Archive for the ‘Self-image’ Category

Calling all Feminists: Subscribe to Playboy!

April 6, 2012

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I am a loyal subscriber and fan of Playboy magazine.

Before you write off me and this blog entirely, just hear me out. I know many would argue this magazine is a media vehicle which idealizes and exploits women in the same way I speak out against in this very blog. That the message it sends to men and women about what a real woman should look like and how she wants to be viewed is contradictory to the actual diverse population of women in society. This is probably true to an extent. But let me explain how it came to be that I decided Playboy magazine is perhaps one of the best representations of “real” women around when it comes to media publications.

I have always looked at Playboy as a somewhat trashy men’s magazine and paid it no mind. Having the privilege of seeing a naked female body every day (my own), I saw no need to ever purchase or look at said magazine. Then, a few months ago, a silly disagreement and my stubbornness lead me to purchase my first copy of Playboy. The media was in a frenzy over the Lindsay Lohan issue, apparently a top seller. My fiancée and I happened to spot this issue in an airport newspaper stand, covered up, only the title showing. Making an offhand comment about the fuss being made about seeing a celebrity naked spiraled into a great debate:

Fiancee: “Well she wouldn’t be fully naked”

Me: “Of course she would, it’s Playboy magazine.”

Fiancee: “Not every woman is completely naked in Playboy. It’s not pornography”

Me: “Give me a break”.

It continued on for some time. I should have known better than to argue with a man about a magazine he has likely been hiding under his bed since childhood, but my obstinacy would not let me back down. The only solution was to buy the magazine to prove him wrong. He was right. (She was topless, not nude for those that actually care.)

By this time I had spent $8.99 on the magazine, and I had a whole flight ahead of me. I was going to read the thing cover to cover, regardless of the content. I was going to pull out every photo spread and look at every playmate, read about her likes and dislikes, bust, waist and hip size, perfect date spot, ambitions, turn-ons and turn-offs. But when I started reading the magazine, an unexpected thing happened. I really enjoyed it. The thing about many men’s magazines is that the content is often a lot more intelligent and less disparaging than the fashion magazines I subscribe to. While I enjoy fashion and clothing, I always feel conflicted when reading women’s magazines every month. I dislike the message the use of unrealistic tall, skinny, white models sends to women and girls. And I often hate the articles in the magazines. ‘How to please your man’; ‘How to lose 10 pounds in 10 days’; ‘5 moves to tone your tummy’; ’Where to find Mr.Right’. These magazines insult women’s intelligence and independence, and make us feel like life is all about being thin, beautiful, and in a relationship. I have to subscribe to a lot of magazines just to get a mix of fashion, book reviews, music reviews, politics, and health information: Fashion, Flare, Elle Canada, Nylon, the Economist, Harper’s, the Walrus. I have found Playboy offers a good mix of everything (minus women’s fashion-the women generally aren’t wearing much). I know, I know, it’s the classic men’s excuse: “I read Playboy for the articles”. But ladies, hear them out. The articles are really good. Notable ones: An investigation into whether there is a genetic predisposition to your political inclination, an interview with Nobel Prize winner David Cross, and a story on war tourism in Vietnam.

Of course there is no denying the naked women in the magazine. Are they exploited women of low self-esteem who have grown up in a society in which beauty is idolized and people are nonchalant towards sex? Or are they empowered women who are taking their own sexuality into their own hands? One could argue either way and I can’t answer that question. They certainly are being used as sex symbols, but they are doing so of their own volition. Women all over the world send in their pictures in the hopes of becoming the next Playmate of the month. There is no coercion here. These are not children.

But as noted before, I feel that Playboy represents women better than any other magazine I have seen before, and better than any women’s fashion magazine out there. For one, there is a lot of racial diversity in Playboy. In one issue, among the major spreads, there was 1 black, 2 white, and several Latin American models (part of a Carnival article). This is representative of most issues I have seen. In fashion magazines, racial diversity, while increasing, is rarer. When they are utilized in fashion, the non-white models often are pressured to fit into the cookie-cutter mold of the rail-thin white model, and thus may not accurately represent their race or culture. For example, culturally black and Latin embrace curvier figures. Which leads me to the second reason Playboy represents women quite well: The women look like women. Well, at least more like women than in fashion magazines. I had expected all of the models to have gigantic breasts and tiny waists, with perfectly toned stomachs, but I was happy to see that they weren’t all photoshopped to perfection. A lot of the women had meat on their bones, curves and butts, and not all of them looked like they had spent thousands of dollars on cosmetic alterations. Jaque Faria, the black brazillian model used in the March 2012 issue was beautifully curvy, with a bottom that would give Kim Kardashian a run for her money. The other Latin American models were also very voluptuous. While admittedly none of the models used were the size of the ‘average’ American woman (5’4’’, 140 pounds), but neither were they the size of the average model either, (5’11’, 117 pounds). And the women certainly look confident in their skin (and not much else). These women are imperfect but beautiful, exposed, yet proud and completely confident. So say whatever you want about any other message the magazine sends, but this resonates well with me. So I continue to subscribe.

Who’s that Green-Eyed Monster in my Mirror?

April 4, 2012

Your best friend starts dating a gorgeous, rich new man.

A colleague gets a promotion.

Your sister loses 10 pounds and looks fantastic.

Your new yoga instructor looks like a younger, hotter, fitter version of Giselle Bundchen.

Congratulations, right? So why do you have to smile through your teeth while fighting the urge to rip off her head? Welcome to the emotions of envy and jealousy. Wicked feelings that can creep up on you and turn even the most demure woman into a raging, irrational lunatic.

First, let’s distinguish between the 2 terms.

Envy: To bear a grudge towards someone due to coveting what that person has or enjoys.

Jealous: Apprehensive or vengeful out of fear of being replaced by someone else.

If you are envious of someone, you want what they have. If you are jealous of someone, you believe they can take something from you. For example, you may believe they are a threat to your job or your marriage.

Why am I writing about this topic? Because this blog is devoted to issues that affect women, and to put it frankly, women are jealous bi***es! This realization came to me a couple of days ago as I miserably complained to my fiancée that a colleague had enjoyed a career success that I felt was undeserved. I admitted I was envious. I admitted I was being irrational. He said I was being petty. PETTY?? Now that is just… Well ok, I was being petty. I thought about other instances where I had been jealous or envious of others women. When I really thought about it, I had to admit that I begrudged people success, happiness, beauty, talent, popularity etc. an awful lot, and had been doing so for years.

There are many types of envy/jealousy. You can make adversaries of strangers on the street, your friends, and your colleagues. And we have all heard of sibling rivalry. I have experienced them all. I don’t want to make it sound like I resent everyone’s achievements, prosperity and good fortune. I root for the people that I care for. But intermingled with the pride and joy I feel for them when good things happen in their lives, there is a tiny yet uncontrollable yearning for them to fail miserably (or at least flounder a little).

I clearly have a problem. But I know I’m not alone. I hear the way women talk about other women around me all the time. Bullying between girls as a result of envy/jealousy/insecurity starts in elementary school and continues well into adulthood. A group of women see a beautiful woman walking down the street, claws come out and she is immediately shredded apart. Her hair, her outfit, her makeup, her shoes, anything is fair game. My grandmother still gossips about her friends, and is still competing with her twin sister. Feminist Germaine Grier said at the Fem08 conference that what worried her ‘about the future of women’s equality and feminism was women’s own misogyny”. Is it true? Do women hate other women? Gender expert Susan Shapiro Barash, author of ‘Tripping the Prom Queen-The Truth about Women and Rivalry’ has conducted research and interviews with 500 US women. She has found that 40% of women say they have had another woman steal their boyfriend, lover, husband or job in their lifetime. 25% have done the stealing. 90% of women are or have been envious and jealous of other women in their lives, with 65% saying they feel that way about their sister or best friend. 80% have been victims of another woman’s envy or jealousy.

So why do women treat each other this way? One reason is likely insecurity. If a woman has a negative self-image or poor self-esteem she may not believe herself to be worthy of obtaining what the other woman has that she covets, or she may believe the other woman superior and able to steal what she has. If the other woman is someone like a good friend or a sister, then the feelings of envy or jealousy can cause a lot of guilt, thus contributing to poor self-image. Susan Shapiro Barash believes that women create rivalries with other women due to “scarcity of goods”. She says “We (women) are taught winner takes all — the sense that there is only one (glass) slipper, one crown. And therefore, if she has it, I cannot have it.” Apparently men are immune to this practice. They may be competitive by nature, but “because men have always competed for what they do, and women compete for who they are” they are able to shout obscenities at each other on the basketball court and then shake hands afterwards. To women, being the thinnest, the most beautiful, the most successful, the richest, or smartest will help to define them and so these titles are so coveted that they are willing to push each other under the bus to achieve them, and if they cannot they will sure as hell resent the hussy who beat them out.

Envy and jealousy are natural human emotions that everyone has experienced at one time or another. But where do they get you? Wishing somebody else ill will for something that they have just wastes time that you could be spending making good things happen for you, and could potentially damage important relationships in your life. More importantly, isn’t it time that women started lifting each other up instead of holding each other down? Perhaps if we start cheering each other on and celebrating each other more of us will have the self-confidence and drive to love and believe in ourselves and strive for what we want out of life. And then we will have less to begrudge others for.

It’s all on you, Baby!!

April 3, 2012

Happiness. It’s something that most people strive for, yet often cannot define for themselves when asked to. Happiness means different things to different people, and frequently our own notion of what yields happiness changes throughout our lives as we grow and change. Some seek happiness through their relationships, some through career or financial successes, others through physical fitness or outward beauty. Happiness is subjective. Your interpretation of happiness will determine if you will achieve it in your lifetime, and you may be happy at certain times of your life and unhappy at others.

The nature of happiness means that you need to identify what will make you happy. No one else can unearth your criteria for happiness. Following this, it is your responsibility to actively pursue happiness. One thing I have noticed about women, myself included, is that we very often look to others to make us happy. In a lot of ways, this is not our fault. We have been told since we were little girls playing with dolls that one day our prince would come and sweep us off our feet. The message from many Hollywood movies and TV shows is that we need to find a man to take care of us and ‘make us happy’. The media tells us that if we alter ourselves to be skinnier and more beautiful we will be happier, so we enlist the help of hairdressers and personal trainers and makeup artists and sometimes even cosmetic surgeons who are supposed to transform us and make us happily perfect. We want our careers to fulfill us, and often failing that we aim for nuclear families and children to make us feel complete and content. We buy and read books about happiness, hoping that the authors will be able to finally unlock the secret for us. I saw 3 people reading ‘The Happiness Project’ just last week. All of them were women.

Certainly our relationships with others, careers, health, even shallow things such as physical appearance and money can contribute to happiness and satisfaction. But arguably these things don’t make you happy. Being truly happy requires self-acceptance and a good self-image. A woman has to be sure of herself and confident in who she is in order to be truly happy. When a woman is reliant on others for her happiness, it shows that she lacks self-confidence. It is nice to have the man you love tell you that you are beautiful, but you shouldn’t need this validation to feel attractive. Getting praise from a boss for a job well done feels good, but you should be confident enough in your skills and abilities that you already know your value in your field. It is probably one of the hardest challenges for women, to accept themselves for who they are. It’s something I’ve been working on for a long time, and continue to struggle with. But trust me, it’s worth a try. You’ll be happier for it.

The Skinny on Fat-Talk

March 31, 2012

“Ugh. I look so fat in this”

“Look at this roll”

“I have a spare tire in these jeans!”

“I think I gained 10 pounds over Christmas!”

“I look like a stuffed sausage in this dress!!”

“Look at my thunder thighs, I can’t leave the house in this skirt!”

Sound familiar? If not, you’re probably in the minority. Research shows that most women at one time or another have engaged in this type of self-deprecating banter, which has been coined “fat-talk” by Dr. Mimi Nichter, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and author of ‘Fat Talk:What Girls and Their Parents Say About Dieting’ . Why do we do it? According to Nichter, it is most likely to gain a sense of solidarity with our peers. She also says that it can be a way of expressing frustration about a bad event or bad day. “Saying, ‘I’m so fat,’ is not just about your weight, it’s really a statement about your sense of self at that moment.” It has been well documented that s woman’s emotional state of mind can greatly impact her self image, and that this can change even within a single day.

A study in the March 2011 issue of Psychology Women’s Quarterly showed that 93% of college women engaged in fat-talk with their peers with most believing it made them feel better about themselves. The results of the study showed the opposite. Rachel Falk, the study’s lead author said that “several participants remarked that they want their friends to tell them they’re not fat, but they don’t really believe it when they hear it”. Say something out loud enough times and you’ll start to believe it. This behavior is almost exclusive to women of normal weight or below, most likely because women who are overweight do not necessarily want to call attention to it. So why would “fat-talk” have negative consequences on thin women? Because according to Falk it “results in more body monitoring, which women are already spending too much time doing.”

A more recent study published March 2012 by study researcher Analisa Arroyo of the University of Arizona showed that “the ritualistic conversations about one’s own body or others’ bodies “predicts lower satisfaction with ones’ body and higher levels of depression”. So while the intention may be to seek approval from ones’ group of girlfriends to feel validated, constantly dwelling on perceived or even fictitious flaws may have the opposite effect of convincing oneself of their existence. As a matter of fact, we would all be better off to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Research shows that faking a smile makes you feel happier. Maybe forcing ourselves to reflect on our assets and give ourselves positive affirmation instead of criticism will finally allow us women to feel comfortable in our own skin and believe in our own brand of beauty, even if different from what we’re taught to aspire to. We have better things to talk about with our friends, like who Ryan Gosling is dating now 🙂

THE ISRAELIS ARE WINNING

March 28, 2012

Ad banned in the UK for "highly visible ribs"

 

On Monday, Israel put into effect a law regulating the use of extremely thin models within the Israeli fashion industry. The law bans fashion houses and advertisers from using models with a BMI less than the World Health Organization standard of normal (18.5). Models must provide a medical report no less than 3 months old at every shoot or fashion show stating she is not malnourished. The law also forces advertisers to put a disclaimer on any image that has been edited or altered in way which makes a model appear thinner so that young girls and women will know the image is not realistic. This rule does not apply to foreign publications imported into the country. The legislation comes as a response to the relatively high incidence of eating disorders in the country, where approximately 2% of girls age 14-18 have anorexia or bulimia. This is similar to rates in other developed countries. While Israel isn’t exactly a mecca of high fashion, this ban has created a buzz all over the world, and we can only hope other markets will follow suit. It shows that someone is paying attention to the effect the fashion industry has on its consumers, and how the fashion industry responds will show how much accountability they feel to the people who perpetuate and escalate its growth, both the models who sell the clothing and the women who buy them.

This is not the first we’ve heard of a country or city putting restrictions on models used in shows. In 2006, in Madrid, the Spanish Association of Fashion Designers was the first body to put a ban on overly thin models. While not a law, there was a guideline put in place that models have a BMI of at least 18. At that time, Cathy Gould of New York’s Elite modeling agency accused the agency of using the fashion agency as a scapegoat for anorexia and bulimia. The ban in fact originated after backlash following the death of a 22 year-old anorexic Uruguayan model of heart failure after starving herself for a show, and shortly thereafter the death of a Brazilian model of complications of anorexia. Following fashion week in Madrid, Milan followed suit that same year. In Milan models were required to produce a medical certificate declaring them healthy with no eating disorder, and stating a BMI of at least 18.5. The models also needed to be at least 16 years of age. This was also not an outright ban, but a guideline requiring “self-regulation by the fashion houses”. Even Mario Boselli, the head of Italy’s National Fashion Chamber did not seem to take it very seriously, stating that only “maybe one girl in a hundred’ in the shows was too skinny. In fact, the average model is 5’11’’ and 117 pounds. This gives her a BMI of 16.3. She would have to weigh 133 pounds to achieve a “normal” BMI of 18.5. The average US woman is 5’4’’ and weighs 140 pounds and has a BMI of 24.  Designers had mixed opinions about the ban. Many supported it, such as Emanuel Ungaro designer Giles Deacon who said  ”At a certain period in time, the fashion industry was portraying this image of a totally unrealistic woman, women who are not allowed to be themselves. It’s just all a bit wrong.” Many did not approve of the change. Outspoken Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld said that fashion is about “dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women.” Oh, Mr. Lagerfeld. There are no words.

There are many arguments that have been made against regulating the fashion industry. Some may say BMI is not a great indicator of health status or nutritional status as it is unreliable. It is true that BMI calculations can be unreliable in some cases, for example in children or the elderly, people who are very muscular, or women for example with very large breasts, or even amputees. I can’t think of a fashion model who meets any of these criteria. Some argue that there are women who are just naturally very thin and we shouldn’t punish them for this. I agree that there are those women who are naturally tall and skinny. We all have those girlfriends who for as long as we’ve known them have been twigs, eating twice as much as anyone you know and never being able to gain a pound. That girl everyone tells “You should be a model” even when she’s in her awkward ugly duckling stage because girls that tall and skinny are always models. But these girls are few and far between, and even these girls are very often not as bony as the girls we see on the runway. Should a girl like this be excluded because her BMI is 18.3 instead of 18.5? Maybe not. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere. And as for Mr. Lagerfeld’s  statement that women like to look at “illusions” on the runway? I think that most women would rather see clothing on a real woman. When a woman looks at a size zero model wearing an outfit and she is a size 10, she has no “allusions” that outfit will look the same on her. (Hahaha)

Fast forward to now and we have actual government legislation in place in a country protecting models in an industry that up to now has promoted an unhealthy body image, as well as helping shield impressionable young girls and teenagers from images of unachievable ideals. There is some rumbling of similar legislation being discussed in France and in the US. An ad was recently banned in the UK for portraying a model with “highly visible ribs”. Australia has come up with a new code of conduct for the fashion industry. If key recommendations are met, such as not using female models that are excessively thin or male models that are excessively muscular, not using cosmetic surgery or rapid weight loss ads in magazines, putting disclosures on altered photos, not using models under 16 and stores stocking a wide variety of sizes then the fashion labels, modeling agencies, and magazines which comply will be awarded with the youth minister’s stamp of approval. We are not anywhere close to being there yet, but people are recognizing there is a problem and talking about it, and that is a good step in the right direction.

Leave the Children Out of It!!

March 22, 2012

Almost at my goal weight!

The other day I was at Whole Foods buying some overpriced organic groceries when I overheard a mother telling her elementary school-aged daughter to put the  Snickerdoodles  she had picked up back because they were too “fattening”.  Now I understand that in this day and age gluten and refined sugar are the body’s enemy, clogging up your system wherever they go, but as far as I know no child has ever porked up from a single Snickerdoodle. It is far from my place on my childless pedestal to judge, but it hit a nerve to hear this woman force her food issues onto her young child. While I agree that parents should be concerned with their children’s nutrition, and certainly there should not be a free-for –all mentality when it comes to junk food. But what message does it send to young girls when their mothers tell them they should fear certain foods? Do these children have the skills to think critically and understand that their parents don’t want them to become obese and unhealthy, or will they start to think that they must be as skinny as models in magazines or the thinnest girl in their class in order to please?

I came across some pretty startling statistics:

Among children in grades 1-3, 42% want to be thinner

Among 8-10 years old, 50% are dissatisfied with their body size

Among 10 year olds, 81% are afraid of becoming fat

Among 9-11 year olds, 46% are on diets “sometimes” or “very often”

82% of these 9-11 year olds families are on diets “sometimes” or “very often”

Among 13 year olds, 80% have tried to lose weight

Among 9-15 year old girls, 50% exercise to lose weight, 50% restrict their calories, and 5% steal laxatives or diet pills from their parents

35% of people on a diet develop some sort of pathology around food

Of this 35%, 20-25% develop a full-blown eating disorder

Why do our kids have such low self-esteem and body-image? Similar to the rest of us women, they are exposed to the endless stream of media images depicting unrealistic depictions of women. Children are likely even more susceptible to these images because they are less likely to be able to appreciate the discrepancy between the women in the media and real women. Young children may not realize the extent of the retouching, plastic surgery, makeup, dieting, personal training etc. that goes into making the models look like they do. Children and teens are also highly influenced by their peer group. Often groups of kids will engage in fat-talk which only feeds into their low self-esteem. They may feel pressured into dieting along with groups of friends, or forced to “compete” with smaller friends.

Parents cannot control the media or peer pressure. However, the influence of parents and home environment on children’s behavior and attitude towards food cannot be overlooked. It is well established that how parents, especially mothers, feel about themselves and their approach to weight issues will influence their daughter’s self-image and tendency towards disordered eating. Statistically, young girls who report they have dieted or are dieting are more likely to report that members of their families are also dieting or have dieted.  A study in the European Journal of Child Adolescent Psychiatry in 2009 called Influence of Parent’s Eating Attitudes on Eating Disorders In School Adolescents examined 258 boys and girls with a mean age of 11.37 being either at risk of an eating disorder or a control. The study looked at disordered eating attitudes, body dissatisfaction, BMI and eating disorder diagnoses in the children at beginning and 2 years later. The parents were also examined for disordered eating attitudes. The results showed that mother’s drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, and father’s drive for thinness and perfectionism were related to long-term eating disorders. Predictors were being female, mothers drive for thinness, social insecurity and adolescent body dissatisfaction, and father’s perfectionism. BMI was not a predictor.

So ladies, remember when you were a teenager and you screamed at your mother that you were going to be a better parent than her? I know at the time you meant you were going to let your daughter stay out late and date all the boys she wanted and have her own phone in her room, but now you have the chance to do something better. You can shut up about how fat you feel today or how many calories were in the grande chocolate macchiato extra whip you just drank and how disgusting you feel, or how you need to go on a diet. It’s no good for you, and it’s toxic for your daughters. Both of you deserve better.

Are you skinnier in the morning?

March 19, 2012

Can your body really change in one day??

A friend said to me yesterday: “I think I’m skinnier in the morning”. I can’t tell you how many times I have been on the receiving end of some variation of this sentence. “My body looks better in the morning before I eat anything”, “I look skinny in the morning, but then I’m fat again at the end of the day”, “I think I gain 10 pounds during the day”…..It begs the question: Is it these women’s waistlines or their self-confidence that is fluctuating so wildly throughout the day?

 

First of all I would like to talk about the physiological. Overnight you obviously don’t eat or drink anything for the amount of time you are asleep, usually about 6-8 hours. So when you wake up you are in the fasted state and often slightly dehydrated. This is because as you sleep you lose water through respiration (small water droplets are lost in your breath) and transpiration (you lose water through your skin). Water weight loss overnight can be as much as 2-3 pounds or even more if there is a lot of perspiration. Also, a lot of digestion occurs overnight, and any food in the stomach moves further along the digestive tract, which can give the appearance of a “flatter” stomach. When dehydrated, a lean person’s muscles can appear more defined which makes them appear more toned (this is a common trick bodybuilders will use pre-competition). This may be a reason women like their bodies best first thing in the morning. During the day as food and fluids are consumed the water weight lost overnight is regained, Women may feel that their stomachs are no longer “flat” once it has been filled with food (whether this is true or imagined) and sometimes the food consumed, for example a high-sodium meal, can lead to water being retained and the appearance of a larger stomach due to bloating. Weight fluctuations throughout one day can be up to 5 pounds, and this is mainly due to water retention and loss. Certain factors, such as eating a very large meal before bed, constipation, and water retention can in fact cause people to weigh more or be very bloated in the morning. However, it does in fact seem as though some women may appear “skinnier” in the morning, even if this is only due to normal physiological changes that occur in everyone and in no way represent any actual fat loss overnight.

 

So are there psychological factors involved? Before looking at any data, I want to shed some personal light on the matter. When in therapy for my eating disorder, a recurring discussion theme was that of control. A theory about eating disorders is that often they are triggered by emotional or traumatic events and that women use the eating disorder as a coping mechanisms. If you can’t control what’s going on in your life, at least you can control what you put into your body. In group therapy, I learned a common goal for women with eating disorders (including myself) was to eat as little as possible, or that only certain foods were allowed. If you ate “too much” or something unacceptable, you had failed. However, each morning was a fresh start. In the morning you were not yet defeated, you had a new chance to stick to your plan and you felt revitalized. I am not insinuating that when a woman says she feels her “skinniest” in the morning that she has an eating disorder. My point is that I think that for all women, each morning is a clean slate. Ideally you are rested and revived, your mind is alert and the emotional tone for the day is still to be determined as no events have occurred to influence it. So whatever your goal is for the day, it seems within reach. Studies have shown that mood influences body image. A 1995 study in Behavior Therapy titled ‘Body image disturbance, memory bias and body dysphoria: Effects of negative mood induction’ showed that when women were induced to be in a negative mood, they perceived their body size to be larger than it currently was and had increased body dysphoria. A 1992 study in Behavior Research and Therapy showed similar data. So perhaps throughout the day, women’s body image worsens due to daily stressors and our emotional responses to them, and the morning is the only time we are free from this effect.

 

Another thing I learned in group therapy is that it for women with eating disorders, the feeling of having no food in your stomach is the feeling of success. It is a comfort. Even as I write this statement, I know it will be hard to comprehend and shocking to many. It’s almost metaphoric really, because when you are in that place you feel empty in all respects because you have isolated yourself and your whole life has become consumed by your disease. Even sometimes today after waking up with that hollowness in my stomach that I used to relish, when I eat my first meal, and I can feel my stomach filling up and pressing just slightly harder on the waist of my pants, I can’t help but feeling like I’m suddenly heavier. I no longer strive to feel hungry, but sometimes disordered thoughts like this interrupt my life. It makes me wonder if other women have these thoughts? When a woman says she feels “skinnier in the morning” is it partially because she hasn’t filled her stomach with food and when you feel hungry, you have an artificial feeling of lightness?  Does simply feeling satiated make a woman feel heavier?

 

As women go about their day, they are exposed to hundreds if not thousands of media images. Many of these images depict artificial, retouched models and actresses representing what the “ideal” woman should be, and it is an unattainable goal for most if not all women to achieve. There are over a hundred studies proving the negative effects of these extremely thin images on a clear majority of adolescents and women. Not only do women feel greater body dissatisfaction upon exposure, but they also report more depression, stress, insecurity, guilt and shame. Many studies have shown that when body image and body perception are measured right before and right after exposure to media images of very thin models, women will report a more negative body image and falsely perceive themselves as heavier than is accurate. So it’s possible that exposure to so many of these images throughout the day, can contribute to a more negative body image later in the day vs. first thing in the morning.

 

I’m sure there are many other factors that can affect why women may feel differently about themselves at different times of the day. Women are complicated, and body image and self-esteem are very complex, multi-faceted issues. However, it does not appear that beyond any normal physiological changes, women are any “skinnier” in the morning. However, sometimes by the end of the day a woman may feel like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders, so she sure may feel heavier at the end of the day.

WHY I’M HUNGRY AND MAD

March 14, 2012

Welcome to my blog!
I’m hoping for this blog to be a forum for women of any age and from any background to talk about the issues that are affecting them regarding body-image, self-esteem, media portrayal of women, health and wellness, lifestyle, weight, or any other issue relating to women’s overall feeling of self-worth.
I have suffered from an eating disorder since I was 16 years old. I went to therapy as a teen and was in remission for many years, quelling the voice of my eating disorder to a whisper in my ear instead of a roar, but it is has always been there. At moments of vulnerability it would rear it’s ugly head and remind me I’m not good enough or thin enough or that I lack self-control. While still hyperaware of my weight and my looks, I was able to squash these negative thoughts and not let them take over my life as they once did. Then, about 3 years ago I had some health problems that caused me to lose quite a bit of weight. The weight loss was unintentional, however while alarmed at first, I soon found myself relishing each lost pound. I was soon regressing back to the eating disorder behaviors I thought I had overcome years before. I was terrified of gaining the lost weight back, I avoided food, I avoided people who would question my weight loss being anything but a result of my medical condition. I was deeply ashamed of my behavior and myself, but it was clear I could not go on living my life as I was, so I sought help.leading me to seek therapy again. As an adult, as opposed to when I was a teenager, I found I had developed the maturity, life experience, impartiality and critical thinking skills to really look inside of myself and examine my issues on a deeper level than ever before. Also, after almost 15 years I was finally able to be honest with the people close to me about my disease. I got love and respect in return, not the disgust and anger I had anticipated. Instead of feeling like a failure because I was imperfect, I felt liberated and freed from the sense of isolation that had surrounded me for so many years. Suddenly I had a huge support network who I could turn to, which has been vital in my recovery.
I think that one of the most positive things that has come out of speaking to friends and family as well as peers in group therapy has been the insight I have gained into the minds of other women. When you isolate yourself, it’s easy to look at other people from an outside perspective and envy them. So many times I have looked at my female friends and wished that I could be as confident, easygoing and sure of myself. I’ve wished I could be more accepting of my body and the way that I look instead of self-conscious and overly vain. So many times during my struggles with food I’ve been out to dinner with other women and marvelled at how easy it is for them to just order and eat whatever they want with no hesitation. However my story lead to an open dialogue with many friends, and many confessed to their own struggles. I found that a lot of my friends had been hiding insecurities of their own, and that they had the same false perceptions of me that I had of them. I was shocked to hear how many of my friends had also battled eating disorders. It seems that most of my female friends are unhappy about their bodies, and most of them have tried to lose weight at some point, sometimes by downright dangerous means(prescription diuretics) or really silly ones (chew and spit food). My social circle is not unique. According to The National Eating Disorders Association, 80% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance, and on any given day 45% of women are on a diet. Furthermore, 15% of young women have unhealthy attitudes about food and 15% develop unhealthy behaviors related to food and weight loss.
I consider myself in recovery, and I feel pretty good about myself on any given day. I, like most of my friends, am university educated, have a good job, a good partner, great friends, a great life. Overall I would say I am happy with my personal and professional achievements. Still, I am somewhat bitter about the fact that I can’t go one day without being assaulted with hundreds of reminders that women in our society are defined by their looks. No matter what a woman achieves in every other realm, being beautiful and thin trumps all else. Women are exposed to magazine covers and billboards with size 0 models and actresses, television ads for weight-loss equipment and supplements with beautiful thin spokesmodels, books about the new great diet that will help you loose 95% of your body weight in 2 days, or fitness videos led by women with 0% body fat. There is always some new miracle supplement or protein bar or super-food displayed at the grocery store that will improve your health (read:shrink your waistline) which makes me wonder if anyone eats real food anymore. Women place importance on staying healthy. But with so many options, women are overwhelmed and the line between a healthy weight and a dangerously low one can become blurred the more we see extremely thin women promoting these health products. Some women with good intentions can go overboard even using healthy products or following healthy diets to look like the celebrities getting paid to promote them.
It really saddens me we smart, well-educated, well-read and beautiful women define our self-worth by the size of our bodies. We will starve ourselves, sacrificing our own well-being, in order to yield an impossible ideal, often ironically proclaiming it to be in the name of health. I think it’s time we really think about why this is and how we can change it. This is a complex and multi-faceted issue, and that’s why I started this blog. There is a lot to explore, and it’s time we get talking about it. What do you think?