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(Just a small programming note – I’ve decided to post every Wednesday.  I wanted to do it more often but having two jobs that involve extensive writing, I think I need to push it to once a week.  I hope you’ll still visit!  Now – back to your regularly scheduled program.)

Advertising is ridiculous.  On average, Americans see up to 5000 ads per day (up from about 500 in the ’70s).  Per DAY!  Internet, television, magazine, billboards.  It’s exhausting!  And those ads are taking a toll on our mental health.

Have you ever seen this video?  I love the Dove Self-Esteem Fund for all it does with the Girl Scouts and just in general.  This video speaks for itself.



Think about it.  There is someone (not to go all feminist on ya’ll, but probably a man) behind the scenes at these magazines/advertising agencies who takes a look at a picture and says, “Her neck needs to be longer, her face slimmer, her arms more toned, her tummy flatter, her hair shinier, her skin clearer, blah blah blah…”  The NERVE!  We should all be up in arms about this.  What would you do if someone said that to your face?  In a way, they’re saying it to us all indirectly.  And it makes me sick.

Some ads are not so tricky with their messaging some, at least to me, are flat-out ridiculous.  I have got to vent about the 3D Crest Whitestrip commercials out today.  They drive me nuts! 

Exhibit A:

http://bcove.me/djv2d3b3  (Sorry I couldn’t embed it.  I’m still learning WordPress.)

Attention ladies!  You had better have white teeth if you want to get a man.  Or else you are unlovable!  (Umm, excuse me, did everyone see her teeth?   And did anyone see anything wrong with them?  They were PERFECT!)

There’s another one out now two where the girl gets a call from her friend who wants her to go to a movie premiere with her in 2 hours.  The girl takes a look at her teeth in the mirror and whips out the Crest Whitestrips.  But yet again – her teeth were PERFECTLY white!!!

The thing with these advertisers (many of which are men – I’m sorry, it’s just true!) is that they try to prey on our weaknesses and insecurities.  We all have them and many of the have deep roots. 

That’s why, the key to fighting back against these advertisers is confidence.

If we’re confident enough to know that our teeth are just fine the way they are and that we are beautiful without airbrushing, then there will be no need for all these ridiculous things people are trying to sell us. 

There are so many advertisements that drive me nuts.  Which ads are bothering you these days?

This is my final post for NEDAwareness Week so I wanted it to be a positive one.  It’s easy to get caught up in the statistics, the negativities, the doom and gloom when talking eating disorders.  But thankfully I can tell you first hand, there is a light at the end of that tunnel.

(source)

When I was in the very depths of my eating disorder, I didn’t really even bother looking forward.  I don’t remember worrying too much about whether or not there was an end to it because I was too worried about what I would have to eat next and what it might do to my hips.   But once I started to slowly crawl out of the cave, I got glimpses of what life without ED could be like and began to think about the possibility of there being an end. 

I have to admit, though.  Even up to a couple of years or so ago, I wasn’t sure how far away ED would ever go from me.  For  the longest time, even when I considered myself much healthier than ever before, I still just accepted that I would always have a hard time, ED would always be with me and I would just have to live a life of fighting and constant battle.

Then somehow, over just the past year, I saw a glimmer of light.  And now, today, I see a bright glare.  There is an end to the madness.  ED won’t control my life forever.  I can be a normal person (okay, as normal as possible for me), I can love myself, celebrate others, thoroughly enjoy food and just plain live life.  I can beat ED to pieces and send him back to where he belongs.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not disillusioned.  I’m realistic.  I understand that there is no “cure” for eating disorders.  I’m always going to have to be vigilant and take care of myself the way others may not have to.  During stressful times in my life, I will know that ED may try to come knocking back at my door. 

(source)

But thankfully, I beat him up so badly last time I saw him that he doesn’t even have half the power he used to.  So I’ll just send him on his way again.

I hope that anyone who is suffering who reads this understands one thing.  There is a light.  Recovery is possible.  You can lead a wonderful, healthy, happy life.  You just have to seek out and accept help but most of all, you have to let go.  Let ED go.

Because you can’t live with him.  But you sure can live without him.

To continue the NEDAwareness posts, today I wanted to give a quick shout out to the incredible folks who work with those who are afflicted with eating disorders.  Because let me tell you – it is not an easy job.  You have never met such stubborn, high-achieving, smart, sneaky people as those with eating disorders.  And to have to work with them must be incredibly frustrating at times. 

For those who may be unaware, a basic treatment team for someone with an eating disorder involves a therapist, nutritionist, medical doctor and potentially a psychiatrist.  I’m no professional but from personal experience, I believe that in serious, well-developed cases, in-patient hospitalization is required in order to break the chains of the eating disorder.  It’s next to impossible for many people to recover and fight back when still in their regular life.  In-patient treatment makes it much easier to clear out the fog in your head.

I have had some incredible people in my journey to health.  And lots of them.  One had a part in starting the National Eating Disorders Association.  One currently writes the most helpful and inspirational blog I’ve ever read.  They all have left such an imprint on my life that I will never forget them and I will never, ever be able to pay them back for what they’ve given me: Life.

I also want to applaud the advocates who work tirelessly to make our government understand the gravity of the eating disorder epidemic in this country.  I’m proud to say that my state of Virginia has been making strides with the Senate Joint Resolution 294 which requests that the Joint Commission on Health Care study eating disorders in Virginia and recommend how to improve awareness, education, prevention and treatment.  Power to the people.

Treating someone with an eating disorder and advocating for better treatment is a tough job and it takes a very special person but I am SO thankful for all those who do it.  You put us back on solid ground.

NEDAwareness

It’s already half way through National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I’ve written nothing, despite my plans to write once a day this week.  But I guess I’m still learning to be okay with falling short of what I expect of myself – because really, this blog isn’t about meeting a quota, it’s about self expression.  I do want to jump into the topic, though, because it’s a very personal subject for me and my family.

Chew on this:

In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder (Crowther et al., 1992; Fairburn et al., 1993; Gordon, 1990; Hoek, 1995; Shisslak et al., 1995).

If you ask me, key words there are life and death.  Eating disorders are not superficial, they are serious.  They are not based on vanity.  They aren’t even completely about food.  (Say what?)  Food definitely plays a role, the role most others see and can somewhat understand, but the root of the problem is much more complex and confusing, much deeper and darker. 

So this week, we hope to shed light, awareness and perhaps even a little understanding onto the mental disorder with the highest death rate.  It’s serious.  It’s life threatening.  But the most important thing to remember about eating disorders is that they are not death sentences.  For so many people with eating disorders, it feels like they will never get out, never recover, never live again. 

But I know, for a fact, that is not true. 

The great thing about continued awareness is that more and more research is being done on how eating disorders occur and how to help heal them.  So let’s continue to remove the stigma and promote awareness, research and treatment. 

Whether you have ever had an eating disorder or not, there is always room for more body confidence.  In honor of  NEDAwareness Week, check out this list of 20 Ways to Love Your Body.  Share it with friends, hang it in your cubicle, post it one your Facebook page. 

And love who you are. 

I have had a dog in my life since the day I was born.  And I’m pretty sure I will until the day I die because there is nothing like the love and affection from a dopey, lovey dovey dog. 

And my dog is the dopiest.

What? I'm snuggling.

Think about it.  Dogs find excitement in the smallest of things.  For my pup Nova, it’s tennis balls.  Oh and food.  She has a great love of food and is never worried about what it might do to her waistline.  They just know it tastes good and they need it.  Simple. 

Dogs love unconditionally.  It doesn’t matter how much you yell at them, they always come jumping back into your arms with slobbery kisses.  It doesn’t matter how long you leave them alone throughout the day, they are the first to great you and unbelievely happy that you exist.  

Can we play fetch again? Please? Please?

What would the world be like if we all had such excitement, passion and love?  What would WE be like if we could feel that way about ourselves?  Dogs don’t hold guilt or grudges.  They know when they do wrong but they don’t spend the rest of the day beating themselves up for making a mistake.  (Nova actually puts herself in the kitchen and won’t come out until we tell her it’s okay.  But once she’s out, she is bursting with happiness and all is forgotten!) 

And I swear Nova knows when I’m sad.  She always knows just what to do.  She sits there and listens and just keeps me company.  And the greatest part is, she doesn’t talk back.  She just gives me a look that says, “I understand.  It’s going to be okay.  I love you.”  And that’s all I need.

So maybe we can all live a little bit more like the dogs in our lives.  Not so concerned about how we look or mistakes we make.  Grateful for the loved ones in our lives and more willing to give simple, quiet support and unconditional love.  Easier on ourselves and more forgiving when our lives don’t go as planned.  Excited about the simple things in life.

Oh to love like a dog.

Negotiating Power

I don’t know about you, but I am always backing down when it comes to standing up for myself. If I get cut in line at the store, I back off and let them go ahead of me. If I’m in an argument with someone, I am like putty in their hands and often walk away thinking that maybe whatever we were arguing about really was my fault – even if it clearly wasn’t. So when I read this NPR story about asking for a raise, I totally related.

The cold, hard facts are not good. Women still earn on average about 78 cents to a man’s dollar. But what we women might not like to admit, some of that could be our fault – we don’t ask for more money! Research shows that men are four times more likely than women to ask for a salary raise. Women either don’t think about it or are intimidated by the art of negotiating.

I have known some powerful women negotiators/debaters/arguers in my life. One of my greatest friends, Emily, was one of those girls in school who would never let anything the teacher said go by without a challenge or an inquiry. I loved how gutsy she always seemed and how unconcerned she was with “losing” the debate. I called her confident – but some might have called her aggressive.

And that’s a problem, according to Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University who did a study on the issue. Women asking for raises come off as aggressive, while men come off as deserving. Interesting.

The NPR story has some good bits in it so instead of putting everything here I highly suggest you read the whole thing. I also love that there’s a little Girl Scout bit at the end. Girl Scouts teaching little girls to negotiate and stand up for what they deserve? Priceless!

So have you ever negotiated a salary or stood up for yourself in another way? Were you perceived as aggressive?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

When I was younger, I went through a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s Day.  In high school, I never had a boyfriend so I maintained that Valentine’s Day was Single’s Awareness Day.  I was happy to be slightly bitter on February 14 when in reality, I was mostly okay with my perpetual single status.  Then in college, once I finally had a boyfriend, I wasn’t in a good place with myself so I had trouble getting close to anyone.  Even with that first boyfriend, I kind of avoided him all day and barely saw him – only to receive the roses he had gotten me that must have stayed in his fridge for too long and were pretty much dead. 

But for the past few years, I’ve had an amazing guy in my life – and this year a husband (Valentine for life!)  And yet this morning I woke up with a yucky feeling inside me.  I was getting ready for work, looking at myself in the mirror thinking, “Gross.  Huge thighs, lumpy hips, chubby tummy.  Gross.”

Total lack of love for myself.

Then, as my husband and I were pulling out of the driveway off to work, he rolls down his window and yells, “You’re beautiful, love yourself.”

Love myself?  Love that thing that was staring back at me in the mirror this morning?  Love ALL of that?

I know it’s cliche, to do the whole “love yourself” thing on Valentine’s Day – the most cliche holiday of the year – but I can’t help but notice how little we ever focus on loving ourselves.  As a society, we really are obsessed with love.  We’ve created the love story and completely commercialized it to the point where everyone is obsessed with love.  And the marketers love it.

Despite what I felt this morning, I really do have a lot of love to give.  Love for my husband

(the best ever)

my sister

(my soul mate sistah)

my parents

(officially world’s greatest)

my bff

(4eva)

my pets

                             

and not to forget my new family members, my old and new friends, co-workers, neighbors, sunshine, rainbows, puppy dogs.  There are SO many things that I love. 

So why not love me?

Truth is, I’m the hardest one of all to love.  It’s easier for me to love enemies and strangers than it is to love myself.  I think lots of people have that problem.

Where is the holiday dedicated to self-love?  When do we give Valentines to ourselves?  When do we recognize that the greatest love story is really the one within our own hearts?

Today, whether you have a “Valentine” or not (and trust me, they’re not necessary), try being a Valentine to yourself.  Tell yourself you’re beautiful.  Take yourself for a walk on the beach.  Buy yourself some chocolates and fresh flowers. 

And say to yourself, “I love you.”