Fit vs. Fiction's Blog


Why I started Fit vs Fiction and why I won’t shut up about it

BECAUSE:
We live in an image obsessed, fat-phobic, one-size-fits-all, thin is in, skinny jean wearing, thigh gap measuring, binging and purging, body hating society where kids barely out of pre-school are begging their mothers to keep them home from school because they feel like they’re just too fat to fit in!

And THAT..is NOT..Okay.

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Why I LOOOOVE sharing Fit vs Fiction with kids!

Believe it or not, there are still WAY too many people who don’t believe or understand that Body Image and eating disorder issues are killing our kids. These issues destroy them physically, emotionally and spiritually. They hit so deep that it can take years and years of hard work to get their mental and physical health back on track, if ever.

 

I share my Fit vs Fiction workshops at schools as a way of breaking down the dangerous myths related to fitness and beauty and get kids talking about the pressure they feel to be “Perfect”. I use TONS of pictures while discussing things like media manipulation, sexualization and the motivation behind the messages they’re being inundated with on a daily basis. I share my truth; the good, the bad and the very, very ugly so that they can feel safe sharing their own. I make them think, I make them laugh, I make them understand that they can be whoever and whatever they aspire to be and that no one has the right to make them feel otherwise. For years I put my health and life at risk more times than I can count through my negative body image and disordered eating and while I was able to find recovery, I will never get back the 20+ years the disorder took away.

I’m often told that I’m fighting an uphill battle and that our fat-phobic, youth and weight obsessed world isn’t ready to change and I don’t completely disagree. But, as hard as this battle might be, it’s NOTHING compared to life with an eating disorder.

After doing a couple of Fit vs Fiction workshops at an elementary school last week, I came home to an email from one of the teachers that was there. She had copied me on a note she sent to the V.P. following my workshops. I’m sharing it because with all of the people who are still in the dark about the severity of these issues, it’s such a joy to hear from someone who is aware and willing to help.

Hi L.,

I am so pleased that I was able to participate in this
absolutely fabulous workshop.  The students in Grade 6 and 7 were absolutely
riveted to what the presenter Marci Warhaft had to say about healthy body image.
Ms. Warhaft also showed many pictures from the media of distorted body images
using television and film personalities known to many of the students.  She used
her own previous experiences of poor self-image as an example, and spoke
eloquently of how she was able to nurture a more healthy body image as time went
on.  Her responses to student questions were excellent, and her presentation was
well-paced and upbeat.

Thank you for bringing such an effective and
timely speaker to this school! I would be glad to assist in any way possible to
publicize Ms. Warhaft’s session to the school community in
April.

Mrs.
Junior/Intermediate
French Teacher

(I edited names for anonymity)

Kids need and WANT to talk..we just need to start listening!

Young, sad, sick girls just got themselves a new role model. Thanks Amanda Bynes!

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about social media is that it makes it possible to share everything and anything we’re feeling the second we’re feeling it. While this is perfectly harmless when talking about the delicious sandwich we just ate or the soccer goal we scored or the hilarious thing our kid just did, it can be extremely dangerous when we use it to promote unhealthy behaviour and a hell of a lot MORE dangerous if you’re a celebrity.
It’s no secret that Amanda Bynes has become a bit of a train wreck recently. Two DUI arrests and a lot of erratic behaviour have put her on the “needs some drastic help” radar for some time now and this latest development just reinforces that point.
Amanda has decided that she needs to lose weight and for some bizarre reason she’s decided to choose 100lbs as her goal weight. The problem is that at 5’8 inches tall, weighing just 100lbs would make her completely unhealthy. It is just NOT a healthy place for her to be.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/amanda-bynes-weight-loss-100-pounds_n_2695706.html

Why do I care?

I care because she has chosen to document her feelings and weight loss plan on social media and has even posted pictures of her thighs on Instagram.

This is particularly disturbing considering the latest trend in body shaming among young people which involves measuring their “thigh Gaps”.
http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/blogs/shine-on/thigh-gap-results-teen-girls-starving-themselves-191159136.html

As a celebrity, even one whose star is fading quickly, she needs to be responsible when it comes to what she shares with the public. By saying that she needs to lose weight from her already healthy physique, and posting critical pictures of her body parts, she is sending a very dangerous message to her young fans.

I asked a couple of young women how they felt about Amanda’s goal and one teenager shared,
“I think this is going to affect a lot of young girls because so many of us grew up with her as a role model. It’s disgusting what a smart confident woman has become.”
The other said, “If a girl is 5’6 and weighs 110lbs she’ll assume she’s obese when that’s totally underweight! She’s in the media and young girls will see this and think, “Oh she’s pretty and famous, if I want to be like her I should want to be 5’8 and 100lbs.”
Amanda is obviously going through a very hard time and I’m not judging her for that. Having battled my own severe body image and eating disorder issues for over 20 years, I can certainly relate. BUT, while I’m not judging her struggle, I am having a HUGE problem with how her actions may bring a lot of young girls down with her. Like it or not, being in the public eye gives her voice and her actions more attention than the rest of us and with that comes a lot of power. Her comments through social media are reaching millions of young people and can end up causing disastrous results for some of them.

The great thing about social media is that it can connect us to almost anyone, anywhere at anytime. The terrifying thing about social media is that exact same thing.

All that’s missing are the red swimsuits, Pam Anderson and the Hoff!

            Where’s the Hoff?   

I had to laugh when I was standing in line at the bookstore this morning and overheard an exchange between two young women standing behind me. It went like this:

Girl #1: Are you gonna by this month’s Vogue ?

Girl #2: Naw, it looks like Baywatch!

How right she was. Have you seen this  month’s Vogue magazine cover “Celebrating” Olympic athletes? On it, you’ll find Ryan Lochte (swimmer) linking arms and running on the beach with gold swimsuit wearing Venus Williams (Tennis) and Hope Solo (soccer). The issue is supposed to be less about fashion and more about athleticism, but I don’t get it. I think the thing that I’m finding the most frustrating is the fact that Venus’ body has been slimmed down by the photoshopping powers that be! If they TRULY wanted to celebrate athletes, they would honor her STRONG, MUSCULAR physique instead of airbrushing it away. I guess hard work, dedication and skill make great champions, but lousy cover models. I believe that the girls I heard in the bookstore this morning were exactly the target market Vogue is aiming for, yet they were as unimpressed with the cover as I am. It certainly doesn’t shout, “OLYMPICS!” Instead it kind of whispers Olympics but yells, “Hot Summer Bodies!” Exactly HOW is that different from virtually every other fashion magazine this time of year?

I love sports and am raising two young athletes and think that Olympians are amazing human beings who bleed, sweat and cry their sports of choice and I just find it incredibly disappointing that even something like the Olympic games needs to be sexualized. Inside the magazine are images of athletes posing with model Karlie Kloss (like the one of her being hurdled over by Ashton Eaton). I know, I know, It’s a fashion magazine, with fashion models and maybe I’m being a tad too oversensitive, but I like to call things as they are. Don’t pretend to be celebrating athletics when you’re really celebrating athletic bodies, as you think they should look. I’m just sayin’…

 

 

“Shouldn’t they be thinking about their babies instead?” asked my 13 year old son.

Enough already!

I get it. Celebrity women can get pregnant, be pregnant, deliver the baby and then be back to their pre-baby bodies within weeks. It’s nothing new. So can we please stop talking about it now??

I don’t believe in judging other people and truly believe in a “live and let live” philosophy, unless what’s being done is harmful to others. While I understand that celebrities are under a vicious type of scrutiny that us “regular folks” don’t have to deal with and I understand the intense pressure they’re under to look picture perfect minutes after childbirth, what I don’t appreciate is why the rest of us have to follow suit!

It must be awful to have to worry about people criticizing you on television and in magazines right after having experienced what should be an incredible, life changing event. It must absolutely SUCK to have to spend what little time and energy  they have, stressing over the added pounds neccessary during pregnancy, but if they feel the need to throw themselves into extreme workout regiments and ultra restrictive diet plans, so be it. My anger comes from how the media tries to make it seem like THEY’R doing the right thing and the rest of us are just being lazy.

This week’s People magazine is FILLED with articles showing us which celebrities (male and female) have the BEST beach  bodies and offers tips on how we can look just like them. It also shows us picture after picture of celebrity moms who were able to regain their hot pre-baby bodies within weeks of giving birth. Thanks People magazine, Lord knows we don’t have enough people trying to sell us unrealistic physical ideals to look up to! How horrible it would be if we weren’t shamed into self-loathing every minute of every friggin’ day!

Again, If an actress feel the need to lose her pregnancy weight right away, I won’t judge her. What I will judge is how the rest of us are made to feel like we should be doing the same thing! For once, I would love to read an interview with one of these moms and have her say, “Yup, I need to lose weight quickly so I started 4 hour workout sessions with my trainer and started following an insanely restrictive diet. It sucks. I felt lousy. But it’s what I needed to do to stay competitive in an industry focused more on image than talent.” THAT, I would respect. However, what we actually hear is how their super quick weight comes from things like: drinking lots of water, doing pilates and taking care of a baby.  That may be part of the reason, but it certainly isn’t all of it.

My sons were at the grocery store with me last night when we saw this week’s People magazine at the check out counter. My 13 year old asked, ” Shouldn’t they be thinking about their babies instead?” He then went on to ask me why anyone would put themselves on a diet and not let themselves eat food that they like just to be skinny? he asked, “Why is it so important to be skinny?!” Good question. Being HEALTHY is important. Being skinny? Not so much.

I realize that this is an issue that has been discussed many times and that my frustration with it is hardly unique. But I cannot properly express how disgusted I am with how we’ve managed to let the entertainment industry set the bar for how we’re supposed to look. When did we lose sight of the fact that seeing something on TV or reading about it in a magazine, doesn’t make it TRUE?

Celebrities have to deal with judgemental fans and unrelenting paparazzi just waiting to expose their flaws and that’s pretty lousy. The rest of us don’t have to worry about that, which is a good thing. So why is it that we’re being made to feel that we have to look like they do anyway?

There is NOTHING wrong with choosing to spend more time with our babies than our trainers. Our newbors don’t care about flat stomachs and sculpted biceps, so can’t we just enjoy this time without the nonsense?

Seriously, it really is enough already.

4 million Dollars to lose weight….Seriously Weight Watchers?

So, I just saw the cover of this week’s US magazine where they talk about Jessica Simpson’s 4 Million dollar weight loss deal.

4 Million dollars.(Let’s let that sink in for a second,shall we?)

Apparently, Weight Watchers will give her a little time to enjoy first time motherhood and then it’s time to start melting away those pounds.

Here’s the thing, I don’t have an issue with Weight Watchers, I know people who have used their program to lose weight and speak very positively about it. My issue is with the idea of paying celebrities ridiculopus amounts of money, so they feel obligated to lose the weight and then using them as a way of selling us their product. I assume they figure that the 4 million dollars they’re giving to Jessica is nothing compared to the money they’ll make from her commercials. In a few months, we’re going to see Jessica, singing some weightloss inspired jingle (a la Jennifer Hudson), wearing something short and tight telling us how EASY it was to lose all that baby weight with Weight Watchers.

I don’t know Jessica, but I hate the idea of her losing weight on someone else’s timeline under the scrutiny of EVERYONE who will be watching her journey. Watching and judging.

I also don’t really understand the point that Weight Watchers is trying to make. Knowing that they are paying THAT MUCH money for Jessica to use their program doesn’t actually give me all that much faith in it. Is the message supposed to be, “If Jessica Simpson can lose the weight, you can too!”? I’m sorry, but there is very little that most of us WOULDN’T do for a payoff of 4 MILLION DOLLARS. Let’s face it, there are people who would sell their souls for that much money…giving up cupcakes hardly seems like a big deal.

I guess I’m just sick and tired of us celebrating women’s post-baby bodies more than we celebrate their pregnant ones! I’m saddened by the fact that magazines will congratulate expectant celebrities with a few paragraphs before the baby’s born and then take up several pages discussing their weightloss training and diet tips afterwards.

Jessica has more money than she’ll ever need to spend, she doesn’t need this. In my opinion, she should be enjoying this new and exciting phase in her life, she should be enjoying her new daughter and should be taking care of herself on her own terms.

I think we’ve forgotten how much of a miracle pregnancy is. We are actually growing PEOPLE in our bodies! Can’t we ease up a bit on the weight loss pressure and give ourselves a break? Our babies are only babies for a short time; our trainers will be there when we’re ready.

 

 

The media doesn’t make us sick, it just keeps us that way.

Eating disorders are on the rise. We know this. We also know that our society is obsessed with beauty; a very limited interpretation of beauty. Everywhere we look, we’re bombarded with images that glorify thinness and youth which has resulted in an epidemic of self-hatred. Kids want to look like adults, adults want to look like kids and both are willing to go to extreme lengths to achieve these unrealistic expectations.

Eating disorders don’t care if you’re male or female, under 10 years old or over 50 years old, they’ll destroy anyone who’s ripe for the taking. When I speak at school or to parents about body image, the issue of media manipulation always comes up and for good reason. We are definitely influenced by what we see and hear in our magazines and TV screens, but does the media CAUSE eating disorders? I say no.

To say that eating disorders are caused by the media would be simplifying an incredibly complex situation. It’s just not that easy. After having suffered through a very severe eating disorder for 20 years and being lucky enough to find recovery, I can tell you that I still don’t know what caused it and probably never will. I have a good idea of what brought it out, but that’s different from what caused it. Losing my brother when I was 17 years old taught me in the cruellest of ways, that there were things in my life I couldn’t control, as a result, I turned to the one thing I could control; my body. By starving myself, I felt like I had a say in what happened in my life. However, as anyone with an eating disorder quickly finds out, the feeling of control is fleeting and very soon life because even more unmanageble than ever.

Why did I turn to food and not drugs or alcohol? I’ll never know. Genetics? maybe. But I stopped asking “WHY?” a long time ago and started asking “WHAT NOW?” and that’s when I started looking for help.

Sadly, I found that the hardest part about recovering from my eating disorder was the fact that while I was trying so hard to do everything I could to get healthy, it seemed like the world wanted me to stay sick.

THIS is where the media comes in. The media didn’t give me an eating disorder, but it sure as hell made it hard to recover from it. While my family was telling me that I was too thin, magazines were telling me I wasn’t thin enough. While my doctors were telling me  I needed to eat to be healthy, diet ads were telling me I needed to stop eating to be beautiful. As desperate as I was to be free of the control my negative body image had over me, I also felt an intense need to look the way society told me I needed to look and this made it very difficult to get well.

The constant pressure from the media doesn’t cause eating disorders in the same way that cigarette ads don’t cause Cancer. Don’t get me wrong, cigarettes cause Cancer, but cigarette ADS do not. I could, for example, be bombarded with commercial after commercial glamorizing cigarette smoking and I would not be the least bit affected by them. Someone else, however, could see the same ads and find the urge to smoke incredibly hard to resist. For some people, the commercials can create a desire to buy the cigarettes and by buying and then smoking them, will have their chances of getting Cancer increase.

There are plenty of people who can see ridiculous images of impossibly perfect women in magazines and not be affected, they can hear diet campaign after diet campaign and think nothing of them, but there are more people who will take notice and who’s self-esteem will be impacted. Negative body image doesn’t always result in an eating disorder, but it does result in time wasted judging and disliking ourselves.

Cigarette ads don’t cause Cancer, yet they’ve been removed from our magazines and TVs because they glorify dangerous behavior, well so do photoshop, airbrushing and our insane adoration of emaciated bodies and wrinkle free skin.

Eating disorders are complicated, insidious and unrelenting. They are far more difficult to understand than most people realize, which is why I don’t believe that the media causes us to get sick, but the absurd and harmful ideals it insists on perpetuating, keeps us that way.

me

Charels Barkley in a dress?! UGH. You can do better than that Weight Watchers!

     Here’s why I’m annoyed:

Weight Watchers, as well as most other weight loss programs, are constantly equating being skinny with being healthy. There commercials often show celebrities in tight dresses or skimpy bikinis talking about how much better their lives are and how much happier they are, now that they’ve lost weight and can fit into their sexy clothes again. It’s always bothered me that they’ve completely neglected the fact that truly fit people can come in different shapes and sizes and the  focus should be on how our bodies WORK instead of just how they LOOK.

NOW they’re using Charles Barkley; a former professional basketball player. An ATHLETE. You’d think this would be the PERFECT opportunity to talk about how eating well and being active could completely change the way you FEEL. He could talk about how well his body functioned when he was playing basketball and how his recent sedentary lifestyle has left him feeling sluggish and weak, and how by taking care of himself, his body and his confidence level is stronger than ever! But noooooooooooo, Weight Watchers has decided to put him in a dress as a way of saying, ” Losing weight isn’t just for women”.

Sorry..I don’t get it.

Do they really think that THIS will get men to join their club?? Believe it or not, I’m not the kind of person that gets offended easily..but I think this is ridiculous!

With our society so focused on being SKINNY, more and more people who don’t need to, are putting themselves on diets and the ones who are overweight are feeling pressure to lose the weight for the wrong reasons. When are we going to realize that “smaller” isn’t always better..but STRONGER is?

Sorry Weight Watchers, I think you missed the mark on this one!

Are we trying to raise healthy kids or just skinny ones?

As parents, it’s our responsibility to guide our children through life’s many obstacles. We encourage,instruct,advise, and help them make,what we feel, are the “Right” decisions in day to day life. We want to give our kids the tools they need for success. However, I strongly believe that when it comes to their bodies and their health, we could actually learn more from them than the other way around.

These days, we hear constant messages about the fact that our kids are apparently eating too much and exercising too little. We’re told that there are more overweight kids than ever and “Junk Food” is killing them slowly. As a result, too many parents have started stressing over every bite of food their child takes and every minute of tv they watch.Interestingly,this type of stress is actually more dangerous than a few Oreos or video games.

Research shows that putting too much of an emphasis on food and weight will not encourage healthy eating but may initiate a preoccupation with body image. In fact, a journal published by the American Academy of pediatrics found that “Anti-Obesity campaigns, though positive in intention,may enable unhealthy dieting and compulsive exercise, while breaking down self-esteem by tying self-worth to weight”.

Believe it or not, this is an area where we could learn a lot from our kids. Our bodies are amazing machines that let us know when we’re hungry and when we’re full. Newborn babies, for example,will cry when hungry and stop when they’ve had enough.Sadly, at some point we start judging our bodies instead of listening to them and put ourselves on restrictive diets where we eat only as much as we think we “should” eat and only foods we think we “should” eat. This throws our systems completely off track and creates a relationship with food that is less than harmonious.

Kids are different. They haven’t been manipulated by years of diet propoganda and shouldn’t be thinking about calories or fat grams. Is there an insane amount of fast food and candy out there? Of course, but if we demonize certain foods, it creates emotion around them. These sinful foods either become terrifying or even more attractive. Food is food. Some of it nourishes us, some of it just tastes good. None of it needs to be BANNED completely. It’s about balance.

Eating should always be a positive experience. Feel free to introduce new foods to mealtimes, have your kids prepare meals with you, offer a wide variety of tastes and textures. Truth be told, exposing your kids to food in a healthy way will not make them overweight….but hiding it from them just might.

Sticks and stones may break my bones..but being called FAT destroys me!

Yesterday, a heard from the parent of a 13 year old who is extremely frustrated at the fact that her child is constantly being teased about their weight at school. Interestingly, this teasing isn’t coming from school “Bullies” or kids they’ve have issues with in the past, the nasty comments and hurtful insults are coming from kids they’ve been friends with for years.

This mom was surprised she was even hearing about what was going on because her child usually doesn’t share this type of information with her..it’s just not something BOYS often speak freely about.

As confusing as the fact that this teasing is coming from kids he calls his friends, is the fact that this boy is NOT overweight, not even close. Yet, for some reason, there are a few boys in his circle that have labeled him the “fat kid”. At an intellectual level, he knows he’s not overweight, but emotionally, he’s not so sure.

So many people still think that body image issues are something that girls deal with and that boys are somehow immune to, but the sad truth is that more and more boys are feeling intense pressure to be physically perfect and accepted by their peers. A few months ago, I had a conversation with a group of teenaged girls, who talked about how weird they thought it was that their guy friends insult eachother all the time, and put eachother down, but then seem to laugh it off as if it didn’t hurt.

Truth is, it does hurt. It’s just not cool to admit it.

The mother I spoke with yesterday is concerned because she is starting to see the impact that this “harmless” teasing between “friends” is having on her son. The most noticeable change has been a significant weightloss since the end of last year. While some of the weightloss has come from a healthy increase in physical activity, some of it has also come from an overly restrictive diet. No matter how fit he gets, if these kids continue to insult his weight, he will continue to feel the need to lose more of it.

She is doing everything she can to explain that bullies bully as a way of trying to make themselves feel more powerful, usually it’s to hide how insecure they actually feel.

Here’s what I find truly upsetting. While boys FEEL just as deeply as girls do, they don’t feel as comfortable sharing those feelings for fear of looking weak. They are constantly told  to “suck it up!” or ” Man up!” By not expressing how they feel, they internalize these feelings, and since feelings don’t just disappear, they usually end up resurfacing in a seemingly unrelated way. They become more aggressive, moody, even OVERLY confident; anything to mask the pain they’re feeling.

We are constantly hearing about how we need to raise our boys to understand women, be sensitive and respectful to their feelings..yet we don’t allow them to do the same for themselves.

We have all met “Mean Girls” in school, but guess what? There are now “Mean Boys” as well. ALL kids need to learn that bullying isn’t funny and it’s just not ok.

I know that there are a lot of people who feel that, “Boys will be boys” and this isn’t a big deal; but these boys eventually grow into MEN and it’s our job as parents, teachers, coaches and caregivers to help them through the transition with sensitivity and compassion…even when they don’t ask for it.

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