Category Archives: body image

fitness professionals can help those struggling with eating disorders

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Eating disorders have always been my passion. They have been my specialty since I began my LCSW private practice more than a decade ago. Over the years, I’ve directed a program for eating disorders, created the eating disorder curriculum for NYU’s Graduate School of Social Work, and have done a few other things. Yet, I have not found a way to connect my love of healthy fitness and honoring one’s body with my passion for helping those struggling with eating disorders.

The issue of eating disorders within fitness centers is a ubiquitous one. I’ve seen people spending hours on the treadmill, heard countless patients recounting their obsessiveness with the gym, and others seeming as though their self-esteem became immediately deflated if they couldn’t work out hard enough, fast enough or long enough. The research I have done has revealed that the presence of eating disorders within fitness centers is “sticky” and “complicated” and gets very little attention. Through no fault of anyone in particular, if people aren’t given the education and tools, then how can anyone feel knowledgable and confident enough to address this sensitive issue?

I went directly to fitness professionals to see what they thought about eating disorders within the fitness industry. As I suspected, it was clear that there was not a lack of interest in this issue. Quite the contrary. Most, if not all, of those with whom I spoke were eager and excited to finally have a forum in which they could learn about eating disorders and how to approach the issue. That’s when DESTRUCTIVELY FIT®: demystifying eating disorders for fitness professionals® was born. I created this 3-hour training with the goal of educating those within the fitness industry about what eating disorders are and what to do if they notice that someone may be struggling. It has since been endorsed for continuing education by both the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and The American Council on Exercise (ACE) and has sparked the interest of variety of fitness clubs. Destructively Fit™ was also recently featured on RateYourBurn. Check out their blog for the interview!

Some stats for you…
• 25 million American women are struggling with eating disorders
• 7 million American men are struggling with eating disorders
• 81% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat
• 51% of 9-10 year old girls feel better about themselves when they are dieting
• 45% of boys are unhappy with their bodies
• 67% of women 15-64 withdraw from life-engaging activities, like giving an opinion and going to the doctor, because they feel badly about their looks
• An estimated 90-95% of college students diagnosed with eating disorders are members of fitness centers

Read more about Destructively Fit® on destructivelyfit.com. You can also follow Destructively Fit® on Facebook and Twitter. Help spread the word and be a part of affecting change!


Israel bans underweight models

Passed in March 2012, on January 1, 2013, Israel’s ban on models with a BMI of less than 18.5 went into effect. This is the first government enforced weight-influenced regulation on the fashion industry. Models will also be required to produce a medical report no more than three months old (thus, requiring a quarterly medical evaluation). Additionally, advertisers are required to clearly identify any images that have been digitally altered. I say, “Bravo, Israel, taking this courageous step in the fight against eating disorders!”

At this point in time, the United States has no intention of following suit. The United States’ fashion industry is self-regulated. Steven Kolb, chief executive of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), is quoted to have said that the CFDA has, “never had an approach of mandate or enforce. We create awareness and education.”

To my recollection, the modeling industry began to take sharp notice of these industry dangers back in 2006. To refresh your memory:
Luisel Ramos, the 22y/o Uruguayan model, suffered a fatal heart attack in August 2006. She was 5’9″ tall and weighed 98lbs at the time of her death. She had a BMI of 14.5.
Ana Carolina Reston, the 21y/o Brazilian model, died in November 2006. She was 5’8″ tall and weighed 88lbs at the time of her death. She had a BMI of 13.5.
Eliana Ramos, the 18y/o Uruguayan model, died of malnutrition in February 2007. She was 5’9″ tall and a size 0. Her weight was not disclosed at the time of her death. She was the sister of Luisel Ramos (above), who had passed away the previous August.

In response, in September 2007, the Madrid city council, sponsor of Madrid fashion week, imposed mandates upon runway models. Ultimately, these more stringent mandates would have kept 40% of the models who participated in the 2006 fashion week from participating.

In 2007, the CFDA instituted the following guidelines:

  • Educate the industry to identify the early warning signs in an individual at risk of developing an eating disorder.
  • Models who are identified as having an eating disorder should be required to seek professional help in order to continue modeling. And models who are receiving professional help for an eating disorder should not continue modeling without that professional’s approval.
  • Develop workshops for the industry (including models and their families) on the nature of eating disorders, how they arise, how we identify and treat them, and complications if they are untreated.
  • Support the well-being of younger individuals by not hiring models under the age of sixteen for runway shows; not allowing models under the age of eighteen to work past midnight at fittings or shoots; and providing regular breaks and rest.
  • Supply healthy meals, snacks, and water backstage and at shoots and provide nutrition and fitness education.
  • Promote a healthy backstage environment by raising the awareness of the impact of smoking and tobacco-related disease among women, ensuring a smoke-free environment, and address underage drinking by prohibiting alcohol.
    • Diane von Furstenberg, president of the CFDA, explained that the CFDA has no intention of policing or regulating a model’s weight or her body-mass index (BMI).
    • Diane von Furstenberg: “We create inspirational images and it’s important that we don’t encourage unhealthy behavior. We can promote health and encourage it, empower women and give them role models not by how much you weigh but by de-glamorizing models. Few women can become models and it lasts for a short time. Yes there is a problem and because we are in the business of fashion and image we can help.“ Ultimately, von Furstenberg explained that the responsibility lies with the agencies, not the designers.

What do you think about all of this? What do you feel is the appropriate way to address the dangers of the modeling industry? Should there be mandates? Who is responsible for making them?


boy toys + girl toys

The fact that eating disorders cross all gender, race, age, culture and socioeconomic lines has been clear for decades. Somehow, the fact that there is increased pressure on boys has escaped much of the spotlight.

A recent study published in Pediatrics yielded statists that show both boys and girls engaged in muscle-enhancing behaviors (e.g.: changing eating habits, increased exercise, used protein powders/shakes, used steroids, used another muscle-building substance), the large majority of which were boys.

Beginning in childhood, heroes like G.I. Joe and The Incredible Hulk model bulging muscles. If G.I. Joe Extreme were life-size, he would have a 55-inch chest and a 27-inch bicep. In other words, his bicep would be almost as big as his waist and bigger than most competitive body builders’. Seems like in this, and many other ways, buff is the new skinny!

We continue to creatively perpetuate new and unrealistic ideals and expectations for our little boys and girls, who grow up into our men and women (and us!), and in some ways shaped by these confusing paradigms. You may have heard about 13y/o McKenna Pope’s petition to Hasbro asking them to make gender-neutral toy ovens. Ultimately, McKenna was saddened by a pushback by Hasbro explaining that boys do play with their products but never addressed the fact that these toy ovens are marketed towards girls.

And what is Barbie doing these days? Saying nothing about her unrealistic shape (in real life she would stand six feet tall with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist, and 33″ hips), she’s still hanging out in her Dreamhouse, tho, she has upgraded to 3-stories, has a beach house and a castle (in the country?). She goes camping now but sports high heals and a denim mini while doing so. The “Barbie I Can Be…™” series is impressive however, again it seems that Barbie can be anything she wants so long as she wears her high heals and a mini skirt! It would be great if they made a “Barbie I Can Be…™” ME doll.

I can go on and on about gender specific toys and the impact of them on the psyches of boys, girls, men and women but you get the idea. I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts/experiences (in “comments” below). Since the holiday season has already begun, I encourage you to be a little more mindful and aware of the toys that stock the isles (and your shopping cart) and form an opinion about it! What do you think and feel about what you see? About what your kids (or children in your lives) see? You can empower yourself, like McKenna Pope and many others, to take a stand and push back. If not by creating a petition or writing to these toy makers, by choosing where you spend your money and on which toys fill up your playroom!


WARNING: this is my body, not yours!

Stella Boonshoft’s blog, The Body Love Blog, has gotten a lot of well deserved attention over the past few days. If you haven’t heard, she posted a scantily clad photo of herself showing off her body. Stella explained, “I found that after years of struggling with my body image that really there was no way to justify the bullying and the torment I endured as a child and as a teen.” She went on to say that, “we don’t have the authority to make assumptions about other people’s health based on the way they look. And I finally came to a place where I was really happy with the way I looked… I wanted to give a message to the bullies who had tormented me that it didn’t work.”

Stella’s blog post:
WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. Well I’m not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE. Meaning the choices I make about it, are none of your f****** business. Meaning my size, IS NONE OF YOUR F****** BUSINESS.

If my big belly and fat arms and stretch marks and thick thighs offend you, then that’s okay. I’m not going to hide my body and my being to benefit your delicate sensitivities.

This picture is for the strange man at my nanny’s church who told me my belly was too big when I was five.

This picture is for my horseback riding trainer telling me I was too fat when I was nine.

This picture is for the girl from summer camp who told me I’d be really pretty if I just lost a few pounds

This picture is for all the f****** stupid advertising agents who are selling us cream to get rid of our stretch marks, a perfectly normal thing most people have (I got mine during puberty)

This picture is for the boy at the party who told me I looked like a beached whale.

This picture is for Emily from middle school, who bullied me incessantly, made mocking videos about me, sent me nasty emails, and called me “lard”. She made me feel like I didn’t deserve to exist. Just because I happened to be bigger than her. I was 12. And she continued to bully me via social media into high school.

MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.

I’m so over that.

THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT

Stella, you are right! Your body is her own, your body is beautiful and you are stunning! Thank you for your courage!

And for everyone else… let’s be inspired!


Barneys, leave Minnie Mouse alone!

Change.org has begun a petition against the Barneys’ “Electric Holiday” display for this upcoming holiday season. See here for the details about this outrageous display and then go here to sign the petition.

Please pass this along to everyone who you feel might be a potential supporter. Thank you!


seriously, think about it…

I have so much to say about this, what i consider, brilliant illustration of the insane lengths both men and women go to in order to manipulate their bodies into some crafted unrealistic ideal of perfection.
Bravo, Leanie van der Vyver!

What do you think? I really want to know… (comment below)


if mother nature didn’t like curves, she would have made the world flat

Levi's Advertisement

Levi’s Advertisement

Entertainment, fashion, advertising and other industries have an uncanny way of making both men and women feel their bodies are unacceptable. They capitalize upon the insatiable desires to obtain the unobtainable, that is the ideas of perfection that are splashed before our eyes in film, television, magazines, the internet, etc.

Then… every so often a campaign that supports the idea of loving your self and your body comes along and makes some waves. Love the Levis copy “If mother nature didn’t like curves, she would have made the world flat.” And as the Lady Gaga Born This Way lyrics state, that thanks to the DJ’s that be have been deeply etched into our psyche, “There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are… So hold your head up… Just love yourself…”

It’s up to each and every one of us to be discerning about what we allow in and out of our psyches and to choose what we will believe. I say…

L O V E  Y O U R  C U R V E S

We’ve all got ’em and they’re not going anywhere. Some are bigger, some are smaller but they are all yours. Own them! Shake them! Embrace them! They make up the beautiful shape of your unique body. The body that you live in. The body that carries you from place to place. The body that asks only for nourishment, hydration, rest and respect.

L O V E  Y O U R  B O D Y

How do you treat your body? What do you say to your body? Do you have a positive self-loving internal dialogue? Or is it more negative and damaging? Are there harmful mantras that you have whispered to yourself for so long that you don’t even realize it anymore? You are not alone (see here). But there is hope! You can consciously change those damaging whispers into empowering mantras that will lift you up instead of crush you (see here). We must all make our own choices about what we allow in and what we keep out, what we let impact us and what we disregard. Consider the external messages you receive and what you internalize. Take note of the messages to change, alter and tweak yourself to perfection and replace them with the reality that you can accept yourself as you are. There is nothing wrong with you!

I leave you with this. Y O U  A R E  P E R F E C T. Don’t change a thing!
(pass it on)


diet du jour

I heard about this diet a couple of weeks ago and was hoping it would be a blip in the diet world. It hasn’t gone away and I feel angry.

The “K-E Diet” is one that uses a feeding tube through which 800 calories/day of protein, fat and water is ingested for a total of 10 days.

The K-E Diet offers promises of losing 20 pounds in 10 days. But what they don’t tell you is that this invasive procedure that runs a tube through the nose and down into the stomach can cause loss of muscle, kidney stones, dehydration, constipation, dizziness, headaches, etc. And what happens after the 10 days? Like any diet, I’d imagine that the weight would be gained back, plus some.

This diet du jour can be added to the litany of extreme diets that float around and reinforce body-hatred, self-dissatisfaction and the impossible quest to feel acceptable based upon the size and shape of your body. Thinness at any cost is an ideal that our society has embraced to the detriment of ourselves and our children. This diet is a literal representation of how we are willing to do anything at any cost (financially, physically and emotionally), in the name of thinness and “perfecting” ourselves.

Many desperately grasp at every quick-fix on the market in order to feel better about who they are as a person. But what about promoting an attitude of internal goodness? The sense of being good enough as you are? A culture of body acceptance and self-acceptance?

I encourage us all to rub our eyes and to see, with clarity, what all of these diet deals and steals are and how they slowly destroy our internal sense of self and of being “good enough.” Be outraged and choose to be one more person who isn’t fooled by this diet mentality and challenge yourself to feel, act and believe that you are good enough exactly as you are!


don’t be such a good accountant!

In this day and age, everyone is an incredible accountant. Somehow numbers have become the storyteller of our self-worth. Numbers like weight, size, reps, miles, calories, etc. have become the things that indicate how we are doing in our lives and in the world.

What numbers do you focus on? What would it be like to not know your numbers for a day? a week? a month? How would this impact how you feel about yourself?

If you are your own personal accountant, I invite you to let go of the numbers and pay attention to how your body feels. If you honor your body it will take care of itself. If you try to let go, you may notice that your body feels different every day. That’s okay! This may be due to sleep, food, exercise, stress, and a million other things. Your only job is to listen to your body and pay attention to what it needs.

One more challenge for you… begin to consider other measures of your self-worth. Consider who you are as a person (not as a number!). Consider your authentic self and know that you are enough!


mirror, mirror on the wall

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Everyone looks at themselves in the mirror and maybe even sneaks a peek at their reflection when passing by store windows.

In the case of eating disorders, the time spent in front of a mirror can be obsessive and destructive. Men and women can spend overwhelming amounts of time scrutinizing their bodies. Body checking can occur in other forms, as well. Squeezing, pulling, measuring, trying on different sized clothing, etc. Harmful, damaging negative self-talk oftentimes accompanies body checking. Mantras like “I’m so fat,” “I’m disgusting,” “ugh, I’m so gross,” etc. become haunting and unrelenting.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? How do you feel about your reflection? What do you say to yourself? Do your automatic thoughts about your body promote body dissatisfaction or body acceptance? How would you like to view your body? What can you do to change your automatic thoughts to match what you desire?