so I plodded along. A 5K can feel so long or so short depending on how you're feeling. This one felt long, very long.

The few hills were a welcome sight on the course, as were the ducks and the pretty scenery in general. The sights kept my mind off my discomfort, and hills, well, I just like them. Everyone was very nice, especially the young lady who breezed past me toward the end. The guy whom I passed and who finished on my heels, literally, he stepped on my heel at the finish line, seemed nice, too. Everyone was very encouraging and positive, but their good vibes weren't enough to get me to dig as deep as I wanted to.

I finished, though, and ended up fourth. It looks like I won the masters division, which is funny, because when the young lady passed me toward the end, I immediately thought, "I'm fucking old." I'm embarrassed about my time, 23:27, but it was a tough race for a lot of reasons. In a lot of ways, I was simply trying to overcome some fears, but there's always a part of me that wants to do well. I guess I have to start somewhere, and after the last surgery I had on my foot, this will have to do. There's no doubt that I need to figure out a few things to make my next effort go more smoothly.

My stomach still isn't feeling great, and I'm sore, but I'm still on my feet. For that, I'm very grateful. I most grateful for the people in my life who support me, though. I've gotten a lot of help with reducing my chronic pain and increasing my mobility and strength. Baby steps. I'm also getting a lot of suggestions to go easy on myself. That's a tough one, but I'm working on it. I have to look at the positives and accept where I am without getting too down about it. I'm healthier than I was a few months ago, more physically sound, so that's an improvement. Now to translate that into something more exciting than mediocre, and I mean more my attitude in the race than the outcome.


Friday, April 26, 2019

NCAR Revisited

It has been forever since I timed any of my usual runs. I purposely stayed away from NCAR road, mostly because I've been terrified to see where I am fitness wise, and the hill looks daunting. Today, I knew it would be better for me to avoid it. I'm on the tired side, wasn't committed to a hard effort, and kept thinking about other options. Somehow, I managed to run the timed segment from the library on Table Mesa to the NCAR parking lot a few seconds faster than last year, even though I felt like I was struggling more on all levels and considered stopping several times. My final time was around or just under 20:50.

I'm not sure how I feel about it. I should be happy I'm running at all, and I am. I just wish I could dig a little deeper. That was a tough one for me, but I'm hoping I conquered a few demons and can improve from here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Once More, With Feeling


One thing to remember is that not all professional athletes have all the answers. In fact, nobody has all the answers, especially answers that relate to you. I'm not going to single anyone out here, mostly and unfortunately because I've read quite a few similar derogatory takes on eating disorders in the running community. I'm just looking to make a few points that I've probably already made in previous posts. What I would love to see is a shift in how people view eating disorders, a shift away from the thinking that all you need is to be mentally strong to overcome or avoid them and toward the understanding that these are complex illnesses. People are either born with a predisposition to developing them or they're not, and those who are not generally have a difficult time understanding the illness itself and its possible treatments.

What's most upsetting to see is anger misdirected at strangers struggling with a potentially life-threatening illness. From my experience (and I get that one's own experiences should never be used to justify the way things are in general, but here I go anyway) anger at someone suffering usually comes from those who have a distorted image of who they actually are. In other words, those who criticize are often struggling themselves, if not with some kind of actual disorder, mentally or emotionally. Concern for another rarely comes in the form of harsh public criticisms. When it does, you can usually trace it back to something deeper in the person speaking out.

It's becoming more popular for runners to speak out about their struggles with eating disorders. This is a good thing. Altra did a beautiful job with The Weight of Mountains as the company profiled three runners who opened up about their eating disorders. It's not that those who haven't had an eating disorder shouldn't discuss the topic or aren't at risk; it's more that those who haven't might want to be more careful about how they approach the subject. Those suffering from any mental illness need to have a safe environment in which to open up, and taking an arrogant tone with them is not constructive.

I've already addressed the Strong Not Skinny hashtag and why I think it's misleading. Now, I'm seeing patronizing comments and posts about those who struggle with food. When you speak about those who suffer from mental illness in condescending terms, it seems odd that anyone would then question why more people don't open up about their struggles. As a community, we need to be more compassionate and understanding when it comes to those who are going through adversity.

One thing I want to make very clear is that nobody outright chooses to get an eating disorder. Someone can choose to engage in certain behaviors, but an eating disorder develops because of many factors. There are genetic and environmental influences at play. Life experience can contribute to the development of an illness. The onset of the illness has more to do with an effort to self-regulate than any outside goals, though weight loss for any reason can be a trigger itself. However, having a life-threatening disorder is not a way to cheat or cut corners in life or in running. If anything, having one makes everything more difficult. The emotional, physical, and mental strain is tremendous. I have also addressed this previously.

Rachael Steil has done a good job of addressing the fact that eating disorders are not a choice. She reminds us here that these are psychiatric illnesses and that those who choose to address the topic need to select their words carefully. Putting anyone down for the struggles they endure is not helpful.

Along the same lines as eating disorders not being a choice and recovery not coming down to willpower, threats of injury, illness, and even death don't usually work to motivate someone into eating more or differently. Try telling a smoker about lung cancer and see the person's response. Anyone who believes that people make a choice to become anorexic in order to achieve athletic success and should just eat more and train differently to overcome it when it spirals out of control isn't someone who fully understands eating disorders. Great healing needs to occur before someone in the throes of an illness can begin to think about change.

We are not mentally or emotionally weak. We have to be strong in order to survive the hell that is an eating disorder. Many people can't even face us and the severity of what we endure. Having an illness doesn't mean we are lesser beings or not as strong. Our brains are wired differently. You can't compare a person who has a healthy relationship to food to one who doesn't. Just like I can't tell an alcoholic to stop drinking when I know nothing about what caused his addiction, you can't tell us to just eat healthy and get over it without knowing anything about our individual stories and the root issues that need to be addressed before healing and then recovery can occur.

More than anything, I'm really angry that people choose to speak in such condescending ways about those who struggle. Carelessness when it comes to addressing these kinds of illnesses can lead to misunderstandings about both the causes and the treatment of eating disorders. It's hard enough to overcome the stigma of mental illness; we don't need added negativity about what it means to have a disorder. It's great, really wonderful if your genetic makeup, life experiences, and choices allowed you to sidestep an eating disorder. Be grateful, but don't go on to belittle those who had a different life experience.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Please Leave The Building, Elvis

I foolishly got into a Twitter conversation dealing with a reality TV personality, body shaming, and bullying. Naturally, it went about as well as sipping a sandwich through a straw. It was a mistake to get involved for many reasons. One of these is that I now feel compelled to write about it, which also means that I'm about to admit that I actually watched the show.

The thing about reality TV is that it's not. Shows are partly scripted and often staged with scenes being reshot with "advice" from the producers. In one case, a reality show misled viewers by filming a scene that was supposed to be taking place in another country on a soundstage in LA. Unfortunately, many people take these shows at face value and make all kinds of assumptions about individuals in the cast, as if a glimpse at a minuscule section of altered reality defines who these people are. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

In all my exchanges online about one reality show incident in particular, Vanderpump Rules, I've made it very clear that my beef is with the network and producers, not individual cast members.These shows are designed to create drama, a good guy vs. bad guy scenario, so that viewers react. Yes, the events presented are only very loosely based in reality or, at minimum, exaggerated, but the messages sent are still real. This seems to be a difficult concept for people to understand, and, in this case, the five male and one female producers are to blame, not those who choose to be filmed.

As for the details, the story goes like this:

On the show, most cast members hurl insults at each other at various times. It has been a theme since the program started. Most have also apologized at one time or another. Some continue the same behaviors on camera while others appear to have changed. One young man likes to use body shaming as a way to vent his frustrations or sometimes just to act the jerk, and he does it to more than one person, though he has a main target.

To some people, all of this seems trivial, just one more type of insult no different than calling someone an idiot, but the producers have continually focused on this one female cast member receiving the brunt of these kinds of comments. To sum up, it's not just one individual on the show making comments about her weight, and it's not an isolated incident with the young man mentioned. The show addressed fat shaming about a year ago when a different character made some rude comments to this same lady. Everything seemed fine after awareness was raised and apologies were made, but dead horses apparently invite more beating.

For the record, the young lady at the center of all of this isn't fat and never has been. Her body changed, and people on the show (and now on social media) felt the need to comment. Oddly, the bodies of a lot of cast members have changed over the years, yet nobody is shoving the F word in their faces, not just because none of them are fat, either. This is a story line, one that should be ended or resolved. Instead, those involved in the show just keep dragging it out and sending out more and more damaging ideas about body size.

As embarrassed as I am to admit that I watched the show, raising awareness about the warped beauty standards ingrained in our society is part of my cause. The things said on the show are exactly the kinds of things that triggered my near deadly eating disorder, so I'm not ashamed to stand up for more responsible language relating to body image on TV (not that this will change anything). Plus, there have been enough actual studies (not merely surveys) showing that fat shaming increases the chances of depression, eating disorders, suicide, and obesity, and fat shaming simply doesn't work. And, a recent study showed that even observing body shaming causes much of the same in viewers. If anything, body shaming has the potential to make things worse in both the one targeted and those watching, especially when it comes to over eating. Science aside, it's just cruel to take jabs at people for their weight, and that includes comments about anorexics, too.

When you see the absurd lengths some of the individuals go to in order to look a certain way on reality TV shows, it's no wonder why eating disorders in the general population are on the rise, there's an increase in dangerous and unnecessary surgical procedures, and people are more and more critical of both themselves and others. Shows like these encourage comparisons and discourage uniqueness.

It should be obvious that I don't support bullying in any form. That said, body shaming has further reaching ramifications than a generic or even other kinds of direct insults. I'm not suggesting that the individual being insulted isn't affected in the latter cases, though. This is another concept people seem to have trouble with, that there's a difference between making a comment about the way someone is acting or even how someone is dressed and judging someone for their weight. There's no disputing that insults have the potential to hurt the person being targeted. Body shaming goes one step further when it's done publicly, because it sends a message about beauty, worth, and weight stigma, an unhealthy and potentially dangerous one.

One of the more bizarre comments I witnessed online relating to all of this was one suggesting anyone who's happy with her body is faking it if she feels hurt when someone calls her fat. This I don't understand. It would be like someone saying those who have a normal IQ really aren't happy with themselves if they react at all when someone continually calls them stupid.

Can I put a period on this now?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Et Tu, Bon Appetit?

It used to be that gourmet food magazines were a great way to escape the stresses of everyday life. With a few flips of the pages, you could vicariously travel to Paris, Rome, Kyoto, New Orleans, or Copenhagen and learn about the food, the history, and the culture of these great cities. Talk of calories was avoided, and the true passion around food and cooking shone.

And then, without warning, bread became taboo, a "cheat" food, and food magazines started buying into the myths embedded in diet culture. These once interesting publications started interviewing people in the fashion and entertainment industry so everyone could see how and what they eat in a day: plain vegetables and protein with a rare splurge of a few potato chips if they earned it. And the stomachs of readers everywhere who used to enjoy beautiful presentations, elegant recipes, and fine dining in general turned.

It's bad enough that cooking magazines now promote warped ideas around health and diet, the kind of junk one finds in fashion magazines designed to take advantage of people's insecurities around beauty, but it's particularly appalling when coaches, nutritionists, or anyone acting as such does. For example, a nutritionist who uses social media to post links to "articles" on how to have thinner thighs and lose belly fat is probably more concerned with getting attention than doing what's right. It's clear that there are many people who are struggling or have unhealthy beliefs around diet that still insist on dictating what others should do. They don't care that joking or silly comments about diet and body can be harmful as long as they get a few extra likes or reposts.

I understand that many people want to lose weight, but our society's constant obsession with weight loss and the perfect body is unhealthy. It's tiresome to see just how many people buy into and then promote this idea that losing weight is the answer to all your problems. It's so ingrained in our culture that many people don't even realize just how harmful what they promote can be, but anyone in a position of calling him or herself any kind of coach, mentor, or provider should be more aware.

I always come back to how deadly eating disorders are, so if you are actively encouraging individuals who are already at a healthy weight to lose, lose, lose! you are a big part of the problem. Consider your audience and ask yourself if what you're suggesting could be potentially triggering. It takes so little effort to reword a comment or avoid posting a link in order to do right by those who are more vulnerable. I'm not saying you have to completely censor yourself; I'm just saying think about the messages you're putting out there.